Types of Sugar
Sugar, an essential in baking, gives tenderness and sweetness to doughs and batters. Sugar also causes browning (turns brown) when heated, because it caramelizes. Sugar also is a food source for yeast, making it rise.
In baking, you need to have three different types of sugar on hand: granulated sugar, confectioners' sugar and brown sugar (light or dark).
- Granulated sugar is standard white sugar, either from sugar cane or sugar beets, and is the most popular and readily available sweetener in baking.
- Confectioners' sugar sometimes referred to as powdered sugar or icing sugar, has been refined to a powder and contains a small amount of cornstarch or wheat starch to prevent lumping. Confectioners' sugar dissolves instantly in liquid and has a smoothness that makes it a popular choice for frostings, icings, and whipped toppings. It's also perfect for dusting cake tops and brownies. For very smooth frosting, confectioners' sugar should be sifted and if it contains wheat starch it should be avoided since the frosting will be grainy. If your confectioners' sugar becomes lumpy, you can sift it or place it in a food process and process until it becomes powder again. You can make your own confectioners' sugar by placing it in a food processer and process it until it become a powdery substance.
- Brown sugar, both light and dark, is a mixture of
granulated sugar and molasses. Brown sugar has a deeper flavor than granulated sugar. The color of brown sugar depends on the
amount of molasses mixed in: dark brown sugar contains more molasses and has a deeper flavor than light brown sugar. Light
brown sugar is the most common type used in baking and is recommended when making candy. Recipes specify which brown sugar to
use when it makes a difference; otherwise, you can use whichever you have on hand. Brown sugar should be packed down in a
measuring cup while measuring. Generally, brown sugar should not be used to replace other sugars.
When exposed to air for an extended amount of time, brown sugar has a tendency to harden. If this happens place the hardened brown sugar in a heatproof bowl, and place the bowl in a baking pan containing about an inch of water. Tightly cover the entire baking pan with aluminum foil and place it in a 200°F oven to 20 minutes or until softened. Use the softened brown sugar immediately, because it will re-harden when it cools. You can also use your microwave to soften brown sugar. Place the hardened sugar in a microwavable dish. Add a wedge of apple. Cover and microwave on HIGH for 30 to 45 seconds. Let stand about 30 seconds, then use normally.
These sugars should be stored in airtight containers in a cool, dry place to prevent them from becoming lumpy or hard.
There are other types of sugars that are used in baking. Use these types when the recipes requires.
- Bakers Special Sugar is even finer than that of fruit sugar. It was developed specially for the baking industry. It is mainly used for sugaring doughnuts and cookies, as well as in some commercial cake recipes to create a fine crumb texture.
- Cinnamon Sugar is a mixture of granulated sugar and powdered cinnamon, popular on buttered toast and puddings. It is sold as a commercial mixture, or can be easily made using 1 part cinnamon to 7 parts sugar.
- Coarse Sugar is a granulated sugar that has been processed very coarsely for baking with a larger grain size than granulated sugar; it tends not to change color or break down at high temperatures. It can be colored and is similar to sanding sugar, but is a larger grain than sanding sugar. It is used as decoration to give a jewel-like appearance. Also called decorating sugar, crystal sugar and crystallized sugar.
- Date sugar is more a food than a sweetener and adds a rich sweetness to recipes. It is ground up from dehydrated dates, is high in fiber. Its use is limited by price and the fact it does not dissolve when added to liquids and it doesn't melt when heated.
- Fruit Sugar is slightly finer than granulated sugar and is used in dry mixes such as gelatin and pudding desserts, and powdered drinks. Fruit sugar has a more uniform small crystal size. The uniformity of crystal size prevents separation or settling of larger crystals to the bottom of the box, an important quality in dry mixes.
- Lemon Sugar, Lime Sugar, Orange Sugar is a flavored sugar made by mixing citrus zest, peel or juice with granulated sugar or a mixture of granulated and confectioners' sugar. The flavored sugar is used instead of plain granulated sugar in tea and in baking.
- Sanding Sugar sometimes referred to as decorating sugar or pearl sugar. It is a coarse granulated sugar processed to have larger granules that sparkle. This sugar is used on cookies, cupcakes, candies (most famously, Marshmallow Peeps), sweet breads and other baked goods. It is made in white as well as a rainbow of colors.
- Sugar cubes are made from moist granulated sugar that is pressed into molds and then dried.
- Superfine sugar, also called caster sugar or ultrafine sugar, is a form of granulated sugar with a very fine texture that dissolves easily in liquid. Sometimes superfine sugar is used in frostings, certain cakes and when making candy centers because it dissolves quickly and doesn't produce a grainy texture. Superfine sugar dissolves quickly, so it doesn't require as much cooking time. It can be used in place of regular granulated sugar without adverse results. You can make your own superfine sugar: Place 1 cup of granulated sugar in the blender, cover, and process for 1 minute. Let it sit for about 1 minute longer to let the "smoke" settle. This produces 1 cup of superfine sugar. Over processing will result in confectioners' sugar.
- Turbinado Sugar is composed of large crystals made by steaming raw sugar. It is considered a raw sugar, similar to but more refined than demerara sugar. White sugar is the result of removing the molasses from turbinado sugar, and brown sugar is the result of adding molasses to white sugar. Turbinado sugar is a golden brown, large-grained sugar that is paler than brown sugar with a honey-like flavor, and can be substituted for it in recipes, to top cereal , crème brûlée, or in coffee. It is typically used as a replacement for brown sugar, or as a decoration.
- Vanilla Sugar is sugar flavored with vanilla bean. It can be purchased commercially or made by placing a vanilla bean in a sealed pound canister of granulated sugar for at least week.
- Chocolate Syrup is a syrup made from unsweetened cocoa powder, corn syrup and flavorings. It is used to flavor milk, as a sundae topping, and in a broad variety of food preparation and garnishing applications.
- Corn syrup, also known as glucose. Corn syrup is produced from cornstarch and comes in light and dark varieties. When making confectionery, light is generally preferred. Corn syrup prevents other sugar from crystallizing and makes cooked candies firmer, so is often used in cream fillings and fudges.
- Maple Syrup is the boiled sap of the sugar maple tree. It is the preferred condiment with pancakes and waffles; a popular glaze for ham, pork, duck and vegetables; and a flavoring in candy and desserts. It can enhance anything from sweet potatoes to martinis. There are many artificially-flavored imitators of the real thing.
- Pancake Syrup is generally corn syrup with artificial colors and flavors that emulate maple syrup. Some products contain a small percentage of real maple syrup.
- Honey is a sweet and viscous fluid that can be used in baking as other syrups. Any mild bee's honey can be used in recipes that call for honey. The honey should be liquid, not of the "creamed" or "honey spread" varieties.
- Molasses a thick syrup which is a by-product of the sugar refining process. It is a thick dark syrup with a distinctive taste.
- Invert sugar is a sucrose-based liquid sugar used in baking. It improves the shelf life of many candies. Invert sugar has a more rounded sweetness and prevents crystallization. Only use invert sugar if a recipe specifically calls for it.