Sweetness, white-colored, and white granulated sugar are the words come first to your mind when you hear the word sugar. Fair enough. From your delectable desserts to your morning pastries, everything needs sugar in one or the other form. In baking, sugar is considered one of the main ingredients in your recipe. And why not, nobody would appreciate a tasteless cake or cookie, not even diabetics.
It is really essential to understand what sugar is, why it is important to add to the baked goods etc. So to help you become an informed baker and to expand your baking sphere, we have come up with the above questions along with different kinds of sugar that are available for all your baking needs. Let’s start.
What is Sugar?
This substance that you add in nearly all desserts and other food items to add sweetness is made up of a molecule known as sucrose. One can find sucrose in all the plants but is highly present in sugarcane and sugar beets and these are the plants from where almost all of our sugar is derived. The ingredient can come from different natural sources and are present in two forms: Monosaccharide and Disaccharide.
When you further learn about sugars, you’ll realize that different types of sugar differ in the sweetness level where sucrose is frequently used in the kitchen sourced from sugar beets or sugar cane. So before you go through the list of different types of sugar, let’s learn about their importance in baking.
The Importance of Sugar in Baking
Sugar not only adds sweetness to your baked products but it has some other roles to play.
One of the prime roles of sugar while mixing dough and batter is: It works as a tenderizing agent. You must know that sugar is hygroscopic and binds with water very well. The ingredient competes with gluten-forming proteins to make sure that hydration of those proteins doesn’t occur. That way it hinders some gluten formation so that your baked goods can stay tender, not rubbery.
We always make sure that the sugar is heated above its melting point, it comes to liquid state and as it caramelizes it makes amber color and appealing aromas. When you bake dough or batter that contains sugar in the presence of heat, it ensures proper browning and provides your bread, cakes or cookies with rich flavors.
Sugar is not only added to give sweetness to your baked goods but also some new flavors to it. Your oven temperature allows the sugar to react with the proteins in the cooked good and due to the Maillard browning reaction it develops beautiful browned surface and aroma you cannot resist.
Types of Sugar
So here we’ll be discussing the common types of sugar, which are commonly used in baking your favorite recipes like muffins, cakes, cookies etc.
1. Granulated Sugar
Starting with the most common sugar used in bakeries and kitchen, this sugar is also known as white or table sugar. This sugar comes with all the naturally present molasses refined out.
These fine crystals don’t cake together, which generally makes it useful for measuring, dissolving into drinks, and sprinkling onto food.
2. Superfine Sugar
Quite similar to granulated sugar but with finer grains. This type is also known as caster or baker’s sugar and can melt and incorporate easily and faster into glazes, simple syrups, and batters.
In fact, you can make your own sugar by using a food processor and break down your granulated sugar for a few seconds till you get a fine texture. The sugar is added to make light and tender cakes.
3. Powdered Sugar
When granulated sugar is grounded into a powder provides you with powdered sugar or icing, confectioners or fondant sugar. This light and airy powder is ideal for icing, frosting, dusting and decorating your baked goods as it can easily dissolve in liquid to create a spreadable and thick substance.
You need to add around 3% of cornstarch to avoid clumping as you know that sugar is hygroscopic.
4. Sanding Sugar
Yet another large crystal sugar where its size lies between granulated sugar and coarse sugar. The sugar can be used for decorating and comes in many colors. The coarser grain comes with a higher melting point and holds up better while baking.
Who doesn’t love sparkly baked goods? The sugar reflects light and gives your baked goods a sparkly shine. Just sprinkle it on your iced cookies and frosted cupcakes.
5. Muscovado or Barbados Sugar
This one is a kind of British brown sugar that comes with more molasses than light and brown sugar. These dark brown crystals are bit larger than the regular brown sugar and have a stickier texture.
Its more intense and complex flavor is ideal for coffee cake, fudge, and gingerbread. Since the sugar has different moisture level so it should not be replaced 1:1 with other brown sugars. The sugar itself is moist and comes with a texture of wet sand.
6. Turbinado Sugar
This sugar is minimally processed where only the surface molasses are washed off. Turbinado sugar is quite the same in terms of taste to brown sugar but is more coarse, dry, and free-flowing.
These light crystals are light in color and are a bit lower in calories as compared to white sugar because of the moisture content. Well, the sugar is mainly used in sweetening beverages but one can also use it in baking.
7. Pearl Sugar
This one is nearly the opposite of the powdered sugar and is considered as the coarsest white sugar.
Pearl sugar doesn’t melt quickly on heating so it is better to use the sugar on top of the pastry and other baked goods where you don’t want the sugar to be incorporated, for example, chouquettes and brioche.
8. Brown Sugar
Brown sugar is nothing but the white sugar with molasses added to it. You can find two types of brown sugar near you, light and dark depending on the amount of molasses added to it. The light one is something which is used more often in baking, glazes, and sauces.
And dark one is mainly used in rich foods like gingerbread due to rich molasses flavor. Remember, both the sugars can harden if you leave them open to the air. Make sure they are stored in an air-tight container. Hardened brown sugar can again be softened if you microwave it for a few seconds.