For centuries, sugar was a luxury product that, let’s not forget, also came to be rationed in the post-war period and the first decades of the Franco regime. Interestingly, we went from scarcity to opulence, and today we speak of a declared war on excess sugar in our diet. Nutritional aspects aside, sugar is still a staple ingredientSimple in appearance, but of which there are a multitude of different types, and with different uses in the kitchen.
In short, sugar is a chemical compound that is naturally present in many foods. It belongs to the complex group of carbohydrates, and chemically is a disaccharide, like lactose (for something it is known as milk sugar) or maltose (from cereals). The commonly called table sugar is specifically saccharose, and is made up of a glucose molecule and a fructose molecule. It can be extracted from sugar cane or beets.
On the labels of food products we can find hidden added sugar adopting names that can mislead the consumer (dextrose, dextrin, fructose, caramel, molasses, syrup, glucose syrup, corn syrup, syrup, maltodextrin …), but they are still sugar. Like honey, although it is not a disaccharide, it also contains glucose and fructose.
But what interests us today are culinary aspects, because for a long time we can also find a multitude of different types in our country that go beyond the trio of white sugar, brown sugar and icing or icing sugar. Since home baking has gained much more interest, the range of products has been expanding and we can fill our pantry with varieties of sugar They offer very different features.
In addition to the usual standard sugar that can be found in any grocery store, there are specific varieties that are very useful for baking. White sugars are generally obtained from beet.
White granulated or plain white sugar
It is what we could qualify as a lifetime, the white sugar that we all expect to find when someone refers to, simply “sugar”, without further specification. It is popularly known as blanquilla or table sugar, and its white color is the product of the refining to which it is subjected.
It is made up of tiny visible and palpable granules, which creak when crushed with something hard on a solid surface – a classic method to differentiate it from salt. Depending on the brand, it can be slightly thicker or thinner. Its useful life in the pantry is practically infinite and it does not need very special conditions of conservation.
It is the sugar that we will use when nothing else is specified in any recipe. It dissolves in hot and cold liquids, can be whipped with eggs and butter to cream and add air to the doughs, and it also turns into a crunchy crust when sprinkled on top before baking. When heated, it melts and caramelizes, forming different types of caramels or crusts, such as Catalan cream. In salty cooking, it helps correct acidity and gives good flavor.
Icing, icing, icing, powdered, ground or icing sugar
It is nothing more than white sugar ground to a texture like fine powder. In the highly specialized industry, it can be found with consistencies of different degrees of texture, with a ground sugar so fine that it dissolves almost instantly when sprinkled on a sweet.
At the domestic level, it is a sugar that we use usually to decorate finished products; it is recommended to sift it to obtain a finer and more homogeneous result. There are also recipes that ask to use this sugar in the dough, since it allows it to be integrated much more easily and does not need to be beaten in excess to dissolve (it is the sugar that is usually indicated to make shortbread).
It is also used to make sugar glazes or icings; They can be simple (mixing it with a liquid such as water, juice or milk) or royal icing, with egg white. Royal icing is the one commonly used for decorated cookies, with different colors. It is perfect for sweeten the cream when we already have it half assembled.
Commercial icing sugar generally incorporates a part of cornstarch or other anti-caking agent so that it maintains its fine dry texture. There are also ground variants of vanilla sugar.
Special icing ground sugar
It is nothing more than a specific variety of the previous one, little known in Spain but increasingly easy to find under imported brands specialized in confectionery. Known as icing sugar offers a finer ground than normal icing, and often omit the starch to incorporate dry glucose syrup that favors obtaining a homogeneous glaze.
Royal Icing Prepared Funcakes (Royal Icing) 900g
There are also specific preparations to prepare royal icing (royal icing) with dehydrated egg white and acidulants. It is a very comfortable product because you only need to add water to obtain the right consistency when glazing or painting sweets.
Sugar caster or fine-grained
The caster sugar It is typical of the British market and has spread throughout the world under this name, although it is also known as superfine sugar. In Spain it is already being marketed as extra fine white sugar.
It is a white sugar grainy but finer in thickness than the table, without becoming dust. It is perfect for making most pastry doughs, as its texture allows it to be more easily combined in any preparation, being ideal for meringues. It melts very quickly and is evenly incorporated into liquid or creamy preparations, such as pudding.
If a recipe calls for this sugar, it can almost always be substituted for plain white, especially in baked recipes.
Caster or golden fine grain sugar
A variant of the previous one but in a less refined version, that is, a kind of light brown sugar with a fine thickness. Have a golden tone and preserves some or all of the original cane sugar molasses.
Vanilla or vanilla sugar
It is simply white sugar, of variable thickness, flavored with vanilla, which is the most typical, versatile and universal aroma used in confectionery. In Central European cuisine it has been a basic of any pantry for many decades and it is usually sold in the form of sachets of about 7 g, already easy to find also in Spain.
It is easy to prepare in a homemade version, since we only need to open one or more vanilla beans (they are recommended 2-4 pods per kilo, depending on their quality) and keep the sugar with them in an airtight container for at least two weeks. The quick method is to extract the seeds and beat – not crush – the sugar with them.
Commercial products may use artificial flavors, extracts or real natural vanilla seeds. The labels should be read to make sure of the quality. This sugar is added in small quantities to liquid and creamy masses or preparations to give a more or less intense aroma, depending on the recipe and the desired effect.
Pearl or grain sugar
More than pearls, the grains of this variety they look like small stones opaque white. It is an extra thick sugar with a size of about 4-6 mm, specially treated to maintain its shape during baking or applied as a decoration, such as topping in all kinds of desserts and sweet preparations.
In addition to decorating, without adding as much sweetness as an icing sugar coating would, the pearl adds a crunchy texture that creates tasty contrasts in very tender doughs. It is used, above all, to top pastries such as cinnamon rolls and other puff pastry and choux pastries, as well as waffles or preparations such as the roscón de Reyes.
FunCakes Extra Large White Pearl Sugar Crunchy for Baking Waffles, Rolls, Bagels or as Candy Decoration, 200g, G42390
In English it is known as sparkling or glitter sugar, and exists both in neutral white, and dyed with different shades. As its name suggests, it is a sugar that stands out for the brightness that emits, and is used to decorate sweets or coat preparations such as jelly beans.
Special sugar for jams and preserves
In recent years it has begun to appear on the shelves of our supermarkets, although it is still not as common as in other European countries, where the production of jams, compotes and preserves It is the order of the day, and there are a multitude of different types.
It is simply a white sugar -with some brand that also manufactures it with brown- mixed with a variable percentage of thickener or gelling agent. This percentage varies depending on the type of canning that we want to make, or the fruit in question, and is indicated in a ratio 1: 1, 1: 2, 1: 3, etc., in relation to the total amount of sugar. In Spain it is more rare that it is indicated.
Gelling Sugar For Jams 2: 1 Organic Gluten Free | Cane sugar and apple pectin base 500g | Organic gelatin sugar for 1 Kg of fruit – Superior quality
Typically, the gelling agent is vegetable origin, generally pectin or carob derivatives.
We include it within the white sugars despite having a more golden tone, because this term, without more, usually refers to refined sugar but obtained from sugar cane, not from beets. It is very common to find it within organic or bio certification products; it is usually more expensive.
As much as it is advertised as “whole”, brown sugar, of whatever type, is still sugar and has no nutritional advantages of any kind relative to white. It is true that, except those that are made a posteriori, are less refined than blanquilla (or they can be completely raw, unrefined), but the amount of possible nutrients that they conserve is practically anecdotal and does not provide real benefits.
They are sugars that retain all or part of the molasses original sugarcane juice …