Christian Chefs International Hi Sweetie!
(A Non-Comprehensive Guide to Sugars)
My interest in sugars began when I ran out of my Dean & Jacobs Crème Brulee Quick Mixx With Caramelizing Sugar. Reduced to having to make Crème Brulee from scratch, the search was on for the special sugar to sprinkle on the top for that wonderful finishing crunchy glaze. Alas, I couldn't find a source for the sugar. So I posed a question to my chef friends - "What can I substitute?" The answers varied, from plain table sugar to brown sugar to raw sugar. But none were quite the same. So I started researching.
Did you know that according to CooksThesaurus.com, there are at least 36 different kinds of sugars? And that's not including the artificial sweeteners? Obviously, we won't cover all 36 sugars, but we will highlight the four MAIN categories of this natural sweetener we loosely call sugar.
In this mini-lesson, we're going to lightly explore the differences between sucrose, fructose, honey and molasses.
Sucrose, or common table sugar, is what we're all very familiar with. According to experts, we Americans each eat about 150 lbs. of the stuff every year! Whoa! No wonder we have trouble losing the extra pounds. Now mind you, we don't all sit and eat sugar by the spoonful, but we are getting it in some mighty strange places that some of you may not even be aware of. Just check the labels of your packaged shelf products, (even your crunchy salad toppings), your frozen products and your canned goods! If the label lists sucrose, fructose, honey or molasses, voila, you're ingesting sugar. I would venture to guess, though, that MOST of that 150 lbs. of sugar comes from all the carbonated drinks we consume.
Sugar comes in many forms but we're most familiar with refined white sugar, brown sugar, maple sugar, maple syrup, honey, sorghum syrup and corn syrup. All of these can be substituted for one another, but there may be a difference in the texture, appearance and flavor of the baked product.
For instance, brown sugar can sub for white sugar, except in white shortened cakes and sponge cakes. However, the texture will be different, because brown sugar causes the grain to be coarse, and the volume may not be as great. Use one cup firmly packed brown sugar for each cup granulated sugar.
You can use various syrups in cake batter, but there will be a difference in the appearance and flavor of the baked product.
In many cake or cookie recipes, you can replace up to one half of the sugar with corn syrup without seriously affecting the results. Reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup for each cup of syrup used.
Maple syrup can sub for sugar in some recipes. Use 3/4 cup maple syrup for each cup of granulated sugar. Add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of maple syrup you use and reduce the liquid by 3 tablespoons.
You may also use molasses in recipes calling for brown sugar. Sub 1/4 cup molasses or sorghum for canning, freezing fruits or jelly-making, but keep in mind that their flavor can overpower the fruit flavor and their sweetness varies.
The second natural sweetener is fructose, which comes in crystal form and is two times sweeter than sugar.
The third is honey, which is also sweeter than sugar because it contains fructose, glucose, maltose and sucrose. It has a distinctive flavor and produces moist and dense baked goods.
The fourth is molasses, a byproduct of refined sugar production, and is made up of sucrose, glucose and fructose as well as small amounts of Vitamin B, calcium and iron. It is not as sweet as sugar and imparts a dark color and stronger flavor to baked foods.
The main difference in all these sugars is simply in how much they are refined. But because of that simple difference, baking with the different sugars yields different results.
We probably all know that sugar serves a number of roles in baking besides providing sweetness and flavor. It serves as a flavor-enhancer, and it affects solubility, boiling point, and freezing point. It plays a role in hydrolysis, caramelization, browning, and yeast fermentation. It acts as a bodying or bulking agent, texture modifier, preservative, dispersant, whipping aid and humectant. It also helps food brown in the microwave!
If you're wondering about the difference in calories, it should be noted that all natural sweeteners have pretty much the same amount of calories (16 per teaspoon) and carbohydrates (50 per teaspoon), with the exception being honey, which has a few more.
There's a wealth of information out there on the baking properties and uses for each of these four categories of sugars, along with all sorts of baking tips and guidelines. Just go to ask.com and type in your question and you'll have all sorts of links to explore!
Now, back to my original query - does anyone out there know a good source for Caramelizing Sugar?!!!!
Submitted by Carol Pinson,
Cook, Leslie Cafe, Leslie, Arkansas
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