All sugar is made by first extracting sugar juice from sugar beet or sugar cane plants., and from there, many types of sugar can be produced. Through slight adjustments in the process of cleaning, crystallizing and drying the sugar and varying the level of molasses, different sugar varieties are possible. Sugars of various crystal sizes provide unique functional characteristics that make the sugar suitable for different foods and beverages. Sugar color is primarily determined by the amount of molasses remaining on or added to the crystals, giving pleasurable flavors and altering moisture. Heating sugar also changes the color and flavor (yum, caramel!). Some types of sugar are used only by the food industry and are not available in the supermarket.
Here are a few facts about some of the various types of sugar. Print Page
Also known as caster or bar sugar, this sugar has the smallest crystal size of white granulated sugars.
It is generally used in making delicate or smooth desserts, such as mousse or puddings.
Because the crystals are so fine, they dissolve easily, even in cold drinks.
Coarse sugar has a larger crystal size than regular sugar.
It results from the crystallization of molasses-rich sugar syrups that are high in sucrose.
The large crystal size makes it highly resistant to color change or inversion (natural breakdown to fructose and glucose) at cooking and baking temperatures, important characteristics for use in making fondants, confections and liquors.
Sanding sugar can have large or fine crystals—both types reflect light and give the product a sparkling appearance.
It is used mainly in baking and confectionery as a sprinkle on top of baked goods (often in fun colors!).
Light and Dark Brown Sugars
Brown sugars are either made by directly boiling a brown sugar syrup or mixing white sugar with various amounts of molasses.
Light brown sugar is often used in sauces and most baked goods.
Dark brown sugar has a deeper color and stronger molasses flavor than light brown sugar—the rich, full flavor makes it ideal for gingerbread, baked beans, barbecuing and other full-flavored foods.
Brown sugars tend to clump because they contain more moisture than white sugars, allowing baked goods to retain moisture well and stay chewy.
Turbinado sugar (sometimes known as Demerara Sugar or Raw Cane Sugar) is a partially processed sugar which retains more of the naturally present molasses.
It has a blond color, mild brown sugar flavor and larger crystals than brown sugars used in baking.
Turbinado sugar is the sugar in your packet of “raw cane sugar.” This type of sugar has been processed just enough to make it safe to eat.
Also known as Barbados sugar, muscovado sugar is an unrefined cane sugar in which the molasses has not been removed.
It is very dark brown and has a particularly strong molasses flavor.
The crystals are slightly coarser and stickier than regular brown sugar, giving this sugar a sandy texture.
Free-Flowing Brown Sugar
Also known as granulated brown sugar, this powder-like brown sugar is less moist than regular brown sugar.
Since it is less moist, it does not clump and is free flowing, like white sugar.
To get the brown sugar taste in a free flowing product, the sugar undergoes a special process making the sugar very low moisture.
As it is so easy to measure and sprinkle, free-flowing brown sugar is great for topping on cereals and oatmeal.
Liquid sugar is white granulated sugar that has been dissolved in water.
Simple syrup is liquid sugar with a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water.
Liquid sugar is often used in drinks.
Amber liquid sugar is darker in color and can be used when brown color is desired.
Inversion is the process in which sugar is split into its two component sugars, glucose and fructose, and the resulting product is invert sugar, a liquid sugar with equal parts glucose and fructose.
Because fructose is sweeter than sucrose or glucose, invert sugar is sweeter than white sugar.
50% invert sugar is ½ sucrose, ¼ glucose and ¼ fructose, because only half of the sucrose has been inverted.
The ratio of sucrose to invert sugar in liquid invert sugar depends on which function is required—it is mainly used by food manufacturers to retard crystallization or retain moisture in packaged foods.
You can make it at home: when a recipe calls for a sugar to be boiled gently in a mixture of water and lemon juice, the product is invert sugar.