Everyone is becoming more health conscious today, and that means people are paying closer attention to what they are eating throughout the day – from items that are bought at the store to food that’s made at home.
The hard part for consumers is interpreting food labels, especially when it comes to ingredients one might have concerns about, such as the type of added sugar. With so many varieties of sugar available, it is important to understand the differences between them, what they are best used for, and the role that they play in the flavour of different foods.
Beyond providing sweetness, the molecular structure of sugar aids in the baking process and also creates appealing colour and texture. In fact, sugar has a wide variety of applications even beyond baked goods – from savoury dishes to cocktails and more. Here’s what sugar, or sucrose, does for many foods you make or buy:
Bread: Sugar creates crust browning (caramelisation), affects starch swelling and feeds yeast fermentation. Sugar also helps retain moisture, extending bread’s shelf life.
Cereal bars: Sugar offers sweetness and helps retain moisture. Consumers should seek products specifically containing ‘raw cane sugar’ as ‘cane sugar’ is a blanket term for many types of sugar, including white refined sugar.
Cookies: Especially with brown sugars, caramelisation influences the colour of cookies while enhancing their flavour. Sugar also helps prevent over-development of gluten to create the right texture, and helps retain moisture to create softness in some cookies.
Fermented food and beverages: Sugar plays a vital role in many fermented foods and beverages, including yogurt, smoothies and ice cream.
Types of sugars
Raw cane sugar offers many options for flavour variety, texture and versatility. Using minimally processed sugar provides an exciting range of rich and complex tastes. Raw cane sugar comes from the sugarcane plant, and it is minimally processed.
Brown sugar comes directly from sugarcane, the distinctive molasses taste permeates the entire crystal.
Dark brown sugar
The deep molasses taste of dark brown sugar is sought after for many spice-filled holiday treats like gingerbread, as well as in savoury sauces and marinades for barbecued, grilled or smoked meats.
Light brown sugar
While not as bold in terms of flavour as dark brown sugar, light brown sugar is buttery and warm, with caramel notes. This moist sugar suits baked goods like brownies and cookies.
You’ve probably seen this kind of sugar in packets at restaurants. Also referred to as Demerara sugar, Turbinado cane sugar adds crunch as well as sparkle for cookies and other desserts. With its large grains and amber colour, Turbinado offers a bold molasses taste but in a free-flowing form.
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