One of the mandatory ingredients that hold a prominent position in our kitchen is sugar. Our day cannot go without sprinkling sugar to our beverages, juices and pastries. We all know that a spoonful of sugar sweetens our food instantly, but do you know there are different varieties of sugar and each one has its own attributes? Read on to know everything about your sugar.
WHAT IS SUGAR?
Sugar is a carbohydrate that is soluble in water. Sugar naturally occurs in the various things we eat on a daily basis like plants, fruits and vegetables. There are different forms of sugar and are primarily divided into simple sugar and complex sugar.
They are also known as monosaccharide are glucose, galactose and fructose and complex forms of sugars called disaccharides are sucrose, maltose and lactose. These type of sugars provide instant gratification that is short lived.
Glucose – This is a naturally occurring form of sugar in plants and fruits through photosynthesis. Usually the carbohydrates we take are converted into glucose which is absorbed by the blood stream and is transported to the cells by insulin that gives energy to the body. Alternatively, glucose can also be converted to glycogen that aids in the functioning of muscles and liver.
Fructose – It is also called fruit sugar and is found naturally in fruits. It’s also found in root vegetables, sugarcane, agave syrup and honey. It’s an important component in common sugar. Fructose has a low glycemic index, but when it reaches the liver, gets converted to triglycerides which increase insulin levels leading to the development of diabetes.
Galactose – It is not a naturally occurring sugar, but is found in combination with glucose in milk sugar or lactose.
Sucrose – It’s a naturally occurring sugar in the stems of sugarcane and roots of sugar beet. It is also a main component found in plants and fruits along with glucose and fructose. During digestion sucrose breaks down to glucose and fructose.
Maltose – It is the less sweet version of sugar formed when glucose combines together and is formed in the body during the digestion of starch and is broken down by an enzyme called maltase.
Lactose – This is a naturally occurring sugar in milk, formed by the combination of glucose and galactose. Children naturally have this enzyme that helps them to break down the molecule to give them energy, while some adults lose this enzyme eventually making them intolerant to lactose.
HOW IS SUGAR MADE?
Fundamentally sugar is made from sugarcane or sugar beets. The juice extracted from cane or beets are boiled until it reaches a thick syrupy consistency until crystals are formed. These crystals are eventually separated from the syrup in a centrifuge leaving behind a sticky residual of molasses.
TYPES OF SUGAR
Different kinds of sugar are made from the juice of beets or canes by altering the different steps in the formation of sugar crystals. The different characteristics of each kind of sugar make them ideal for several purposes.
We all know that sugar is insanely delicious and sinfully dangerous. But, which type of sugar is good and which is bad has always been a topic of debate. Although, a certain kind of sugar is better than the other, all of them are quite the same and do not do much good for you.
Also known as white sugar or common sugar, this is the type of sugar we have in our kitchen and add it to our tea, coffee and pastries. The granules are transparent and fine and are easy to measure. This type of sugar is added to jams, jellies and marmalades to add sweetness and acts as a preservative, gives a good texture to your pastries and confectioneries.
Milled or icing sugar
This is just granulated white sugar in a powdered form which dissolves easily. It is mixed with a small percentage of cornstarch to prevent the smooth powder from caking. Caster sugar is used in baking cakes, meringues, whipping cream, making syrups, cocktails, confectioneries and juices.
Caster sugar is similar to common sugar but the granules of this sugar are extremely tiny unlike the crystals of granulated sugar. It’s the smallest form of granulated sugar. The super fine crystals of caster sugar dissolve quickly, making it ideal for baking soft and smooth desserts like mousse, sponge cakes and puddings.
This form of white sugar has coarse, relatively larger sized grains that are opaque and hard. The crystals of this sugar do not lose their shape or colour when exposed to heat. The characteristics of this sugar make it ideal for decorating your pastries and confectioneries.
This is the type of sugar you will find sprinkled on bakery foods. This is a form of coarse sugar that has a glazy look and is fairly heat resistant give a beautiful sparkle to your food. They come in different colours and also add an extra crunch to your baked goods.
This is the kind of sugar you find in readymade mixes like flavoured gelatine, drinks or malt. This is completely made from fructose and is also called as crystalline fructose. The grains of fruit sugar are fine and uniform in size that doesn’t stand separately from the powder, hence, is the best form of sugar to use in dry mixes.
Brown sugar is just normal sugar that has molasses, which gives the sugar a beautiful brown colour, sweet aroma and a unique flavour. Brown sugar comes in two varieties – light and dark. The amount of molasses present in the sugar determines whether it is light or dark. Light brown sugar has a mild flavour of molasses and therefore, is used for making sauces or glazing foods. Whereas, dark brown sugar has a rich fragrance and flavour and is used in foods that require a rich flavour like barbecues, gingerbread. Brown sugar has the tendency to absorb moisture and is best kept in an air tight container. The moisture retention capacity of this sugar helps to keep the food soft and chewy for a longer period of time.
If you come across a packet of sugar that says raw sugar, then it’s most likely to be turbinado sugar. It isn’t raw and unprocessed as they claim it to be; but is partially processed where only the surface molasses is washed off. The crystals of the turbinado sugar are comparatively bigger than brown sugar and are light brown in colour and impart a mild flavour. They are ideally used in baking and sweetening beverages. Due to the rich moisture content it seems to have lesser calorie than white sugar
This is a form of minimally refined sugar that has large golden-brown grains offering a crunchy texture. This is also a form of raw sugar as it retains a large quantity of molasses. Demerara sugar is very popular in England and is usually used in baking or sweetening hot beverages and cereals.
Muscovado or Barbados sugar
Having a British origin, this is the darkest and richest form of brown sugar that has the largest composition of molasses. It has a strong molasses flavour and has stickier and coarse crystals resembling wet sand and is added to all sweets that impart a rich flavour.
Cane sugar is made exclusively from sugarcane. The sugar is mildly processed retaining molasses and the goodness and nutrients of sugarcane. The crystals are relatively bigger and are dark brown in colour. It’s heavy on your pocket and contains a fair amount of amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins and mineral, making it a healthier alternative to common sugar.
The difference between white and brown sugar is the presence of molasses. Besides that all types of sugar are the same and aren’t good for you. Being a rich source of carbohydrates, they give you energy; but when had in large amounts can cause tooth decay, heart diseases, cholesterol and obesity. So, keep all this in mind before you indulge in sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth.