Sweet stuff … our guide to sugar
From stabilising meringues to balancing flavour in savoury dishes, there’s more to sugar than just sweetness. But eating too much is bad for your health so we’ve put together our handy guide to sweet stuff and how to use it and include it as part of a balanced diet.
What is sugar?
Sugar is produced from plants like sugar cane and sugar beet and is also found naturally in fruit, vegetables, honey and dairy products.
What’s the difference between white and brown sugar?
Refined brown sugar is essentially white sugar with added molasses. Molasses is the treacle left over after sugar is extracted from the sugar cane. This gives brown sugar a darker colour and caramel-like taste. Brown sugar is also stickier in texture than white sugar because it contains more liquid than white sugar.
Icing Sugar Mixture
Icing sugar is very finely ground sugar with a small amount of cornflour added to stop it clumping together. It dissolves quickly in liquid and carries colour well so it is ideal for decorating cakes and other baked goods.
Pure Icing Sugar
Similar in appearance to Icing Sugar Mixture, Pure Icing Sugar is also made from pulverised granulated sugar but it contains no cornflour. For everyday cooking, icing sugar mixture is fine; however pure icing sugar should be used for royal icing and modelling fondant. Pure icing sugar is also a better choice if you are gluten intolerant. Always sift pure icing sugar as it can harden with age.
Finely granulated, caster sugar dissolves quickly which makes it ideal for baking. Use it for meringues because the small granules will blend well with the beaten egg whites.
Granulated or Table Sugar
This has larger crystals than caster or icing sugar and is good for making jam as the larger grains dissolve slowly and evenly when heated.
This is a minimally refined cane sugar that has large grains that are great for adding texture and crunch to biscuits and cakes. It’s subtle caramel flavour also tastes great in coffee.
An intense caramel flavour makes this sugar ideal for sauces and marinades, as well as in sticky puddings.
Golden Syrup is made by refining sugar cane into a clear, amber liquid. Sweeter than sugar, it’s best used in steamed puddings and golden syrup cakes.
A dark liquid that comes from boiling the sap of maple trees, it has a sweet caramel taste and works in both sweet and savoury foods.
Made by bees, honey is fragrant with a floral flavour. It is ideal to use in banana bread, hot drinks, or to add sweetness to salad dressings.
Agave Syrup or Agave Nectar
This syrup is produced from agave plants and is a popular vegan alternative to honey. It’s sweeter than regular refined sugar, so you don’t need to use as much of it.