The ‘What and Why’ of Sugar

Walk down the baking aisle of your supermarket and all of the sweetener options can be overwhelming. Even plain old sugar comes in a variety of colors, sizes and textures; and then there's molasses, honey and the more esoteric agave syrup — not to mention the growing variety of calorie-free sweeteners. When do you use what, and why?

Granulated sugar (aka the white stuff we spoon into our coffee) comes from the sugar cane or sugar beet plant. It's a crucial ingredient in baking since it helps food to brown and caramelize; provides flavor and texture; and enhances creaminess.

Coarse grain sugar is used as decorating sugar, regular granulated sugar is used in cooking and superfine sugar (made by passing regular sugar through a sieve) is typically used in beverages and meringues.

Powdered sugar, also known as confectioner's sugar or icing sugar, is made by grinding regular granulated sugar to a fine powder and is commonly used to make icing and frosting, and to dust over baked goods.

Brown sugar is formed during the late stages of sugar processing. It gets its color and distinct taste from its molasses content which varies by type: light brown sugar contains 3.5 percent molasses, dark brown sugar contains 6.5 percent molasses. If a recipe doesn't specify light or dark brown sugar, opt for the light variety.

Turbinado sugar is typically sold under the brand name "Sugar in the Raw." It has large, light crystals that can generally be swapped one-for-one for brown sugar in recipes.

Muscovado sugar has much smaller crystals and has a strong molasses flavor.

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