Let me introduce you to the world of sugar. You may have noticed that some English recipes use several types of sugar not normally seen in America. They go beyond the usual soft brown and granulated types and ask for light muscavado, dark muscavado, caster and demerara sugar.
Before you start experimenting with English recipes it is probably good to know about the different types that are used. For instance do you know the difference between granulated and caster or brown sugar and light muscovado?
You can always rely on the English to over complicate things, and trust me life would be far easier if there were just a couple of sugary choices to make. But then we wouldn’t have the crunchy topping on a crumble, the extra deep rich flavors that come courtesy of the muscavado sugars, or the finer texture in cakes that comes from using caster sugar.
So lets get started with sugar. Some sugars you will know while others might crop up in a recipe you want to try, and hopefully this will make it easier to find what you are looking for.
Caster Sugar = superfine or sometimes labeled baker’s sugar
Caster Sugar is ideal for making cakes, especially sponges, creamed mixtures and meringues. The small crystals dissolve quickly, blend smoothly and give a nice even texture.
Granulated Sugar = granulated sugar
Granulated sugar has a coarser texture than caster sugar due to the larger crystals. It is best used for recipes that require rubbed in methods, such as scones and cookies.
Soft Brown Sugar = soft brown sugar
This sugar has a fudge flavor and is great in rich full-flavored recipes such as ginger cakes, puddings and caramels. It is readily available and frequently used in American baking.
Muscovado Sugar = light brown and dark brown sugar
Known for its soft, sandy texture and strong molasses flavor, it gives baked goods a strong, deep and rich flavor. The color comes with the molasses content, and it is ideal for making gingerbreads, rich fruitcakes, cookies and chocolate cakes.
Muscovado comes in dark and light forms, depending on the amount of molasses each contains (dark is about 13% molasses and light is about 6%).
Once you try it, you will notice the difference in taste to soft brown sugar, and trust me, there will be no turning back. It can be a little tricky to find. I found some at Meijer, check the ingredients; it will list natural cane sugar. It is also available through Amazon.com:
Demerara Sugar = Turbinado sugar
With its large, hard, shiny crystals, demerara sugar is rich in flavor and has a lower molasses content than muscovado and brown sugar. It is perfect to sprinkle on cakes, cookies, or muffins before baking to give a nice crunchy topping – the size of the crystals prevents the sugar from melting.
The sugars listed above fall into two categories – refined and unrefined.
Raw, or unrefined, sugar is naturally light brown that has undergone minimum processing. Types of raw sugars include: Demerara and Muscovado. These sugars add a caramel flavor to a bake and, depending on how rich in molasses, provide a nice fudgy texture.
Refined sugar is white sugar. Many sugars labeled as ‘brown sugar’ are actually white sugar that has had various degrees of molasses added back to make them appear either light or dark brown.
All sugared out…I hope not. Sugar is a wonderful thing, and in its many forms it makes life pretty sweet!