If you were to send an extra-terrestrial to the grocery store and tell them to bring back sugar, it might not be enough instruction. When you think of sugar you most likely imagine white granulated sugar, but there are a several types of sugar available in most grocery stores. These sugars vary in texture, flavor, and color. Depending on what you’re making, choosing the right sugar can be mission-critical.
Types of sugar
If you only have one type of sugar in your home, it’s probably white granulated sugar. Granulated sugar can be made from sugar beets or sugar cane. During processing, the natural molasses is refined out of the sugar, leaving a clean sweet flavor. White sugar is often used for baking and sweetening beverages. It adds sweetness without introducing new flavors.
Brown sugar is essentially white sugar with the addition of cane molasses. Compared to white sugar, brown sugar is moister and has a richer flavor. The moisture makes brown sugar prone to caking, drying out, and forming clumps—to avoid this, it’s best to store it in an airtight container. Brown sugar is an excellent addition to rich baked goods with deep flavor, like banana bread.
What’s the difference between light brown sugar and dark brown sugar?
The terms “light” and “dark” refer to the molasses content of brown sugar. Dark brown sugar has more molasses and will have an even more intense flavor.
Turbinado is a coarse sugar with large crystals. It’s partially refined and retains some natural molasses, which gives it a light brown color. If you’ve ever used a package of Sugar in the Raw at a coffee shop, that’s turbinado sugar. Turbinado can be used to sweeten drinks, or as a crunchy topping on baked goods. Turbinado can also be used as a substitute for white or brown sugar in baking.
Similar to turbinado, demerara is a coarse, partially refined sugar. It retains some natural molasses, which gives it a light brown color and rich flavor. Compared to Turbinado, demerara crystals are slightly smaller, but demerara works in many of the same recipes. This coarse, crunchy sugar is an excellent topping for baked goods.
Powdered sugar, also known as confectioners’ sugar, is chemically the same as granulated sugar, but the crystals have been pulverized into a fine, fluffy powder. This fine texture makes it a good choice for creating smooth, silky frosting or for dusting over cakes and doughnuts. Roll cookie dough in powdered sugar to create a crinkle cookie with its own icing baked right on.
Superfine sugar, or caster sugar, is chemically the same as granulated sugar, but the grains are much smaller. If a recipe calls for superfine sugar, you can replicate the effect by whipping granulated sugar in a blender. The crystal size is important for baking, small particles of superfine sugar dissolve quickly in recipes.
Muscovado sugar is a very lightly refined sugar. It may look like brown sugar, but its brown color is natural. Instead of molasses being added back in, muscovado retains its natural molasses.
Now that you’re stocked up on sugar, it’s time to get cooking. Try our recipe for chewy ginger cookies.