Well that’s exactly how I felt after being asked to write up about sugar.
Sure I said, why not! Well when three bags of varying Tate and Lyle Sugars turned up on my doorstep I was at a loss as to what I was actually looking at…
I knew from baking that for an intense flavour use dark brown and for subtle sweetness use white but I never knew there were so many variations. Tate and Lyle have recently developed 8 flavoured sugars inspired from places around the world ranging from light bodied golden sugars to full body browns.
I decided to actually research my ingredients which I now think is something all bakers should do as it allows you to experiment and understand what you are working with. So, it turns out sugar doesn’t magically arrive in carefully sealed packets by the tooth fairy’s arch nemesis but it is harvested from raw sugarcane…
I’ll save you the science lesson but in general sugar starts off by being combined with heavy syrup which washes away the impure outside and gets to you to the pure inside. After dissolving, clarifying, filtering and crystallisation you get white refined sugar AKA the granulated sugar you typically add to a brew or a coffee. As part of this process you also get the production of molasses or treacle (dark syrupy goodness).
If you take your granulated sugar and grind it down to a finer product you get caster sugar which dissolves much easier than granulated. You add your sticky treacle to sugar and you get brown sugar – and the more treacle you add the darker the sugar. White sugar is sweeter than brown and brown sugar has much more moisture so it’s more likely to clump together but provides more moisture for baked goods…
(OK, science lesson over!)
What I got to try
I was given British-inspired golden syrup sugar, South Pacific-inspired golden granulated sugar and Barbados-inspired dark muscovado. All three are great sugars with very distinctive flavours; golden granulated has an added caramel layer, golden syrup has a similar taste but packs a little more punch and finally the dark muscovado really packs a wallop of intense treacle goodness!
My first project was homemade fudge (http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/513459) using my golden granulated sugar which meant I didn’t need to add flavour to my fudge thanks to the added syrup. I would have a picture to show you all but suffice to say it didn’t last long enough to make its debut photo shoot. I am now looking forward to experimenting with my other sugars and I think a simple Victorian sponge could really benefit from the smoothness and extra taste of my golden syrup sugar.
I think my muscovado will be kept for a light but treacly fruit cake which cannot fail to impress. If you don’t have a sweet tooth you can always experiment with a few different sugars to boost the flavour of your savoury dishes. A pinch of white sugar enhances the flavours of tomatoes and brown sugar, well brown sugar is in a league of its own. Not only can brown sugar add fudge notes to baking but add a little to tomato sauce or a meat marinade and it will really enhance the taste… giving it a little more va va voom!