The Simplicity Of A Spoonful Of Sugar

Sugar.  Such a lovely word.  Such a lovely taste.  There is nothing better than a hot, buttery crumpet with a sprinkling of brown sugar.  A teaspoonful is only 15 calories vs 22 in the same of honey.  Bet you didn’t think that would be the case eh?

sugar

A spoonful of sugar….

Sugar is a carbohydrate that’s naturally in most fruits and vegetables.  In fact I’ve read some research that says that it’s actually healthier to eat a spoonful of sugar than it is some soft fruits such as figs, bananas and mangoes which contain up to 13g each!  I think I prefer the fruit.  Sugar beets and sugar cane contain to highest quantities of sugar and so are mostly used to make the refined, granulated sugar we use every day .

A fascinatingly simple process

The sugar beets are washed and then sliced for soaking in hot water.  A hot sugary liquid is separated away and concentrated into a deep, brown syrup.  The brown colour comes from the natural concentration of molasses.  This is then cooled and then whirled in a machine similar to a washing machine on the final spin.  This makes the molasses spin away leaving brown crystals which are then sprayed with hot water leaving them pure and white.  The process with sugar cane is similar except the juice is squeezed out using a press – much the same as an old Victorian clothes press.

Why it is essential for cooking

Next time you use sugar, think about WHY you are using it.  You’ll find it isn’t always to sweeten….

  1. It incorporates air into the butter in the creaming process giving you a light and fluffy cake
  2. It speeds up the growth of yeast by providing nourishment the yeast needs to expand.
  3. It delays the coagulation of egg proteins in custards meaning you get a nice thick texture as the custard cools.
  4. It acts as a preserve for fruits and fish as well as delaying the time it takes to discolour.

Flavoured sugar 

Flavoured and coloured sugar will be a big trend this year.  No experts behind that opinion. It’s my own.  We all know how to make Vanilla Sugar now.  Jamie Oliver reminds us every time he uses a vanilla pod.  But this post by Rattlebridge Farm on flavoured and coloured sugars that makes the experimenting look easy and enticing.

Image courtesy of Rattlebridge Farm

I must admit that I’ve been rather taken with Chocolate Sugar.  It tastes like granular cocoa powder and we’ve had it on all sorts recently.  Replace it in custard for a lighter, chocolatey custard and indeed ice cream.   A bit expensive though when a dollop of vanilla bean paste will do.  It was also rather nice for dipping whole strawberries.  Decadent I know but it was a Friday night after a long, long week!  I added a spoonful to a latte at work and got an afternoon tea treat without having to buy the chocolate biscuit.  That’s a good thing right?

My favourite though was a light sprinkling over pancakes drizzled with maple syrup. It gave just the right hint of chocolate without the usual shavings from the secret stash of Rococo Bars.

the east india chocolate sugar

Strawberries on Vanilla Pancakes Sprinkled over with The East India Chocolate Sugar

So this is how sugar starts to evolve.  I for one am glad. I couldn’t live without it and will certainly not be giving it up any time soon.  It’s just too versatile and fun to experiment – a spoonful is often all it takes.

Do you use coloured or flavoured sugar? Do you have any recipes to share? What’s your favourite type of sugar? 

19 responses to “The Simplicity Of A Spoonful Of Sugar

  1. I have never heard of chocolate sugar, Urvashi, or seen it. I like vanilla sugar. I also like mincing orange zest into sugar for orange sugar — delicious in muffins and breads and puddings of many kinds.

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  2. Really interesting piece. hadn’t realised re sugar/honey calorie comparison. I learnt to cook some lovely Thai dishes at Demuths Vegetarian cookery school on Friday and tasting most of the ingredients at the beginning was a revelation. I hadn’t realised quite how different palm sugar tastes to the sugar from beet we’re used to, some of it almost had a caramel flavour. My daughter thought it tasted of fudge when I gave her a pimch to taste. It’s going to be a favourite in rice puds now.

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  3. Urvashi, what a lovely post. I have to admit my tastes in flavoured sugar are quite conventional – vanilla sugar mainly (using vanilla pods from making custard) and lavender sugar. But then I am the kid who’s amah (housekeeper in Malaysia) who was given sugar sandwiches when my mum wasn’t around!

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  4. I love that your posts are always filled with fun facts! I briefly tried drinking tea without sugar but it just doesn’t taste the same. I have a whole range of different sugars in my baking pantry and love the variety of flavours they produce in bakes but I’ve never tried chocolate sugar, sounds fascinating!

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  5. I got some chocolate sugar in a set of samples from The East India Company, it was one of the only items they sent that I liked, though expensive for what it was. I do love sugar, my favourite are the Billingtons unrefined range, i find they lend a beautiful flavour to baked goods, you can definitely taste the difference in the end product.

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  6. Those coloured sugars look just amazing! I should definitely get more adventurous with flavoured sugars, chocolate sugar might be a good place to start…

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  7. Gosh, where have I been? I have not even *heard* of chocolate sugar. Intriguing. I am a fan of coconut palm sugar ,with its alleged low glycemic load (still to be confirmed, I believe).Thanks also for the precis on sugar’s properties in cooking.

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  8. I’m with you Urvashi, I have a sweet tooth and do like my sugar. But I do try not to have too much. I have a jar of vanilla sugar and one of cardamom sugar on the go permanently. If I have enough lavender, I make lavender sugar too. Chocolate sugar sounds like a must ;-)

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    • I need to experiment with more sugars. I like the subtle undertones. Made apple compote just now with east India vanilla sugar and its lovely. Light but you can still taste the vanilla

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  9. Great post! I made some vanilla sugar but forget to use it! I use unrefined sugar, I stopped buying white sugar years ago and use unrefined muscovado as my go to sugar unless its for my husband! I’ve never seen chocolate sugar, I think it’s probably better for me not to come across that, lol!

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  10. Very interesting! I didn’t know all of this this :-)

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  11. lovely post Urvashi. I have not heard of chocolate sugar before but am sure I too could find many uses for it! I shall also be checking out the coconut palm sugar that Kellie talks about – I think I have seen it at Waitrose

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