Baking can be a little intimidating with all its rules about procedures and techniques, and different kinds of ingredients. When you are making a dessert, it is important to know the nature of the ingredients you are using because if you use the wrong ones, it can break your dessert. While the baking world makes use of a plethora of ingredients, today we are going to talk about baking sugars.
Sugar is one ingredient yes, but there are different kinds of sugar and they all play a different role in baking and have different uses. Let us take a look at the different types of sugar, one by one.
This is the sugar that we all definitely have at home. It is the sugar that our families have been using as a sweetener in everyday things like tea, and that is the reason why granulated sugar is so widely available in all Indian households.
If we go by the dictionary definition, granulated sugar is pure sugar that has been crystallized, centrifuged and sent through a granulator, where the crystals are dried, separated, and screened. Granulated sugar is made from sugarcane and is also commonly known as regular sugar or table sugar.
As popular as granulated sugar might be for everyday use, it is not so popular for baking. Why? The answer is big sugar chunks/granules. Granulated sugar has medium/small sized sugar chunks which do not melt into cake batters and sweet doughs. The big size of each sugar granule can take a long time to get mixed into the batter. If you use granulated sugar, you will definitely end up with sugar chunks in your final dessert and nobody wants that.
Uses of granulated sugar
Granulated sugar is not completely useless when it comes to desserts. Since the sugar granules take time to melt, granulated sugar can still be used in a slow cooking process like making caramel. Whether you are making a dry caramel or a wet caramel, I always end up using granulated sugar for it. The big sugar granules make sure my sugar melts and does not burn during the caramel making process and the end result is always a smooth, shiny, homemade caramel. You can find the recipe for my caramel sauce here.
It can also be used to make preserves like compote or homemade jams. To make any of these elements, you need granulated sugar, water, maybe lemon juice, and fresh fruit. Let everything cook slowly on low medium heat and eventually you will have a lovely product at the end. I have shared some lovely compote recipes over the years but one of my favorites is the blueberry compote recipe in my book Desserts For Every Mood. You should check it out and use the recipe for tart fillings, ice cream toppings, dessert bars, and whatever else you desire.
The most popular sugar in the baking world is caster sugar. Ninety percent of the time, you cannot make a dessert without it. What makes it perfect is the size of the sugar granules. They are not as big as granulated sugar and neither are they as fine as powdered sugar. The best way to describe caster sugar is as finely granulated white sugar.
Many times on my Youtube videos, and Instagram posts, people comment about how they cannot find caster sugar anywhere. This could be possible because caster sugar actually has many names like breakfast sugar, superfine sugar, and baker’s sugar. Try using these names the next time you are trying to place an order for caster sugar.
What’s even better is to buy this sugar online! Sites like amazon can come to your rescue if your local markets do not get supply of caster sugar. The brands I use most often are Trust and Uttam Sugar. I have made infinite cakes, brownies, and dessert bars using the same.
Uses of caster sugar
In addition to adding sweetness to desserts, caster sugar also helps add more volume to desserts and make the texture lighter. Caster sugar is also used to make all kinds of meringue frostings like French meringue, Italian meringue, and buttercreams like the swiss meringue buttercream.
I also love using caster sugar to make bruleed tops on desserts like custard. To brulee means to sprinkle an even layer of caster sugar on top of your dessert and then using a blowtorch to almost burn the sugar lightly. You will see the sugar layer turn golden and dark brown and also firm. It tastes amazing and is so much fun to do!
And if you’re not using caster sugar in your desserts or dessert elements, you can use it to make fun cocktails, and drinks.
Pro tip: If you don’t have access to caster sugar, you can make it at home! Add granulated sugar to a mixer grinder and grind granulated sugar for 5-10 seconds. You will see the sugar granules have become much smaller and can now be used in your dessert batter.
As the name suggests, powdered sugar is just sugar, but in powdered form. It is the most fine sugar available and gets mixed in really easily and quickly. The perfect way to describe powdered sugar is by saying it is very finely ground white sugar.
Similar to caster sugar, powdered sugar also has a few different names which can create confusion amongst home bakers and newbie bakers. Powdered sugar is also called icing sugar, confectioners’ sugar or even “bura” sugar.
In my experience, it is best to buy packets that have either powdered sugar, icing sugar or confectioners’ sugar as the name because bura sugar packets sometimes still have some sugar granules inside. The brand I use often is Uttam Sugar and Trust. Other brands like Solar and Royal are also nice.
If you are wondering why not use very finely ground sugar in cake batters, it is because the process of whipping up caster sugar with the butter/oil always adds air and structure to our desserts. So if you use icing sugar, your baked goods might end up not as tall and slightly dense.
Uses of powdered sugar
As mentioned above, powdered sugar mixes in really easily and quickly. This makes it perfect for using in frostings. Frostings like American buttercream involve absolutely no use of heat. This means the sugar must dissolve with the rest of the ingredients by simply mixing it in. Since powdered sugar is very finely ground, it does just that and makes lump free frostings.
Another great use of powdered sugar is to dust some on final desserts. It really makes any dessert look magical and takes it one level up aesthetically. You can also fully coat desserts in icing sugar, especially truffles!
I hope this article was helpful and cleared all your doubts about baking sugars. Which type of sugar to use, how to identify it, and where to buy it from. Just remember, granulated sugar has medium/small chunks, caster sugar is finely ground, and powdered sugar is very finely ground. Happy baking!