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Sugar Basics

So what are sucrose, glucose and fructose? Sucrose is the chemical name for refined white sugar, it's composed of one molecule each of glucose and fructose, sucrose is a disaccharide. FYI, glucose is a simple sugar, monosaccharide, and an important carbohydrate and fructose, fruit sugar, is a simple monosaccharide found in many plants.

Common table sugar is usually produced from sugar cane or sugar beets. Essentially the sugar cane or beet, is crushed to extract the juice. Because this juice contains tannins, pigments and other impurities, they must be removed through refinement. First the juice is dissolved in water then boiled in large steam powered evaporators. The solution is then crystallized by heating it in large pans in a vacuum chamber to avoid darkening. The by-product of this stage is known as molasses, which is separated out by a centrifuge. The remaining crystallized product, known as raw sugar, contains many impurities and isn’t ready to be consumed yet, although it won’t kill you! This raw sugar is washed with steam to remove many of the impurities. The result is turbinado sugar.

Turbinado sugar is now reheated, liquefied, centrifuged and filtered through charcoal or diatomaceous earth, sand like fossilized shells, this filtered and purified liquid sugar is ready for the next step. Finally then, the clear liquid sugar is re-crystallized in pan under vacuum, it’s now granulated white sugar.

So let's recap. Turbinado sugar is also known as demerrara sugar and is the closest sugar to raw sugar. It's partially refined and has a light brown color with coarse crystals and somewhat of a caramel flavor. The purified version of it is called sanding sugar, is used in pastry shops, particularly on sugar cookies and is rarely sold in supermarkets. We all are familiar with granulated all-purpose sugar and sugar cubes, which are made by pressing moistened granulated sugar into moles and allowing it to dry. Brown sugar is simply regular refined cane sugar with molasses added to it; light brown sugar contains about 3 1/2% molasses, dark brown, about 6 1/2%. Superfine sugar, caster sugar, as it's known in England or even bar sugar here in the United States is a very small size granulated sugar. Its sugar that has been put through very large food processors for a few moments and it dissolves quickly in liquids. It’s used in mixed drinks and iced tea and produces light, tender cakes like genoise. Powdered sugar or confectioners' sugar is made by grinding granulated sugar and pressing it through various sizes of screens, 3% cornstarch is added to prevent caking, making it even more powder like.

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