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Sugar is obtained from the liquid derived from sugar cane. The cane is shredded & pressed & juice is collected & diluted with water. The syrup is then boiled & crystals form in the liquid. This mixture is spun in a centrifuge & the resulting components are raw sugar crystals & liquid molasses. The raw crystals are steam cleaned & the resulting sugar is the product that all crystallized/granular sugar is made from.
Refined white sugars
All white sugar has the same sweetening power & is known as refined sugar. Completely refined (white) sugar is devoid of all impurities & is therefore optimal for making candies & sweets.
The down side of using refined white sugar is that it is almost pure sucrose & the only quality that it adds to food is sweetness.
To introduce sweetness as well as a natural sugar/molassess/caramel flavour, there are sugars available which contain some of their natural molasses as well (see below).
Rapadura is the least refined sugar available. It is available in both powdered form, & also as a brick (with a higher moisture content). Jude Blereau, of Perth’s Wholefood Cooking & The Earth Market, includes a lot of information on sweeteners in her books, & she includes the following:
‘Rapadura is made from organic sugar cane, where the cane is pressed without heat to release the juice which is then is filtered, the fibre removed & then simmered over a gentle heat to evaporate off the water. Darkly coloured & flavoured, these granules retain the valuable vitamins & minerals & has a naturally low GI. Rapadura contains approximately 73 – 83% sucrose, compared with 99% sucrose in a white sugar.’
Golden caster sugar contains some impurities but is predominantly sucrose. These impurities flavour the sugar with a slightly “golden syrup” flavour. It can be used in the same way that normal castor is used, except for caramels as the impurities can lead to crystallization.
Has a higher proportion of impurities & therefore a stronger flavour. Because of its high percentage of natural molasses is it considered a very good sugar for coffee. Also very good for dredging biscuits etc, as its large size adds texture & flavour.
Muscovado – light & dark
During the refining process, when sugar still contains some of the molasses, it can be placed in tall sugar filtering bins where the molasses syrup falls to the bottom. In this process when the sugar is taken from the centre section of the bin it is known as Muscovado (meaning “from the middle” in Portuguese). Light Muscovado is taken from the top half & Dark from the bottom half. Either of these sugars can be used in recipes that call for brown sugar.
Of course this is the sugar retrieved form the bottom of the bin & is the darkest & strongest tasting sugar. Good for gingerbread, fruit cakes & strong flavoured treats that can take a strong flavour. It is also suitable for savoury applications such as marinades fro red meat, etc.
Most recipes will call for pure icing sugar, but soft icing mixture is also available. The difference between the two is that the icing mixture has a corn flour added to it. This stops it from caking, but will affect any meringue or royal icing work, so they are not interchangeable. I think it is best to use sifted pure icing where possible. It is also available in a golden icing sugar as well, which is milled from unrefined cane sugar. It does cake quite considerably, but can be shattered/grated & sifted to make a beautiful gold-coloured glaze or dusting.
Coconut sugar is a sugar produced by boiling the sap of cut flower buds of the coconut palm. It is subtly sweet almost like brown sugar
but with a slight hint of caramel and its colour depends on the coconut species used, season it was harvested, or the way the sap is reduced.
In a large saucepan, bring the butter, sugar, glucose and salt to a boil. Boil to 145ºC. Remove from heat.
Add the baking soda and rum. Pour onto a silpat mat, or a sheet pan lined with baking paper, and sprinkle with the roasted nuts.