Sugar is certainly one of the most interesting, diverse, responsible, contributing & varied ingredient we work with. The source, role & function of which has evolved over the years.
There are many types of sugars available today. The most common one being sucrose, table sugar or refined crystallised sugar as we know it.
Fructose, Invert sugar, Sorbitol, Dextrose, Glucose are some other common options besides brown sugar & powdered sugar. What is interesting is, that a lot of them are available in a dry format as well, which makes their selection and application more defined & specialised.
General functions of sugar :
- Sweetening agent : Contributes to the flavour of the product.
- Leavening agent : Used to create or develop texture in products e.g. cookies, cakes, meringues by creaming with fat or whipping with eggs.
- Caramelization : Contributes to browning & flavour when cooked or baked at higher temperatures (155-160°C or above).
- Contribution to texture : Depending on the kind of sugar & proportion to other ingredients & mixing techniques it has an impact on texture. e.g : brownies, meringues, dacquoise, muffins, macarons, cookies, ganaches, ice creams, sorbets etc.
- Preservative : Used to make & preserve fruits, jellies, jams, marmalades, etc. Generally, higher the sugar concentration & low water content, longer is the shelf life.
- Decoration : Sucrose or Isomalt is used for poured, pulled & blown sugar work. It is one of the fastest & dramatic ways to be creative with food. It has a vibrant, glossy, reflective, colourful & dramatic effect. Sugar is also a key component in making fondant, glazes etc.
Before selecting a sugar type for application one must determine :
- The sweetening power of the sugar.
- The impact it will have on flavour, texture, appearance & shelflife of the product.
Not all sugars have the same sweetening capabilities. For e.g. if the sweetening capability of sucrose is 100 then in comparison glucose & sorbitol is about 60-70. Honey & Invert sugars are 130. Hence, we see that one type of sugar cannot be substituted with another. Besides, their impact on texture varies too. We could select one kind of sugar and change its format (dry or liquid) and the outcome in a recipe will be different. Hence, in Sorbets & Ice creams dehydrated sugars are preferred (dry glucose powder etc.).
Replacing one sugar type with another without knowing its function is the main reason why recipes do not work well.
In Ganaches; Glucose, Sorbitol & Invert sugars play different functions besides different sweetening powers.
An overview of some of the different sugars with their source & functions is listed below:
The next post is going to be based on answering questions about issues you have faced while working with sugar. Looking forward to your queries.