Also Known as Sucrose
What is Sugar?
Sugar, or sucrose, is a disaccharide used widely in baking. It is mainly used as a sweetener, and has other functionalities in baking as well.
Sugar cane accounts for approximately 45% of total sugar produced domestically. A tall perennial grass, it is grown in tropical and semitropical climates. After planting, the maturation period is approximately 1-2 years. Once harvested, sugar cane must be processed quickly before its sucrose deteriorates.
Sugar beets account for approximately 55% of domestic production – the other leading raw material for manufactured sugar in the United States. This crop can be grown in a variety of climatic conditions and is grown annually. There is a short window that the product can be stored after harvest, but its sucrose can also deteriorate quickly so processing should be done in a timely manner.
- Flavor: Sugar is required for fermentation (activates the yeast) which gives breads its yeasty flavor.
- Crust browning: Sugar can be broken down into its two monosaccharide units (glucose and fructose), which can take part in the Maillard reaction.
- Tenderizer: When the appropriate amount of sugar is added in the formula, a desirable amount of gluten develops and optimum elasticity is obtained. Sugars are also used in bread making to prevent stickiness due to its hygroscopic nature. In cakes, sugars tend to disrupt the gluten network, making the cake more short and crumbly.
- Shelf life extender: In cakes and cookies, sugar binds to water molecules which slows moisture loss, preventing baked goods from staling too quickly.
- Brown Sugar: retains some of the surface molasses syrup; tends to clump more than white sugar because of its higher moisture content.
- Confectioner’s Sugar: granulated sugar ground to a fine powder, containing 3% corn starch to prevent caking.
- Granulated Sugar: extra fine or fine crystals; most ￼common type for home bakers.
- Castor Sugar: smallest crystal; it is preferred for delicately frosted cakes or meringues; used as a sprinkle topping for aesthetic appeal.