Saturday, March 13, 2010

all sugars are not created equal.

In my quest for natural living there seems to be a few things that are hard to give up- sugar being one of them- so my quest has now become to find out which is the healthiest, most natural sugar and use it sparingly. Where does sugar come from and how is it made into those yummy little crystals....
Evaporated Cane Juice and Organic Sugar
This term evaporated cane juice was approved by the Federal Drug Authority to clarify the difference between this sugar and white granulated sugar, which it resembles in appearance and sweetness level. Evaporated cane juice is crystallized sugar, minus the final refining stages, which allows it to retain a small amount of molasses and gives the crystals their light tan color. Most organic sugar (sugar raised under organic agricultural guidelines without pesticides) is evaporated cane juice, and vice versa. You can substitute evaporated cane juice (or organic sugar) for granulated sugar in your recipes without any changes. It is commonly used in the natural foods industry to manufacture baked goods.

Because it has its own proprietary manufacturing process, Sucanat (its name created from the words sugarcane natural) belongs in its own category, but I include it here because it is the least processed of all sugars. Its proprietary processing method of dehydration and aeration was developed by Dr. Max-Henri Beguin in the 1950s. Sucanat, processed from organic Costa Rican sugarcane, is the least processed of dry sugars, maintaining trace amounts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium and other vitamins and minerals, but that doesn't make it a nutritional superfood.

Sucanat is granular, not crystallized. Sucanat does not dissolve as readily as crystallized sugar, so a butter-Sucanat mixture will stay gritty and the resultant baked good will be speckled in recipes that call for such creaming. This may be a small tradeoff for some bakers. Many sources say that it can be used as a substitute for brown sugar, but Sucanat is much drier, so in most recipes I don't recommend swapping it for brown sugar.

Sucanat lends its molasses-rich flavor to cookies, bars, fruit crisps, and cobblers.


A light brown sugar with detectably coarse crystals and a light toffee flavor, turbinado is "turbinated" from steaming evaporated cane juice. It is considered a raw sugar, and one brand is named Sugar in the Raw, which is made in Maui and is a vestige of the once-booming Hawaiian sugarcane economy.

Turbinado is versatile and accommodating in all manner of cooking and baking. In butter-based doughs and batters, it creams more smoothly than demerara. But it stays crunchy when sprinkled as a topping for cookies, cobblers, and crisps. For its toffee flavor and ease of melting (its moderate-size crystals melt into larger pools than does granulated sugar), it is the best sugar for topping crème brûlée.

The Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company on Maui produces a variety of raw sugars, including turbinado. Their Premium Hawaiian Turbinado is the result of slow boiling, producing a crunchy crystal of deep ambercolored sugar, rich with molasses flavors. Asked about further details about their turbinado, they demurred, referring to such matters as being proprietary secrets.
Moist Brown Sugars

In the second stage of sugar processing, a centrifuge is used to remove as much, or as little, molasses as the manufacturer chooses. In brown sugars made by the traditional methods, such as demerara and muscovado, the molasses is left in, and then the sugar is crystallized via dehydration. During this process, the molasses remains intact, as in first-stage sugars, yet these sugars become fairly dry. These brown sugars are less sweet than white sugar, because the molasses is somewhat bitter.


A crunchy, sparkly, caramel-hued crystal sugar, demerara is renowned for its textural and visual qualities. It is named for the Demerara River in today's Guyana, a former British (and Dutch) colony, but most of today's demerara comes from Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. If you are presented with a sugar bowl in a fine restaurant in Europe, chances are that it will be filled with demerara. Stirred into hot coffee or tea, its caramel flavor is released.

Demerara sugar is ideal for decorating baked goods, as it will not melt in the heat of the oven. It adds a delicious crunch to the surface of muffins, cookies, scones, and other pastries.


Rich, dark, and aromatic, muscovado sugar is available in both light and dark varieties. This moist, flavorful sugar has a hint of butterscotch. It is also known as Barbados sugar and dark molasses sugar.

Light and Dark Brown Sugars

Supermarket light and dark brown sugars can be made by a highly mechanized variation on the traditional method, which is how muscovado sugar is still made, whereby raw sugar is centrifuged to remove the molasses and attain the desired sugar color. However, many brands, especially beet sugars, make their brown sugars by another process. The sugar is completely refined to the white granulated stage, then molasses is sprayed back on in amounts to create either light or dark sugar. ~global gourmet

After all that I've read and researched I've decided to try Sucanat as it seems healthiest to me and also keep some sugar in the raw around for when I need to bake something that won't relate well with honey or pure maple syrup. As for white sugar that is now poison to me like soy...but that's another post.

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