The scientific name for sugar is sucrose-or ‘saccharose‘ which consists of a molecule of glucose combined with a molecule of fructose. A few thousand years ago sugar was already being used in Asia in the form of cane syrup, whereas in Europe honey and fruit were the only forms of sweetening. Sugar is/known as saccharose to the Greeks, Saccharum to the Romans, sukkah to the Arabs, Zucchero in Venice, sucre in France, araucaria in Spain, Zucker in Germany, and sugar in England. Sugar was instrumental in the development of confectionery and patisserie but is also used to season meats and savory dishes. France was the first sugar producer in Europe and it remains the largest producer among the Eastern European Countries, second in the world for beet sugar after Russia.
Sugar is mainly refined from beet or cane and consists of extracting the sucrose by successively eliminating the other constituent parts of the plant. The root of the beet is sliced and soaked in warm water to remove the juice. The juice is then treated with milk of lime and carbon dioxide. It is
then filtered off to give a clear juice. Sugarcane is shredded, crushed and sprayed with hot water. The juice is then heated, treated with lime and then filtered.
Both clarified cane and beet juices are then concentrated by evaporation under reduced pressure until crystallization is induced. The concentrated crystallized mass is then transferred into mixers where crystal growth continues. The crystalline raw sugar is then separated from the remaining
syrup by centrifugation. Not all of the sugar may have been extracted from the juice at this stage so the remaining liquor may be recycled. When it is no longer economically practical to extract any more sugar the remaining liquor is called molasses.
Simple syrup is a solution of equal weights of sugar and water. Dessert syrup is flavored simple syrup used to moisten and flavor some cakes. Flavorings may be extracts such as vanilla or liqueurs such as kirsch or rum. Add flavorings after the syrup has cooled because flavors may be
lost if added to the hot syrup. Syrups may also be flavored by boiling them with lemon or orange rind.
Some syrups such as maple syrup and palm syrup occur naturally, but golden syrup is a by-product of sugar refining which undergoes its own refining process. It is used. in making cookies, brandy snaps, and flapjacks and is used in the brewing industry. Corn syrup is produced from sweet
corn and can be light or dark. Molasses and black treacle are dark and viscous with a strong distinctive flavor. Molasses is natural syrup drained from sugar cane. Black treacle is a refined molasses like sugar syrup. They are used in making gingerbread, rich fruit cakes, etc.
Types of Sugars
Refined Sugar or Refined Extra White Sugar: It is made from beet or cane, containing at least 99.7 % sucrose, less than 0.06% moisture and less than 0.04% invert sugar. It has the highest . purity and may be sold as granulated, castor (superfine), grain or lump sugars.
White Sugar: It contains at least 99.7% sucrose. It is sold in the same forms as refined sugar.
Brown Sugar: It is unrefined or raw cane sugar’ containing 85-99.5% sucrose and other impurities. Marketed in granulated, lump or cube form, it possesses a distinctive flavor. There are various types – the very dark moist soft molasses sugar and muscovado. Some commercial brown sugars however, are refined white sugar with caramel or molasses added to color and flavor them.
Various Types of Commercial Sugars
- Granulated Sugar: Produced directly from crystallization of the syrup, it forms fairly coarse crystals. It is the most common variety for general use.
- Caster (Superfine) Sugar: This can be made from crushed and sieved granulated sugar, but can be also boiled to a small crystal size. It is used in desserts, pastries, cakes, ices and sweet dishes as well as sweetening dairy products, drinks, pancakes, etc.
- Lump Sugar: This is obtained by molding moistened granulated sugar when hot, then drying it in order to fuse the crystals together.
- Sugar Loaf: Sugar molded into a cone shape, with the base wrapped in blue paper. It is mainly manufactures to export to Arab countries.
- Icing (Confectioner’s) Sugar: Granulated sugar milled very finely to a powder, mixed with 3% starch to prevent it from caking. It is used for dusting decorating or icing cakes and buns and is included in many types of confectionery.
- Liquid Sugar (Sugar Syrup): It is a sugar solution prepared by dissolving white sugar in water. It is a colorless or golden solution of cane sugar containing at least 62% dissolved solids of which not more than 3% consists of invert sugar.
- Invert Sugar: Sugar obtained by the action of acids and an enzyme (invertase) on sucrose. It is used by professional pastry cooks and industries (brewing, confectionery) in the form invert sugar solution. Invert sugar stays smooth and resists crystallizing.
- Preserving Sugar: These are large crystals designed for jam making because of its solubility without scum.
- Special Jam Sugar: This is special gelling sugar containing castor sugar, natural pectin and
citric or tartaric acid.
- Vanilla Sugar: It is nothing but castor sugar to which at least 10% natural extract or essence of vanilla has been added.
Cooking with Temperatures
The cooking of sugar should be carried out progressively, in a heavy-based pan made of un-tinned copper or stainless steel that must be absolutely clean and without traces of grease. Cooking begins over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. The heat is then increased and the sugar is constantly
watched as the different stages of cooking, which correspond to specialized uses, follow very closely to each other. When a cooking stage is reached, the pan must be removed quickly from the heat. A few drops of cold water can be added to lower the temperature of the syrup. The degree of cooking is measured manually with a sugar (candy) thermometer which can read temperatures upto 20QoC (4000P)
The Different Stages of Cooking Sugar
Coated (100°C, 212°F)
Absolutely translucent syrup about to come to boil. When a skimmer is dipped in it and withdrawn, the syrup coats its surface. It is used for fruits in syrup.
Small Thread or Small Gloss (101°C, 214 OF)
Professional chefs test the consistency of this sugar by plunging the fingers first in cold water and then quickly in the syrup. On parting the fingers carefully, short threads will form about 2-3mm wide, which break easily. It is used for almond paste.
Large Thread or Large Gloss (102-103’oC, 215-217°F)
The thread obtained between the fingers is now stronger and about O.5cm wide. This syrup is used in recipes requiring sugar syrup and for butter creams, icings and frostings.
Small Pearl (103-105 DC, 217-221 OF)
A few minutes after the large thread stage round bubbles form on the surface of the syrup. When a little is collected on a spoon and taken between the fingers, it forms a wide solid thread. It is used in jams and torrone (a type of nougat).
Large Pearl or Souffle (107-109 °C, 224-228 OF)
The thread of sugar between the fingers may reach a width of 2cm. When one blows on the skimmer after plunging it in the syrup, bubbles are formed on the other side. It is used in jams, sugar coated fruits, g laces and icings.
Small or Soft Ball (116-118 DC, 241-214 OF)
When a little syrup is removed with a spoon and plunged into a bowl of colds water, it will roll into a soft ball. If one blows on the skimmer dipped into the syrup, bubbles break loose and blow away. It is used in jams and jellies, soft caramels, nougats and Italian meringue.
Large or Hard Ball (121-124°C, 250-255 OF)
After several boiling, the previous operation is repeated and a harder ball is obtained. If one blows through the skimmer, snowy flakes are formed. It is used in jams, sugar decorations, Italian meringue, fondant and caramels.
Light, Small or Soft Crack (129-135 DC, 265-275 OF)
A drop of syrup in cold water hardens immediately and will crack and stick to the teeth when chewed. It is used mainly for toffee.
Hard Crack (149-150 DC, 295-300 OF)
The drops of syrup in cold water become hard and brittle (like glass), but not sticky. The sugar acquires a pale straw-yellow color at the edges of the saucepan. It must be watched carefully to avoid turning it into caramel. It is used for boiled sweets and candies, spun sugar decorations, icings, sugar flowers and candy floss.
Light Caramel (151-160°C, 302-325 OF)
The syrup, which now contains hardly any water, begins to change in barley sugar, then into caramel. Yellow at first, it becomes golden then brown. It is used in the caramelization of crème caramel, sweets, and nougatine and for flavoring sweet dishes, puddings, cakes and biscuits
(cookies) and icings.
Brown or Dark Caramel (blackjack) (161-170 °C, 326-338 OF)
When it turns brown, sugar .Loses its sweetening power. Extra sugar is added to preparations with a basis of dark caramel. As the last stage of cooked sugar before carbonization (sugar burns and smokes at 190°C, 375°P), brown caramel is mainly used for coloring sauces, cakes and stocks.
In addition, there are several methods of fashioning sugar for making confectionery and decorating pastries and cakes. These types of sugar are – used to construct center/display pieces or pieces mentee s. Flowers, ribbons, shells, baskets, etc. can all be fashioned out of sugar.
Spun Sugar (sucre file or angels’ hair)
Sugar is cooked to nearly 155°C, the pan is taken off the heat and left to cool for 1-2 minutes. Two forks are dipped into the syrup and then flicked quickly back and forth above a greased rolling pin. The threads
obtained are then collected and used to decorate cakes or make a veil or nest. The strands should be used within an hour or they will melt.
Poured Sugar (sucre coulee)
Sugar is cooked to cracking point, possibly cultured and then molded into cups, pompoms, little bells and other decorative shapes.
Fashioned, Drawn or Pulled Sugar
Sugar is cooked so that it loses its transparency. Coloring’s are added at 140°C and the syrup is heated to 155°C. It is then cooled, poured onto a greased marble slab or other cold surface and kneaded, pulled or molded into flowers, candies, etc. with a satin finish. These should be
stored in an airtight container.
Rock Sugar (sucre Rocher)
It is cooked to nearly 125°C, emulsified with royal icing and then used to give a rocky effect. It keeps well when exposed to air.
Sugar is cooked to nearly 145-150°C, which may be colored and blown like glass.