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Sugar; types

Icing sugar: (called confectioner"s sugar in the U.S.A) the finest refined white sugar. This can be produced from either beet or cane, and as the name suggests is suitable only for icing or perhaps dusting desserts for decoration.

Caster sugar:(called superfine or Baker"s Special in the U.S.A) fine refined white sugar, this again can be produced from beet or cane - suitable for desserts or general use, but more expensive than granulated.

Granulated: everyday refined white sugar from beet or cane sources (each grain measures about 1mm). Can be made from beet or cane.

Cube sugar: moulded and pressed sugar mixed with sugar syrup; this cements the sugar into cubes on drying. (See top-right).

Preserving sugar: larger crystals than granulated, so that they dissolve more slowly and don"t settle at the bottom of the pan - this means that they are less likely to burn. Can be made from beet or cane.

Demerara: used to come from the county in Guyana, where it was made from 98% cane sucrose and 2% molasses, but can now be made by adding molasses to white sugar (so by unrefined sugar for a better-tasting natural product) - so can be beet or cane sugar

Light & Dark soft brown sugars: white sugars which have caramel to them in various degrees - not really worth the time of day for the extra money charged.

Coffee crystals: as above, a con unless you like the visuals, they generally only melt when you have nearly finished your coffee.

Golden syrup: a light coloured sugar syrup, available commercially in Britain. Like some "brown sugars" it"s a little dishonest, as it"s a syrup of refined sugar plus invert sugar plus colouring from the original sugar syrup.

Below this point all are cane sugars

Golden caster: unrefined sugar, will have more character and minerals than refined white sugar.

Demerara; unrefined: 98% sucrose and 2% molasses - so having more natural flavour and minerals than refined Demerara.

Molasses sugar: not often found outside sugar producing areas; this is very strong-tasting sugar, with an almost black colour and sticky texture.

Molasses: the rich concentrated syrup remaining after cane sugar syrup has been through the several boiling and separating processes necessary to extract almost all the pure sucrose. It contains all the vital minerals that are missing from refined white sugar. These include calcium, copper, chromium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. These make up nearly 10% of total weight. There are various grades of molasses, the darker the colour the less sugar it contains. Molasses are used in baking, or in Creole cooking, or to add flavour to the water when cooking hams.

Dark muscovado: the most commonly found natural dark sugar. It is made from the remains of the sugar beet, after it has been through the centrifuge twice (so this is its third trip). This leaves very small crystals; it"s excellent for cake-making etc. Try to find it in unrefined form for more flavour and minerals.

Light muscovado: the same as above, but with a lower molasses count.

Molasses: the rich concentrated syrup remaining after sugar cane has been through the several boiling and separating processes necessary to extract almost all the pure sucrose. Over 8% will be vital minerals such as calcium, cooper, chromium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. See also Hauser; Gayelord:

Treacle: full sugar syrup, sweeter than mollases, which has only had a proportion of the sucrose removed from it. Try to find it from an unrefined source - say Billington"s.

See "Achard, Francois"; "Delessert, Benjamin"; "Marggraf, Andreas Sigismund"; "Confectionery"

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