Did you know all PROCESSED Sugar is MAY NOT be considered a VEGAN/ Vegetarian product? Did you know white sugar is nothing but empty calories?
Keep reading to find out!
Today let’s talk about a fundamental ingredient of our baking industry – SUGAR.
Having talked to a lot of people from the industry, I realised that there’s a lot of confusion related to sugar. And we must know about it if we want to be in the dessert industry!
Agreed? Now let’s see.
What is Sugar?
It is a carbohydrate extracted from plant sources mainly consisting of Sucrose. It is used to sweeten food and Beverages.
What is the source of Sugar?
Naturally speaking, sugar can be found in almost all fruits and some vegetables (like carrots, Pumpkin etc). But the main source of extracted sugar is Sugarcane and Sugar Beets.
This post is about sugar extracted from Sugarcane and Sugar Beets. In the future I’ll write another article about alternate sugars.
Sugar manufacturing is a long process, but I’ll try to break it down into a few precise generic steps.
1. Sugar cane or sugar beet and sent to the mill.
2. Juice is extracted and the fibre is used as a fuel.
3. Sugarcane Juice is heated and treated with Calcium Hydroxide (Milk of Lime) and sugar beet juice is heated with Calcium Carbonate or calcium sulfite to remove visible impurities like soil, mud and fibre and to neutralize the acidity. The impurities settle to the bottom. And the juice is decanted.
4. Next, it’s sent to a vacuum Boiler (vaccum evaporation) to remove all the hidden or dissolved impurities.
5. Final syrup is boiled further to reduce water content and is now ready to go to the centrifuge.
6. In centrifuge it gets separated into RAW SUGAR and molasses (mother liquor)
Raw sugar from sugarcane is the naturally brown in colour. Raw sugar from Sugar beet is naturally white in colour.
Mother Liquor (Molasses) is used to make alcohol, production of yeast, to make baking sugars (brown).
7. A white crazy world that we live in… The Raw sugar is then sent for filteration and decolourization using BONE CHAR or Other sources of Filter Carbons to further extract all the ‘brown’ from the sugar, making it look extremely white.
Bone char is made by burning bones of animals to an extremely high temperature. Although there’s no bone char left in the final sugar after the process, but because of the use of bones, sugar is NOT CONSIDERED A VEGAN PRODUCT.
And there’s no way of distinguishing between sugars decolourized with bone char or with other sources of carbon. So, Vegans or Strict Vegetarians or religious Vegetarians should stick to using raw sugar.
But, good news for Indians is that Most of the Indian Sugar is considered Vegan as the use of Bones is scarce to none.
Beet sugar is naturally white in it’s raw form thus, it is not treated with bone char. Hence it is considered a vegan product.
It is safe to say that broadly sugar can be looked at as :
– Sugar (empty calories)
– Molasses (Nutrients)
Types of commercial sugars (according to the Indian market) –
1. CRYSTALLINE SUGAR / KALKANDU / MISHRI
These are very large square pieces of sugar used in Indian sweets.
2. GRANULATED SUGAR
This is the regular sugar that we all use. These are mustard seed like sized particles. In India, this is also used as table sugar.
3. COURSE CASTER SUGAR
This sugar has a smaller particle size than granulated sugar. Used for cookies.
4. FINE CASTER SUGAR
This sugar has even smaller particle size. This is most popularly used in baking cakes, meringue, anything and everything. Sugar cubes is also made with this sugar.
People put granulated sugar through a mixi at home and call it Powdered sugar which can be used in the same way as fine Caster Sugar.
5. ICING SUGAR / CONFECTIONERS SUGAR
This sugar has a very very fine particle size. It is mixed with a little corn flour so it doesn’t clump up. This is used to make macarons, certain Frostings and fillings.
6. DOUBLE ZERO SUGAR
This is the most fine particle of sugar (like Talcum powder) you can ever find. It’s not easily available in India, except certain Gourmet stores. This is perfect for Frostings where there is no heating involved. Because the particles dissolve very easily into the fat.
Indian icing sugar doesn’t dissolve easily into the fat without heating, this might be a reason for grainy buttercream.
7. BROWN SUGAR
Light/ Dark Brown sugar is white sugar with added molasses. The quantity of molasses determines the light or dark colour of this sugar.
8. RAW SUGAR
This is the unprocessed non decolourized sugar slightly brown in colour which still has some nutrients left in it. (Read more about it in the above mentioned manufacturing process.)
Other than raw sugar, no other sugar from the sugarcane / sugar beet source is considered healthy in any way.
So I hope I’ve made it a little clearer for you to understand one of the most important ingredients of the baking industry.