Apparently I’m kind of obsessed with sugar, which is odd since I’m not a real sweets fan. I looked over past blogs to see if I’d given this information before and I haven’t, so I think you’ll appreciate all of the names on labels that really mean sugar. Here’s why it’s important: SUGAR IS PHYSICALLY ADDICTIVE. Just like a narcotic. It affects dopamine receptors and causes the brain to behave as if it’s reacting to a narcotic pleasure loop. And sadly, almost anything “white” has hidden sugar in it. Here are most of the names you will find on the back (or FRONT!) of a food label that mean SUGAR:
*High-fructose corn syrup(we all knew that didn't we?)*Xylitol
*Evaporated Cane Juice
Nothing more than simmered down pure cane juice, the inhabitants of Louisiana LOVE Cane Syrup as it’s the easiest liquid sugar for them to get – about half of the sugar cane in the US is grown in Louisiana. Cane Syrup has a burnt caramel flavor, sometimes described as boozy. Louisianans use it over sausage, biscuits, and in cakes like fruit and spice. You should too!
Agave Nectar is all the rage amongst naturalists these days…it comes from the Blue Agave succulent that grows mostly in Mexico, which also gives us tequila. It can be used in baking and some folks prefer it – as it has a relatively neutral taste. As with all liquid sugars in recipes, you want to reduce the other liquid in the recipe by one quarter.
DANGER WILL ROBINSON! “Pancake Syrup” is not Maple Syrup. Pancake syrup is most likely the dark corn syrup we talked about last week. If you want your pancakes to taste amazing stay away from “Pancake Syrup” and stick to real, expensive, Maple Syrup. The good news: you don’t have to turn your pancakes into “pancake-maple soup” to enjoy the unctuous benefits of Maple Syrup. A light drizzle will sweeten and enhance your pancake batter delightfully. So you’re spending the same amount of money anyway. Here’s why:
Maple syrup is no more than the sap of the maple tree siphoned off, then boiled down from 40 gallons of sap to ONE gallon of syrup. During this process the sap caramelizes, giving maple syrup its lovely golden to amber color.
This is how maple syrup is graded – by its color – denoting the amount of caramelization. Grade A comes in Dark Amber or Light Amber, and Grade B is the strongest and darkest, which Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering likes to use for cooking. We are also not opposed to using maple syrup in cocktails – ask for one to be made at your next cocktail party! Lula is religious about finding all ingredients that work well with whiskies. Also, for your next Brunchbe SURE to ask for Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering ‘s Homemade Maple-Vanilla Yogurt.
A light brown, partially refined raw sugar, Demerara originally was called so because it actually came from Demerara – once a colony that has now become the country of Guyana.The sugar has large crystals and is somewhat brown in color, but there are no additives.It is crunchy with a warm caramel flavor. It is an excellent topping for baked goods – it won’t break down and melt during the baking process.
Demerara has become so popular that it is now produced in many other countries, and is generically referred to as “turbinado” which is more of a descriptor of the PROCESS, rather than a type of sugar.The terms are pretty much interchangeable.Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses demerara A LOT in many applications…because it’s DEEEELICIOUS!
This stuff is plain weird to me. Please let me know if you’ve used it. I’m going to have to find some just to say I’m familiar with it! Block sugar comes from either the juice of sugar cane or the sap of the palm tree. The first place I’m going to look is in one of our local Indian markets where it will be called “Jaggery” or “gur”. If I can’t find it there I’ll head to the taqueria where I’m told it will also be sold under the name “piloncillo”. The juice is boiled and poured into molds where it hardens and then you pick off a “cube” or “shard” and throw it into your coffee to melt, or rub it over toast. It can also be used in baking but you have to melt it first with another liquid ingredient. There’s not much Lula doesn’t know in the food realm but this will be a new experience!! I LOVE it when I learn while I teach!!
Confectioner’s Sugar, also called 10-X, is nothing more than granulated white sugar that has been finely ground to 10 times smaller than its original crystal size, and then cornstarch is added to prevent clumping. This sugar is prized for its “dissolvability” and is used in candy and icing applications. Lula’s for Lunch…and More!Catering makes a FABulous Citrus White Chocolate Ganache using 10-X – enjoy this pic of our 7-Spice Cake with the ganache drizzled all over it.
Did you know you can make your own confectioner’s sugar? Simply put one cup of granulated sugar in a blender (NO…not a food processor – it doesn’t work!!) with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch added, and blend away for exactly 3 minutes. Poof! You’ve magically whipped up your own 10-X!! Give yourself a smooch.
OK! So, we’ve talked about what I’m calling “cupboard sugar” (white granulated), and now let’ talk about the OTHER cupboard sugar – BROWN. Funny – brown sugar IS white sugar, only with molasses added (more about this particular liquid sugar later). The more molasses is added, the “dark”er the brown sugar is – so you can guess what’s happened when your supermarket brown sugar is labeled “light” or “dark” brown sugar. Since molasses is a liquid, it will evaporate. When your brown sugar hardens this is what’s happened. To prevent this as much as possible, simply wrap up your sugar tightly so air can’t get in (I use a rubber band after I’ve rolled up the bag as tightly as possible squeezing all of the air out – high tech, I know!) If it DOES happen, warming the sugar in a 250 degree oven for five minutes should do the trick. Let the sugar cool before you use it.Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering tends to use more dark brown sugar than light simply because we love its dense, deep flavor. As an aside…I hope the picture associated with this article is not lost on you…sometimes I just can’t help myself with the humor and politics!!
For the next few weeks I’m going to prime you on sugar in all its forms. We’re going to start with the “dry” – a 5 part series, and head into liquid – a 7 part series. Let’s start with what you have in your cupboard/on your counter (at least I do – as bad as sugar is for you I want my white granulated sugar in my coffee every morning!!) Because everything coming out of my kitchen is scratch, I don’t feel so badly about the tablespoon or two of the refined white stuff I have every day, because there are no “hidden” sugars in the other stuff I make.
GRANULATED WHITE SUGAR: refined from either cane or beets, is the most versatile of all sweeteners – with no distinct flavor of its own. We can substitute other stuff if we like but this most ubiquitous of sugars is a staple in every home, for use in baked goods AND savory cooking – it (as do all sugars) tempers acidity in some foods like tomato sauce, and aids in browning in baked goods like bread. I just have to add another pic because it’s too good not to. This is the “love”, folks! 🙂
In Lula's Kitchen, Love is ALWAYS our First Ingredient!