There are many different types of granulated sugar. Most of these are used only by food processors and professional bakers and are not available in the supermarket. The types of granulated sugars differ in crystal size. Each crystal size provides unique functional characteristics that make the sugar appropriate for the food processor’s special need.
“Regular” sugar, extra fine or fine sugar: “regular” sugar, as it is known to consumers, is the sugar found in every home’s sugar bowl and most commonly used in home food preparation. It is the white sugar called for in most cookbook recipes. The food processing industry describes “regular” sugar as extra fine or fine sugar. It is the sugar most used by food processors because of its fine crystals that are ideal for bulk handling and are not susceptible to caking.
Fruit Sugar: Fruit sugar is slightly finer than “regular” sugar and is used in dry mixes such as gelatin desserts, pudding mixes and drink mixes. Fruit sugar has a more uniform crystal size than “regular” sugar. The uniformity of crystal size prevents separation or settling of smaller crystals to the bottom of the box, an important quality in dry mixes and drink mixes.
Bakers Special: Bakers Specials’ crystal size is even finer than that of fruit sugar. As its name suggests, it was developed specially for the baking industry. Bakers Special is used for sugaring doughnuts and cookies as well as in some commercial cakes to produce fine crumb texture.
Superfine, ultrafine, or bar sugar: This sugar’s crystal size is the finest of all the types of granulated sugar. It is ideal for extra fine textured cakes and meringues, as well as for sweetening fruits and iced-drinks since it dissolves easily. In England, a sugar very similar to superfine sugar is known as caster or castor, named after the type of shaker in which it is often packaged.
Confectioners (or powdered sugar: This sugar is granulated sugar ground to a smooth powder and then sifted. It contains about 3% cornstarch to prevent caking. Confectioners sugar is available in three grades ground to different degrees of fineness. The confectioners sugar available in supermarkets is the finest of the three and is used in icings, confections and whipping cream. The other two types of powdered sugar are used by industrial bakers.
Coarse sugar: The crystal size of coarse sugar is larger than that of “regular” sugar. Coarse sugar is normally processed from the purest sugar liquor. This processing method makes coarse sugar highly resistant to color chan ge or inversion (natural breakdown to fructose and glucose) at high temperatures. These characteristics are important in making fondants, confections and liquors.
Sanding sugar: Another large crystal sugar, sanding sugar, is used mainly in the baking and confectionery industries to sprinkle on top of baked goods. The large crystals reflect light and give the product a sparkling appearance.
Turbinado sugar: This sugar is raw sugar which has been only partially refined removing the surface molasses. It is a blond color with a mild brown sugar flavor and is often used in tea.
Brown sugar (light and dark): Brown sugar is refined to retain some of the molasses syrup and other impurities of sugarcane which impart a pleasant flavor. Brown sugar tends to clump because it contains more moisture than while granulated sugar. Dark brown sugar has more color and a stronger molasses flavor than light brown sugar. Lighter types are generally used in baking and making butterscotch, condiments and glazes. Dark brown sugar has a rich flavor that is good for gingerbread, mincemeat, baked beans, plum pudding and other full flavored foods.
Muscovado or Barbados sugar: Muscovado sugar, a British specialty brown sugar, is very dark brown and has a particularly strong molasses flavor. The crystals are slightly coarser and stickier in texture than “regular” brown sugar.
Free-flowing brown sugar: These sugars are specialty products produced by a cocrystallization process. The process yields fine, powder-like brown sugar that is less moist than “regular” brown sugar. Since it is less moist it does not lump and is free-flowing like granulated white sugar.
Demerara sugar: Popular in England, Demerara sugar is a light brown sugar with large golden crystals which are slightly sticky. It is often used in tea, coffee or on top of hot cereals.
Liquid sugars: Liquid sugars were developed before today’s methods of sugar processing made transport and handling granulated sugars practical. There are several types of liquid sugar. Liquid sucrose (sugar) is essentially liquid granulated sugar and can be used in products wherever dissolved granulated sugar might be used. Amber liquid sucrose (sugar) is darker in color and can be used where impurities are not a problem in the product.
Inversion or chemical breakdown of sucrose results in invert sugar, an equal mixture of glucose and fructose. Available commercially only in liquid form, invert sugar is sweeter than granulated sugar. One form of liquid invert was specially developed for the carbonated beverage industry and can be used only in liquid products. This liquid sugar is actually part invert sugar combined with part dissolved granulated sugar. Another type, named total invert sugar syrup, is commercially processed and is almost completely invert sugar. It is used mainly in food products to retard crystallization of sugar and retain moisture.