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Food Glossary

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Sugar

The majority of the sugar that is used nowadays is extracted from sugar cane which is grown all over the world. There are a wide range of different cane sugars available, from the popular white granulated to a range of brown sugars, where the variations in flavour, colour and texture depend on their molasses content and degree of refinement. Sugars with a high molasses content are darker, stickier and have a stronger flavour.

Sugar has a tendency to go hard or soft if it is not used for a while, but with the help of a microwave oven all types of sugar (except icing sugar) can be restored to their original state. If you find the sugar has gone hard, to soften it place the block in a large mixing bowl, add a slice of bread and sprinkle with a little water, cover and heat in the microwave on high for 30-45 seconds. Leave to stand for 5 minutes, remove the bread and transfer the softened sugar to an airtight container.

Alternatively, to restore moisture, put the sugar into a basin, cover with a damp cloth and leave overnight. If the sugar is damp, place 100g in a bowl and microwave on high for 20-30 seconds, stir well and the sugar should be free flowing and ready to use.

Caster sugar

Very fine crystals make this sugar excellent for sprinkling and including in recipes. It is known as caster sugar because it is suitable for placing in a caster - a jar or bottle with a perforated top, similar to a flour dredger.

Uses: For sprinkling over fresh fruit or cereals or including in creamed mixtures, meringues and baking.

To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year and once opened store in an airtight container to prevent the sugar from going hard or damp.

Cubed sugar

These are small cubes of solid sugar. Two types of sugar cubes are available - white and demerara. They are a convenient, ready measured (1 tsp) amount of sugar.

Uses: Sugar cubes are used for sweetening coffee and tea. Demerara sugar cubes are used to sweeten coffee and white cubes for tea. Crushed sugar cubes are also used to sprinkle over sweet breads and cakes to add a sweet, crunchy garnish.

To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year and once opened store in an airtight container to prevent the cubes from disintegrating and going damp.

Dark brown muscovado sugar

With its distinctive dark brown colour, this raw cane sugar has a rich flavour and aroma. It contains about 13% molasses and has a soft, fine-grained texture.

Uses: Ideal for dark fruit cakes and puddings.

To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year and once opened store in an airtight container to prevent the sugar from going hard or damp.

Dark brown soft sugar

An unrefined sugar from Mauritius that is soft and moist with fine crystals. It has a full flavour and a distinctive caramel taste. Light brown soft sugar can be used instead of dark brown soft.

Uses: Ideal for use in rich fruit cakes, puddings and gingerbread.

To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year and once opened store in an airtight container to prevent the sugar from going hard or damp.

Demerara sugar

A raw cane sugar from Mauritius that has a molasses content of about 2%. The molasses gives it a delicate flavour and delicious aroma. It has a moist texture with large, clear sparkling crystals. Dark brown soft sugar can be used in place of demerara.

Uses: Traditionally served to sweeten after-dinner coffee, also good sprinkled over cereals. Demerara sugar can be used in baking and is particularly good in recipes containing ginger or dried fruit.

To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year and once opened store in an airtight container to prevent the sugar from going hard or damp.

Fine demerara sugar

A raw cane sugar that retains some natural molasses to give it a delicate flavour and delicious aroma.

Uses: The fine free flowing texture makes it excellent for cooking and sprinkling on cereals.

To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year and once opened store in an airtight container to prevent the sugar from going hard or damp.

Golden caster sugar

A raw cane sugar with a fine free flowing texture and a light golden colour. It is different from standard caster sugar because the light presence of molasses adds a delicious flavour and aroma, but can be used in place of standard caster sugar.

Uses: Ideal for baking, particularly sponge cakes.

To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year and once opened store in an airtight container to prevent the sugar from going hard or damp.

Granulated sugar

The most popular type of sugar, with its medium-sized crystals it is the one type that most people will have a packet of in their cupboard. Granulated sugar is very versatile.

Uses: As a sweetener for coffee and tea and for sprinkling over breakfast cereals. In baking, especially for rubbed in mixtures such as crumbles or cakes, it can also be used for creamed mixtures such as Victoria sandwiches or Madeira cake but it will give more speckled appearance than caster sugar and it may give less volume. Granulated sugar can also be used to sweeten stewed fruit such as plums and apples.

Icing sugar

Made by grinding white sugar to a very fine powder, icing sugar is a versatile ingredient in cooking.
It is different from other types of sugar in that it dissolves very quickly in cold water. For best results pass through a fine sieve before use.

Uses: Its fine texture makes icing sugar ideal for dusting over cakes, pies and pastries to sweeten as well as to add an attractive decorative touch. It is also used to make icings and fondants for cakes and sweets such as peppermint creams.

To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months, once opened store in an airtight container.

Light brown muscovado sugar

This raw cane sugar from the Indian ocean island of Mauritius has a subtler flavour than dark brown muscovado due to the lower molasses content (about 6%).

Uses: Delicious in light cakes and puddings, good for adding to coffee too.

To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year and once opened store in an airtight container to prevent the sugar from going hard or damp.

Light brown soft sugar

This unrefined sugar has a soft, fine grained texture. It has a rounded flavour with more character than white sugar and it is a light golden colour. In baking it will give a subtle caramel flavour.

Uses: In baking, especially in light fruit cakes, biscuits and creamed mixtures. It can be used instead of caster sugar in baking.

To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year and once opened store in an airtight container to prevent the sugar from going hard or damp.

Molasses sugar

This is a soft, moist fine-grained sugar that is full of natural molasses and so has a distinctive dark brown colour and rich flavour.

Uses: Molasses sugar is the traditional sugar for Christmas cakes and puddings and all dark fruit cakes. It is also used for chutneys, pickles, marinades or in any dish where a rich colour and sweet flavour is required.

To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year and once opened store in an airtight container to prevent the sugar from going hard or damp.

Organic raw cane caster sugar

An organic natural cane sugar which is made by pressing out, cleaning and crystallising the natural juice from organic sugar cane. Very fine crystals make this sugar excellent for sprinkling and including in recipes.

Uses: For sprinkling over fresh fruit or cereals or including in creamed mixtures, meringues and baking.

To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year and once opened store in an airtight container to prevent the sugar from going hard or damp.

Palm sugar

Commonly referred to a jaggery in SE Asia where it is widely used. It is brown with a crumbly texture. Palm sugar is the sap obtained from various palm trees which is produced when the tree converts starch reserves into sugar in preparation for growth. The actual sugar content is between 10% to over 15%.

Preserving sugar

This type of sugar has the largest crystals which dissolve quickly when stirred into a liquid, this reduces the risk of the sugar burning. Preserving sugar dissolves quicker than granulated sugar.

Uses: In jams, jellies, marmalades and pickles where it dissolves quickly to give a good set.

Vanilla Sugar

A fine caster sugar which is flavoured with vanilla stalks. The creamy-white coloured sugar has dark specks of pure vanilla particles. Vanilla sugar is sold in jars.

Uses: Sprinkle over home-made sponge cakes, biscuits or mince pies. Use to sweeten fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries or blackcurrants.

To store: Keep in the airtight jar and use by the best before date.