Types of sugar
A few days ago I was looking at a recipe for a type of sponge cake and among its ingredients was a type of sugar that I had not seen named before (yes, it is still possible to be surprised with these things). So there's nothing like going to the encyclopedia of kitchen science that Harold McGee's book (or books) represents to learn more about the types of sugar.
The truth is that it is surprising how many types of sugar we have and especially what we can use them for in the kitchen, obtaining totally different recipes from each other.
The sugar category includes both white sugars, brown sugars and molasses. Although later there are other types of sugars that are within other elements, but that interests us today.
Types of white sugar
White sugar has a whole world of subtypes that will be differentiated by the size of the sugar crystal that forms it. And each one will serve us for one thing.
White sugar It is the sugar that we know as table sugar and that is used both for cooking in general and to dissolve in drinks: juices, milk, soft drinks or others. It is medium in size, the sugar crystal is about 0.4 mm in size. It has a large amount of sucrose, about 97%, that is, it is a very pure sugar.
Pilon sugar or refined sugar or even coarse grain sugar is the most refined sugar there is and it comes in the form of blocks. It has close to 100% sucrose so its purity and size make it special for presentations of sugar pastes or syrup, since it is very bright. Its size is between 1 and 3 mm.
Later we will have smaller sugars. They are known as Caster or superfine sugar. Do not confuse with powdered sugars. These sugars are very fine but they are not ground. They are special sugars since, being so small, they can be used in sponge cake doughs, or in creams with fat in which air must be introduced when doing so. They are about 0.2 mm in size.
Ground or powdered sugars can be known as luster, glass or similar. These are ground sugars and are used for finer preparations where the result is required to be very silky. These sugars contain starch to prevent them from sticking with moisture.
Types of brown sugar
Brown sugar is nothing more than a white sugar covered by a dark-colored molasses from some of the sugar refining stages. Although like everything, it will depend on many things to obtain a good brown sugar or a more regular one.
Factory brown sugar. These sugars are the ones that a priori will sound the most or will sound, especially since they are the most commonly used to make some pastry recipes. We have demerara sugar, truvinado and muscovado. They are sugars that were produced in the first instance, starting from the cane. All of them sugars mixed with molasses and that gave some sugars more sticky than others. The truth is that it is very difficult to find these brown sugars.
Refined brown sugar. They are sugars that use raw sugar melted with some molasses and then it is re-crystallized to obtain brown sugar as we know it. That is, cane juice is not used to make sugar. So the flavor between this type of sugar and the previous one is less powerful. And they give less crystallized elaborations because they have less sucrose.
Whole sugar Sometimes it is common to read this of whole brown cane sugar. Well, these sugars are nothing more than crystalline sugar wrapped in the juice that they precede. That is, the sugar is made and wrapped with one of the molasses that was obtained. I don't know if you know panela, as it would be this type of sugar. This is to realize that sometimes what they sell us is not quite the name they have.
Types of molasses
We would have a lot to say about molasses, especially since it can be the most unknown and difficult to find sugar product. To the point that in many recipes we have to replace it with honey, as the only remedy, not because they look alike.
Molasses is nothing more than a syrup that is left over from the production of different types of sugar. In fact, several molasses are obtained in different sugar refining processes. That is, it is a juice in which many of the impurities of the cane syrup go from which the sugar comes.
The first molasses were used for a long time as the only product accessible to many people, and they used it like sugar. Nowadays they are used for some elaborations, they are less sweet, even with an acid touch and they have other incorporated aromas. And they have inverted sugars, which makes them great for some preparations in which we want to retain moisture. Nothing to do with invert sugars to make ice cream, that's another story.