Without it, life wouldn’t be nearly as sweet – but do you know your demerara from your muscovado?
Find out all you need to know here
Keep sugar in an airtight tub in a cool place. Moisture gain can turn white sugar lumpy, while its loss can harden brown sugar. Soften it by leaving it in a bowl, overnight, covered with a damp tea towel.
Sugars behave in different ways when cooked, so swapping one variety for another can give a disappointing result. Always use the type of sugar specifed in a recipe.
Sugar is great for sweetening and adding flavour to dishes, but it is best enjoyed in moderation. The Meringue-topped brownie cake is an indulgent treat, perfect for special occasions.
Here are some of our favourite varieties of sugar
This fudge-flavoured sugar is great in rich, full-flavoured recipes, such as ginger cakes, puddings and caramels. It’s also good for fruity marinades for meat.
Known for its soft, sandy texture and strong molasses flavour, muscovado’s resistance to high temperatures makes it ideal in dishes that call for slow cooking. Try it in rich barbecue marinades, as well as sticky, sweet bakes.
This refined sugar has large, free-flowing white crystals and a pure, sweet taste. Use it for straightforward sweetening – in a cup of tea or your morning bowl of porridge, for example.
This amber coloured, free-flowing sugar has large, shiny crystals. Although demerara is relatively low in molasses, it’s rich in flavour. Scatter a little over cakes or crumbles for added crunch, or caramelise it on a crème brûlée.
A free-flowing sugar with small crystals that dissolve quickly, caster sugar makes for light sponges, home-made ice cream and fluffy meringues. Golden caster contains molasses, which gives baking a slightly richer flavour.
Meet the expert: Geoffrey Hunter, Tesco Sugar Technologist.
What is sugar?
Sugar is a natural ingredient that adds sweetness to all sorts of food and drink. Classed as a carbohydrate, it has been used for thousands of years as a flavour enhancer.
Where does it come from?
Most sugars come from sugar cane, which grows in warmer climates such as Australia, Colombia and Brazil, or from sugar beet – which is grown in the UK.
How is it made?
A sugary liquid is extracted from the beet or cane by heating. This liquid is then put through a spinning machine (centrifuge) to separate out the sugar crystals within it and to purify it. In the case of sugar cane, the remaining liquid is called molasses.
Tell us more about molasses
A thick, dark, richly sweet syrup, molasses is reintroduced to some sugars to alter the colour, flavour and texture – the more molasses, the darker the sugar.
How do white and brown sugar varieties differ?
The main difference is that brown sugar contains molasses. Contrary to popular belief, there is no real nutritional difference between the varieties.
Fancy a sugary treat? Then why not try the Tiramisu cupcakes, the Caramel fingers, or the Marmalade-glazed apricot loaf featured in this issue?
As featured in Tesco Magazine September 2014.