Cartoon Strip Courtesy of Gorilla Brigade http://www.gorillabrigade.com/
Sugar: from the fruits we eat to the cake we bake sugar is one ingredient that is as ubiquitous as salt in many recipes. What exactly is sugar and how can we harness this sweet delight into doing our bidding?
Follow along and let’s find out.
First of all when most people mention sugar what comes to mind is granulated table sugar. Granulated sugar is sucrose and the main source for table sugar is sugar cane followed by sugar beets. Sucrose can also be extracted from maple syrup, sorghum, and even date palm trees.
There are many different types of sugar though. Aside from sucrose, there is lactose, fructose, maltodextrin, galactose, maltose, and so many sugar-alcohol derivatives it makes my head spin. One such sugar alcohol is xylitol that is roughly the same sweetness of sucrose but has 2/3rds of the calories.
So aside from the obvious sweetening of our food items what does sugar contribute to our food?
- Preservation: sugar is a preservative. Many foods like jerky rely on sugar along with salt and dehydration to preserve the meat. Also jellies and jams because of the sugar content help to keep bacteria at bay after the canning process. The ancient Egyptians revered honey as an antibacterial agent and many people still swear by honey as a good thing to use when you have a cut or a scrape.
- Sugar also adds texture to baked goods. One of the defining characteristics of a good baked cinnamon roll is the carmalization that occurs with the sugars. Sugar helps to tenderize and moderate the toughness of baked goods. Add lots of sugar to a bread recipe and the crumb or texture of the bread will be softer.
- Sugar enhances flavor. Even without something tasting sweet, sugar plays well with other ingredients to help bring more flavors to the party.
- Sugar also changes things like boiling points and freezing points. With too much sugar, ice cream wouldn’t freeze properly but not enough sugar and the mixture would be a block of ice.
- Another thing is that sugar brings color to the party. When you heat sugar the color changes to a brown color. This property is useful when used in baked goods but also caramel candies and marinated meats make use of this property to bring golden brown hues to our dinner tables.
These just touch the surface in what our buddy sugar can do.
How about on the negative side?
Sugar is a stimulant, once you have some sugar you will be stimulated to have more. Our bodies also accelerate because of the added fuel in our blood systems.
As most diabetics will attest to, sugar can play havoc with our brains, bodies, energy levels and how we live.
Our dentist will also tell us about how our sugar addictions manifest the rates of cavities and other dental issues that result.
Often sugar is linked to cancer rates and mortality.
So at the end of the day where should we place sugar in our lives?
Being a person that loves sweets the best advice I can give you is limit the amount of sugar in your diet. Bring natural sugars into your life through fruits and vegetables and less from sources like granulated sugar, sodas, and desserts. Eat foods high in fiber as fiber helps to moderate how quickly our bodies can absorb sugar.
So on that note I’m going to share with you a recipe for caramel. Perhaps it’s karma. LOL
Have a wonderful day!
Here are a few tips to help you with your caramel if you attempt these recipes.
- Tip #1 Be sure to use a larger saucepan than you think you will need, one with tall sides. Because this recipe has cream in it, it will tend to bubble up a lot.
- Tip #2 If you don’t have a candy thermometer you can use this test: at 235 Degrees F, the syrup is at the “soft-ball” stage. That means that when you drop a bit of it into cold water to cool it down, it will form a soft ball.
- Tip #3 Take your time raising the temperature to 250 Degrees F. 30-45 minutes is a good benchmark
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup corn syrup
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup butter
- 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Grease a 12×15 inch pan.
- In a medium-size pot, combine sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, evaporated milk, whipping cream, and butter.
- Monitor the heat of the mixture with a candy thermometer while stirring.
- When the thermometer reaches 250 degrees F (120 degrees C) remove the pot from the heat.
- Stir in vanilla.
- Transfer mixture to the prepared pan and let the mixture cool completely.
When cooled cut the Carmel into small squares and wrap them in wax paper for storage.
Vegan Caramel ( didn’t think I would leave out Vegans did you? )
- 1 cup margarine
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups soy milk
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt optional
- Grease and line with parchment a 8 inch x 8 inch baking pan.
- Place all ingredients (except vanilla) in a large saucepan (4qt minimum capacity.)
- Bring ingredients to a boil stirring often.
- Cook over medium heat while stirring until candy reaches 245 degrees F.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into lined baking pan.
Allow to cool completely. Snip into pieces using clean kitchen shears. Wrap individually with waxed or parchment paper.