Also Known as
Chini, sakhar, shakkar
Sugar is a carbohydrate that caters to the sweet tooth in us! Although common white sugar is sucrose, other sugars include lactose and fructose, all of which impart a sweet taste.
Sugar is made primarily from sugar beets and sugarcane. It also comes from the maple tree, sorghum plant, and certain palms, such as wild date palms. Honey can also considered as a source of sugar.
This sweet ingredient has properties that are essential to the structure, texture and appearance of many recipes, especially baked goods. Sugar has become an ingredient so widely used in everyday cooking and eating that many people take it for granted. But, you will be surprised to know that sugar was once so costly that only the wealthy could afford this sweet luxury!
How to Select
• Sugar is available in many pack sizes, as small and large crystals. Choose what suits your need best.
• Check the packaging date and ensure that it is dry and has no moisture. Its free movement and dry granules best tell about its quality and freshness.
• Sugar dissolves in water to form syrup, which can be flavoured with fruit pulp or artificial essences.
• Candy is usually made of sugar.
• A morning cup of tea or coffee is incomplete without sugar.
• Apart from taste, sugar also helps retain the colour in ketchup.
• It is added while baking foods, to promote yeast growth and to give a golden colour to the crusts.
• In soft drinks, it adds mass.
• Raw potatoes in restaurant's are dipped in sugar water before frying to give them their crispness.
• Add a pinch of sugar to corn, carrots and peas to improve taste.
• Reduce the acidic bite of tomato-based barbecue, spaghetti and chilli sauces with a touch of sugar.
• Even savoury sauces, soups and gravies can benefit from a little white or brown sugar.
• Sugar crystals, creamed with shortening in baked goods, create thousands of tiny air pockets that produce a delicate and satisfying crumb structure and expanded volume.
• In shortening-based cakes, sugar delays and controls the temperature at which the batter goes from fluid to solid, allowing the leavening agent (e.g., baking powder) to produce the maximum amount of carbon dioxide. The gas is held inside the air cells of the structure, resulting in a fine, uniformly-grained cake with a soft, smooth crumb texture.
• In foam-type cakes, such as angel and sponge, sugar acts as a whipping aid, helping produce light foam that serves as the basic structure of the cake.
• Heating sugar causes it to decompose or caramelize, changing the colour from white to yellow and then brown. The flavour and aroma also become especially enchanting!
• Sugar is a natural preservative, because it ties up moisture in foods preventing undesired microorganisms from getting a foothold. That is why foods high in sugar such as candies, syrups, icings, jams, jellies and sauces are more immune to spoilage from yeasts and moulds.
• Sugar can help prevent lumping and clumping. Instead of individually adding dry ingredients like spices, starch and baking powder to a batter or liquid, first mix them with sugar.
• Sugar has some desirable effects on microwave cooking as well. Apart from minimising uneven heating, sugar’s unique dielectric properties enable it to produce desired surface browning and crisping.
• Sugar is extremely soluble: just a pint of hot water can dissolve five pounds to produce a supersaturated solution. This unique property enables confectioners to almost magically create wonderful syrups, creamy fondants and fudge.
How to Store
• If stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, sugar will last for a very long time.
• Technically, it has infinite shelf life, but is better to use within a year as it might clump up and become soggy after that due to prolonged exposure to humidity and moisture.
The damage sugar does is slow and insidious. It takes years before it ruins your pancreas, your adrenal glands and endocrine system.
• Sugar is a leading cause of dental deterioration - cavities in teeth, bleeding gums, failure of bone structure, and loss of teeth.
• It is also the main cause of diabetes, hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.
• It is either a significant or contributory cause of heart disease, arteriosclerosis, mental illness, depression, senility, hypertension and cancer.
• It has an extremely harmful effect in unbalancing the endocrine system and injuring its component glands such as the adrenal glands, pancreas and liver, causing the blood sugar level to fluctuate widely. It has a number of other extremely damaging effects on the human body such as chronic fatigue, triggering of binge eating in those with bulimia, increase in PMS symptoms, hyperactivity in about 50% of children, anxiety and irritability, difficulty in weight control, and so on.
• Always be conscious of the fact that most foods contain sugar, from cereals and soups to ketchup and hotdogs. So, controlling sugar intake means controlling these too!