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A Spoonful of Sugar

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: December 31, 2009, from the January 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Even though it’s quite common in today’s culinary world, sugar’s sweetness still elevates many dishes, transforming them from mere sustenance to transcendent experiences.

Ordinary table sugar was so rare and expensive at one time, it was referred to as “white gold.” And although it is well-known that sugar must be consumed with care, it adds a sweet element to a myriad of desserts, sauces, dressings and beverages that alternative sweeteners have yet to exactly replicate.

In the kitchen

Sugar is available in many varieties, including granulated, brown, powdered and raw, and comes from either sugarcane or sugar beets. Its different types are the result of different processing techniques. Sugarcane is crushed and the juice is collected and filtered, then treated to remove impurities. It is neutralized with sulfur dioxide and then boiled, allowing the sediment to settle at the bottom. When it cools, the liquid crystallizes, producing sugar crystals.1

For beet sugar, beets are sliced, and the sugar is extracted with hot water in a diffuser. After removing the impurities, the juice is concentrated through evaporation, and a centrifuge removes the sugar crystals from the liquid.1

White refined sugar is a result of selective sieving, while powdered sugar has been ground into a fine powder.1 Brown sugars vary from light to dark brown, depending on the amount of molasses added during the processing of the sugar; the darker the color, the stronger the taste.2 And perhaps the trendiest sugar, raw sugar, ranges in color from yellow to brown and is made from clarified cane juice boiled down to a crystalline solid. It is often considered a specialty item.1

The natural sweetener is often preferred by spa cuisine chefs, as well, used in:

John McCann’s Irish Oatmeal—Mayflower Inn & Spa, Washington, Connecticut;

Low Fat Rhubarb Cake—Coastal Trek Health & Fitness Resort, Forbidden Plateau, British Columbia, Canada;