Five Sugars to Keep in the Pantry and Why

Five Sugars to Keep in Your Pantry

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Let’s talk sugar!

Here on the Farm, we keep many different types of sweeteners for cooking and baking. I’m going to talk about five of them here, even though there are a few more on my Master Grocery List. Since those have pretty specific uses here, I’m going to leave them out of today’s discussion.

You’ll hear me talk a lot about layers over time. I never believe you should have just one type of anything. I like options. Let’s get started.

Not all of these sweeteners are created equal, but they are all staples on the Farm.

White Cane Sugar

White sugar can be made with sugarcane or with sugar beets. The juice is extracted from either and boiled down to remove the moisture. It is chemically clarified and, essentially, bleached. Everything is stripped away leaving behind primarily the sweet sucrose crystals we know as White Sugar.

White sugar is cheap, highly processed and can be bad news for your body. The western diet is LOADED with it!

The benefit of this, and why it remains a staple in my pantry is in cooking or baking the only flavor you get with white sugar is sweet. This makes it pretty versatile and explains why it’s so widely used.

Brown Cane Sugar

Brown Sugar is White Sugar. Basically. To make Brown Sugar, the processor just takes the White Sugar and adds molasses to it. More for Dark Brown Sugar, less for Light Brown Sugar.

First, it’s all stripped away, then it’s added back in. Regardless of whether the sucrose was extracted from sugarcane or beets, the molasses that is added back in to make brown sugar is from the sugarcane.

Caramel. Caramel is the best reason for Brown Sugar. Brown Sugar is just about as versatile as White Sugar but adds a layer of flavor (the molasses) instead of just “sweet”.

Unfortunately, the health benefits are nil and it’s really just as detrimental to your body as White Sugar.

Powdered Sugar

Once again… Powdered Sugar is White Sugar. They’ve beat it down to a chalky consistency and added cornstarch, so it doesn’t stick together. That’s it. The end.

The only flavor is sweet, there is no nutritive value, and it is perfect for making icing, frosting and dusting your Sunday morning crepes!

Raw Honey

Raw, local honey. That’s the best! The health benefits are amazing!

It offers the sweet but also hints of florals from grasses, flowers and herbs based on where the bees picked up their nectar.

Honey is antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory. It can help you thru seasonal allergies and is a key component to our cough and cold remedy here on the Farm.

The liquid state of honey makes it less versatile than the other sugars mentioned. However, you’ll just need to be mindful of moisture content in your recipes and you should be just fine.

Honey is a great sweetener to use in homemade bread.

Butter and Honey on toast for breakfast is my favorite way to enjoy this sweetener. I also love it with a splash of milk in my chai tea.

Sucanat

Also known as dried cane juice, Sucanat is made only with sugarcane.

The sugarcane is pressed to release the juices and then the juices are boiled. After that, it is beat with paddles until it forms granules. I don’t know why, but the picture that creates in my mind always makes me giggle!

Sucanat has a heavy molasses flavor and does not melt as easily as White Sugar. Sucanat is less sweet but retains the majority of the nutritional value from the cane.

To make Sucanat more versatile, it is suggested that you grind it in a spice grinder first so it will incorporate into your mixture more easily. I actually have never done this and have still achieved success in everything I’ve baked using this sweetener.

The Bottom Line

I avoid White, Brown and Powdered Sugar whenever possible in my baking or cooking. That being said, I do use these in moderation.

The truth is that Powdered Sugar is best and easiest for frosting. White Sugar makes a white cake sparkle and Brown Sugar is convenient for making caramel corn. However, if I can achieve baking and cooking success while avoiding them, I will.

The strong flavors of Sucanat and Honey work well in a lot of baked goods. If you use honey, you’ll likely need to adjust the liquid in your recipe and, since honey is sweeter than White Sugar, you may want to use less of it. Using honey in my No-Fail Bread Recipe is always a win and Sucanat is my regular sweetener for this recipe.

There are other natural sweeteners, too, Coconut Sugar, Turbinado, Raw Sugar, Xylitol… the list goes on. What’s your go-to? And why?

4 Replies to “Five Sugars to Keep in Your Pantry”

  1. I’m not as picky about sugars as I should be, but I do love to cook with raw honey. I had never heard of sucanat, so I definitely want to find myself some of that! I also sometimes use blue agave nectar. What’s your take on that?

    1. Well, first of all, the science and processes of production are always changing so what may be true today or for one brand may not be true for all time. Right now, what I know about agave is that it’s highly processed, much like high-fructose corn syrup. Such a bummer! I’m not saying one shouldn’t use it ever, but I wouldn’t suggest using it as your main source and see what other options you have that may work just as well. Like I said, you should have layers. Some things work better than others for different recipes. So far sucanat is the best sugar I’ve found for overall processing and health. Although I don’t use it for everything, I use it for as much as I can.

  2. I’m a bit surprised you don’t have maple syrup on your list of sugars—the dark/robust grade.

    Also, so you have an alternate way of making powdered sugar??? If I can make my own from say honey or sucanat that would be AWESOME!

    Thanks for the info, Love!

    1. I don’t have an alternate way of making powdered sugar. Powdered sugar is pulverized granulated sugar with cornstarch in it. You can, however, make frostings and such with other sugars. I’ll see if I can find some recipes and send them to you. I didn’t add maple syrup to the list on purpose. Mostly because I don’t use it for really anything but breakfast. The early season grades are for iced coffees, tho. It’s just so specific that I didn’t think it really belonged with this particular list. Read my maple syrup post! https://www.faith-family-farm.com/tag/maple-syrup/

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