Every home baker knows that sugar and syrups play a big role in creating our favorite cookies, pies and cakes. What you might not know is that sugar does more than just sweeten baked goods. In fact, it has many different jobs when combined with various ingredients – it incorporates air into butter during the creaming process and acts as a tenderizer when baked with flour to name a few.
There are several types of sweeteners to choose from. They’re all unique, so next time you’re baking, consider trying something new – it might be just what your recipe was missing!
The most commonly used sweetener, granulated sugar, has a wide variety of uses. It adds flavor, texture, color and moisture to baked goods. It also stabilizes egg whites, and produces air pockets when whipped with butter to create a fluffy base for cookies and cake.
In professional pastry kitchens, confectioners’ sugar (or powdered sugar) is also known as 10x, because it’s 10 times finer than regular granulated sugar. It’s best when used in something that needs a soft texture like frosting. Pro tip: if you’re halfway through the buttercream process when you realize you’re out of powdered sugar, just pulse regular sugar in the food processor until a fine powder forms.
This large crystal sugar is primarily used as a finishing touch for pastries. Because the large crystals catch the light, it’s common to see doughnuts rolled in sanding sugar or cupcakes decorated with colored sanding sugar for an extra bit of sparkle.
Brown Sugar (light and dark)
Because of the addition of molasses, brown sugar adds intense flavor, dark color and moisture to baked goods that goes far beyond what regular sugar can do. For a stronger taste, use dark brown sugar, which contains a higher amount of molasses than the light brown variety.
This is a raw, brown sugar with a light flavor. It’s perfect for sweetening drinks like coffee or tea, or adding a crunchy texture to baked pastry crust.
Molasses is the dark brown by-product of the beginning stages of sugar refining. It is often used in conjunction with regular sugar to add a deep, caramel-y flavor to baked goods.
For the most part, honey can be used as a substitute for regular sugar in baked goods. However, it does have a unique flavor, so it’s best used in recipes where it won’t overpower.
Corn syrup is often used in recipes like fudge or caramel where sugar is heated to extremely high temperatures. Corn syrup doesn’t crystalize unless agitated (never stir sugar or corn syrup as it cooks!) so it stays in a liquid state as it heats.
Maple syrup is the naturally occurring sap of a maple tree boiled down to create a thick, dark amber syrup. It adds a distinctive flavor to baked goods that always reminds me of autumn.
What is your go-to sweetener for baking?