Let’s talk about sugar, ok? I get a lot of emails with questions about the abundance of sweeteners found today in the markets. Today I am going to concentrate on granulated (dry) sweeteners. The first question to answer is this one: What is vegan sugar?
To manufacture table sugar from sugarcane, sugarcane stalks are crushed to separate the juice from the pulp. The juice is processed and heated until crystalized, and is then filtered and bleached with bone char, which results in the pure white color. It is also the reason that refined white sugar is unsuitable for vegans. Note that not all cane sugar is filtered using bone char derived from cows, but you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference by looking at the sugar or by tasting it. Beet sugar, on the other hand, is not filtered through bone char, but I don’t use it since sugar beets are a high GMO crop.
Organic granulated cane sugar is vegan, as it is not filtered through bone char, but unlike like conventional white sugar, it is never pure white. Regardless of the color, the size of the crystals, while variable like the color, is always larger than that of refined white sugar. This is why I generally specify grinding vegan sugar lightly in a food processor before using it in cake recipes. Grind a quantity and store it in an airtight container for convenience.
My favorite brand of organic, vegan, fair-traded sugars is Wholesome but there are many brands in the marketplace, including store brands like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
Types of Cane Sugar:
Caster Sugar or Superfine Sugar
When granulated sugar has been ground to a super-fine consistency, it is known as Caster Sugar (UK) or Superfine Sugar (US) or Baker’s Sugar
To make your own Caster Sugar (or “Fran” Sugar )
- Put 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar in a high-speed blender or 1/2 cup in a conventional blender. Repeat until you have made a quantity.
- Pulse a few times until the sugar is super-fine, but not powdered.
- Let the sugar settle for a few minutes.
- Store in jars or any airtight container, and use in place of the finely ground, superfine, or caster sugar called for in your recipe.
- My recipes assume the sugar is already ground, ie: 1 cup finely ground organic sugar, not 1 cup organic sugar, finely ground.
Powdered Sugar and Confectioners’ Sugar
Both of these sugars have been completely pulverized into a very fine powder. They are not interchangeable, as confectioner sugar has a small amount of cornstarch or tapioca starch added to keep it from clumping. Do not substitute either for regular or superfine sugar
Confectioners’ Sugar is finely powdered cane sugar with a percentage of starch, typically cornstarch or tapioca, added to keep it from caking. It is the sugar used to make buttercreams. Organic confectioners’ sugar is easy to find in markets but is rarely as finely powdered as conventional (nonorganic) confectioners’ sugar, so it is essential that you sift it twice. (I have been known to sift three times.)
Next time, I will talk about whole cane sugar, a.k.a. evaporated cane juice, dehydrated cane juice, or dried cane, which is the cane sugar with all of the molasses intact.