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Sugar!


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#31 maggiethecat

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Posted 13 January 2003 - 11:13 PM

(BTW, that is my daughter behind the "glasses." Unfortunately, the picture does not do her justice.)

It sure does. She's gorgeous.

I printed out the article to show to His Handsomeness, the perpetual sceptic. And, in another life, a tech writer for Underwriters Laboratories.

Reaction: "No duh! Pastrychefs are weird, man. The chemistry says it all."

From him, a huge accolade.

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#32 nightscotsman

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Posted 14 January 2003 - 02:26 AM

Great article! It may seem silly, but this information is really important when you're dealing with fine tolerances in a recipe.

So now how about tackling brown sugar? :biggrin:

#33 Dave the Cook

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Posted 14 January 2003 - 08:12 AM

NSM: Seriously, what would you hope to find out? There are many more variables in brown sugar: in addition to cane/beet, there's moisture, molasses content, production methods. :blink: An experiment would have to be very carefully outlined.

If you can send samples of C&H (we can't get it here, and they seem to have a more comprehensive manufacturing method), it might be interesting.

Maggie: thanks. (Caitie thanks you, too.) Also thanks and Hello to HH from another ex-tech writer.

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#34 Elizabeth_11

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Posted 14 January 2003 - 09:47 AM

Wow. EXCELLENT work Dave! I can't believe my thread inspired an article/experiment! yay! Very cool, mad props for taking the time and effort to do that. (heh, I just said "mad props" didn't I?) :unsure: :raz:
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#35 Dave the Cook

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Posted 14 January 2003 - 09:50 AM

Thanks, Elizabeth.

:rolleyes: mad props

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#36 nightscotsman

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Posted 14 January 2003 - 11:53 AM

NSM: Seriously, what would you hope to find out? There are many more variables in brown sugar: in addition to cane/beet, there's moisture, molasses content, production methods. :blink: An experiment would have to be very carefully outlined.

If you can send samples of C&H (we can't get it here, and they seem to have a more comprehensive manufacturing method), it might be interesting.

Maggie: thanks. (Caitie thanks you, too.) Also thanks and Hello to HH from another ex-tech writer.

Sorry - I was kidding (mostly). :unsure: Although because of all the variables you mention, knowing what the differences are between brands would be extremely useful. I certainly didn't expect you to jump right on it.

#37 =Mark

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Posted 14 January 2003 - 12:35 PM

My father (a scientist) said the same thing about cane and beet sugars being the same. You are wrong. They perform differently. Beet sugar is more difficult to caramelise. Try them side by side if you don't believe me.

This is interesting, as in dave Cooks experiments here, he found that the beet sugar caramelized a bit faster than the cane sugar.
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#38 Dave the Cook

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Posted 14 January 2003 - 12:44 PM

My father (a scientist) said the same thing about cane and beet sugars being the same. You are wrong. They perform differently. Beet sugar is more difficult to caramelise. Try them side by side if you don't believe me.

This is interesting, as in dave Cooks experiments here, he found that the beet sugar caramelized a bit faster than the cane sugar.

Please note that I fudged a tiny bit on the exact timing. But certainly beet sugar didn't take longer. The pictures at the top of the story show the results of this part of the test. Beet on the left, cane on the right.

Sorry - I was kidding (mostly).  Although because of all the variables you mention, knowing what the differences are between brands would be extremely useful. I certainly didn't expect you to jump right on it.


Well, I'm not going to start in on it tomorrow. Another part of the problem is that there is no dispute over whether or not there is a difference between different brands of brown sugar. Clearly there is. The Big Question is how different brands/colors perform, and if they offer advantages that can be exploited.

But if we could decide what we wanted to find out more specifically, I'd be up for a sequel, keeping in mind that the equipment at Dave Labs is rather rudimentary.

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#39 snowangel

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Posted 15 January 2003 - 06:41 PM

A bazillion years ago, a friend and I took a candy making class. They told us that they use cane, not beet, sugar to make candy because when you cook (boil) beet sugar, it boils up much higher in the pan than cane sugar. More likely to boil over.

Why is this? Is this even true?
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#40 Jaymes

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Posted 15 January 2003 - 08:16 PM

How about piloncillo? Anyone use it?

#41 Dave the Cook

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Posted 15 January 2003 - 09:29 PM

A bazillion years ago, a friend and I took a candy making class.  They told us that they use cane, not beet, sugar to make candy because when you cook (boil) beet sugar, it boils up much higher in the pan than cane sugar.  More likely to boil over.

Why is this?  Is this even true?

Snowangel: I didn't test this specifically. However, I did test making caramel on the stovetop. This is why I like these follow-up sessions. I can throw in a few things I learned that didn't really fit.

I didn't include the test because:

1) It was much harder to ensure identical conditions -- the heat of the pan, the color of the sugar as it caramelized, the distribution of sugar in the pan, the temperature and humidity of the environment -- all of these contributed to what I felt were inadequate circumstances for reporting purposes; all of these defects were resolved by the setup for broiling;
2) The results appeared to be the same as for the broiled caramel;
3) The article was running too long already.

I put 200 grams of sugar and 4 fluid ounces of water in a stainless steel saucier and applied medium heat. I stirred very gently until the sugar dissolved, then left it alone until the mixture turned a medium brown. The timing for each type of sugar was virtually identical.

I did not note any foaming action. This doesn't mean it didn't happen, only that I didn't note it, because it wasn't on my list of things to watch. However:

-- I feel certain that had one type of sugar behaved in any significantly different manner, I would have made notes to that effect.

-- The mixture was approximately 12 ounces (by volume) in a 3-quart pan; in other words, the space was only about 12% occupied, and in no danger of boiling up. This might not be conducive to creating the situation you describe. In candy-making, I think you would use more of the pan, if you follow me, and the situation, if it were to occur, would be riskier.

It's pretty hard to find out what makes up the last 0.05% of refined white sugar, especially if you want to know how it might vary according to source. But what I did find out was that the largest component is ash (left over from the refining process), followed by potassium, sodium and a litany of elements in extremely minute quantities. This is always expressed without reference to beet or cane sugar. It could be that analysis of sugar regardless of source renders the same results, or that these are composite results. I just don't know.

Ash is inert. In combination with certain other elements, potassium and sodium can precipitate or participate in chemical reactions, but they are present in such small amounts that it's hard (though not impossible) to believe that they would lead to big differences in the way beet and cane sugar behave in the presence of heat.

I haven't made a study of candy making; I don't make candy even for fun. But I did look at the candy sections of the cookbooks in my collection, and not a one mentions a difference between cane and beet sugar. I find this significant.

The most likely cause of boiling up would be moisture. Certainly if you are using brown sugar this could happen, at least until the water had evaporated (though the moisture content even in brown sugar is rather small). But the difference would not relate to cane or beet source, it would relate to the moisture in the molasses that is added to white sugar to make it brown. White sugar is extremely dry. This is why, among all the refined vegetable products in your pantry (corn flour and meal, all types of wheat flour, pasta, cereals, etc.), sugar has by far the longest shelf life, and is least amenable to supporting insect colonies.

Finally, I would suggest that you try it yourself and see what happens. You shouldn't take my word for it, or the word of anybody else, especially when you have the means to test it. Then let us know.

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#42 Dave the Cook

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Posted 15 January 2003 - 09:32 PM

How about piloncillo?  Anyone use it?

Jaymes: I haven't tried it, but I ran across it in my research. I'm going to give it a shot, maybe as a topping for some kind of cake. It might also be interesting in beverages -- coffe, tea, hot chocolate.

Got any tips? How do you use it?

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#43 Adam Balic

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Posted 16 January 2003 - 01:24 AM

Great article Dave. Interesting that the carmelisation process was almost identical for both sugar types, as I would have thought that the smaller grains would melt more rapidly then the larger grains. Could depend on the heat source I guess. Radiant V Direct heat? Blowtorch V Hot Grill V Iron Salamander?

I wonder how different brown sugars of the two plants tastes, given the different sugar composition of the molasses and granule size. Could be tested by doing, now standardised "Brownies fed to work mates" test. :smile:

#44 Dave the Cook

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Posted 16 January 2003 - 12:43 PM

Thanks, Adam.

I also would have expected the granule size to make a difference. Originally I was going to use a blowtorch, but I'm not handy enough to set up a proper jig. Also, if I'm doing a half-dozen creme brulees, I'm probably going to set 'em on a tray and pop 'em under the broiler, so the test scenario seemed pretty realistic. I don't have a salamander :sad: , or I would have tried it.

You're out of luck on a brown sugar taste-off. Beet sugar molasses is used to make animal feed, yeast, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. All molasses used to make brown sugar comes from cane.

And they say irony is dead.

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#45 Dave the Cook

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Posted 16 January 2003 - 12:55 PM

...standardised "Brownies fed to work mates" test. :smile:

If you're thinking of adopting this practice for your parasite research, I'd be honored to advise you. Even have a few subjects in mind...

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#46 Jaymes

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Posted 18 January 2003 - 11:54 AM

How about piloncillo?  Anyone use it?

Jaymes: I haven't tried it, but I ran across it in my research. I'm going to give it a shot, maybe as a topping for some kind of cake. It might also be interesting in beverages -- coffe, tea, hot chocolate.

Got any tips? How do you use it?

Piloncillo (pe-loan-SEE-yo) is a Mexican brown sugar product. Any of you that have wandered through the Mexican section of your local stores have undoubtedly seen it and wondered what it was.

It's brown - the color of brown sugar - usually about two inches long or so - in a conical shape with a flat bottom and top. It's wrapped in cellophane.

As for an exact definition, I decided it's best to defer to the experts and so I am quoting here from Rick Bayless:

"In the olden days of our country [I think he means the U.S. in this reference], sugar was sold in huge cones. That's still the case for the unrefined sugar called piloncillo (little pylon). In much of southern Mexico the same sugar is formed into a round loaf shape and called panela or, in some places, formed into an even rougher round or square for the very coarse (usually darker and more molassesy) panocha. Any of these can range in color from light brown to almost black (the later being the stronger flavored).

"In sugar making, cane juice is boiled down and, without further refinement (to remove the molasses), poured into molds to cool and crystalize. What comes out is hard and strong-flavored, usually stronger tasting than dark brown sugar, but not as strong as molasses.

"Piloncillo is sold in Mexican groceries in the States in small cones that weigh about an ounce or larger cones that weigh about seven ounces. I find it easiest to let them dissolve in whatever liquid I have in my recipe, though, with determination, they may be chopped with a large knife or cleaver (whole cones can break a food processor, so watch out)."

In my own case, if a recipe does not call for a liquid to dissolve them in, I put them into a ziplock bag and break apart with a hammer.

To give you a rough idea of the equivalency, I have a recipe for Bread Pudding with Pumpkin, and topped with a Rum Sauce.

The rum sauce recipe calls for:

1/2 lb piloncillo or 1 1/2 C tightly-packed brown sugar

#47 elyse

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Posted 18 January 2003 - 08:35 PM

I'm in a baking class, and can't seem to get certain questions answered. We have a 5 gallon bucket of malt (liquid), but it smells and tastes almost exactly like molasses to me. Any reason for this? I'm only familliar with powdered malt. Doesn't taste like molasses at all.

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#48 guajolote

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Posted 19 January 2003 - 11:49 AM

Malt is made by soaking, germinating, and then drying a grain . This converts the starches in the grain to sugars. When the grain is boiled in water the sugars dissolve you have malt extract (which is what you have).

By the way, this is how beer is made. If you add yeast and hops to the malt and let it ferment beer is the result. I think malt extract is added to bagels too.

The stuff added to shakes to make malt is called malted milk, I don't know exactly how it is produced.

Edit: malted milk is a mixture of cow's milk and extracts of malted barley and wheat.

Edited by guajolote, 19 January 2003 - 11:51 AM.



#49 Liza

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Posted 21 January 2003 - 02:30 PM

Just another thanks for the article, D the C. I'm a big fan of debunking - also, have you read Steingarten on salt? Similar results vis a vis the crystal size making up most of the difference in the taste test.

#50 Dave the Cook

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Posted 21 January 2003 - 02:51 PM

Thank you, Liza.

No, I haven't read Steingarten. I think if I had, I wouldn't have published this for fear of being thought cribbing.

I did get one of his books for Christmas; I'll get to it right after the Babbo and Zuni Cafe cookbooks.

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#51 elyse

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Posted 25 January 2003 - 04:15 PM

I'm in a baking class, and can't seem to get certain questions answered.  We have a 5 gallon bucket of malt (liquid), but it smells and tastes almost exactly like molasses to me.  Any reason for this?  I'm only familliar with powdered malt.  Doesn't taste like molasses at all. 

Someone?  Mayday!

Dear Dave (t C),

Just read your study of the cane and beet, and thank you for taking the time. Very clear. Can you explain my previous question on why liquid malt smells and tastes more like molasses to me? I read guajolote's method of making it, but still have little idea of how the two products (liquid and dry) can be so absolutely different.

#52 Dave the Cook

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Posted 26 January 2003 - 01:13 AM

Can you explain my previous question on why liquid malt smells and tastes more like molasses to me?  I read guajolote's method of making it, but still have little idea of how the two products (liquid and dry) can be so absolutely different.

Thank you, Elyse.

Without having them in front of me, this will be speculative, but maybe I can give you some hints in addition to what guajolote has done.

I think there are two differences between the liquid malt you have now and the powdered malt you are used to. (What follows is not meant to be condescending, but complete. If it includes principles, and the effects of those principles, that are already familiar to you, it is only out of a desire to be thorough.)

1) The main difference is due to caramelization.

The point of malting is to break down starch, which is abundant in the plant embryo, into components more accessible to yeast, thus enhancing fermentation. The starch becomes a combination of sugars, including single or double sugars which are digestible by yeast, and a variety of polysaccharides, which are not. (Irrelevant factoid: the residual polysaccharides are responsible for much of the body in malt beverages.)

The drying that guajolote referred to is often accomplished by roasting, after the plant has sprouted and been washed. As in any dry heat process, the degree of browning can be controlled by both temperature and time. At the extremes, this means that malt could be dried merely by controlling humidity -- in other words, with no heat (beyond ambient) at all; it could also be dried with high heat, causing fairly high amounts of browning. Browning incorporates not just color change, but a myriad of chemical reactions (known as Maillard reactions) that result in textural and flavor changes, some of them quite profound -- think about refined white sugar versus the glaze on creme brulee. It sounds like your liquid malt is a roasted malt that has been dissolved in water -- in other words, a solution of browned sugars.

Cane sugar goes through several stages of heating, washing and certrifugation on its way to full refinement. At each stage, liquid is drawn off; this liquid is molasses, although the least aggressive molasses is nothing more than reduced cane juice. As liquid travels through the process, it is subject to more heat. Therefore it caramelizes. Caramelization also takes place when pure cane juice is reduced to make molasses. While refined sugar is 99+% sucrose, molasses is more complex, including fructose and glucose in their simple states (sucrose is a disaccharide comprising one glucose and one fructose molecule), plus polysaccharides created by the cooking process. In other words, molasses is a solution of browned sugars.

Therefore, the fact that you find liquid malt reminiscent of molasses is perfectly reasonable. They are almost the same thing.

2) The second difference is mainly contingent on your memory of powdered malt being actually malted milk. Malted milk is more powdered milk than malt, and it is obviously less subject to browning. Its flavor relies mainly on the flavor of barley that has been lightly roasted. Given the profund differences in flavor that browning can create, it should not be surprising that it can be very different from the liquid. It's akin to dissolving table sugar in milk and comparing it to Grandma's molasses. Even if you're not thinking of malted milk, the difference between a browned product asn an unbrowned on can be quite significant --note the difference between raw ground beef and a well-crusted hamburger.

Does this make sense? Does it help?

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#53 Dave the Cook

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Posted 26 January 2003 - 01:20 AM

Thanks, Adam.

I also would have expected the granule size to make a difference. Originally I was going to use a blowtorch, but I'm not handy enough to set up a proper jig. Also, if I'm doing a half-dozen creme brulees, I'm probably going to set 'em on a tray and pop 'em under the broiler, so the test scenario seemed pretty realistic. I don't have a salamander  :sad: , or I would have tried it.

You're out of luck on a brown sugar taste-off. Beet sugar molasses is used to make animal feed, yeast, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. All molasses used to make brown sugar comes from cane.

And they say irony is dead.

I need to correct part of this.

Brown sugar is not made by applying molasses to white sugar. It is made by applying precisely caramelized sugar syrup to white sugar. Since, as noted in the previous post, browning has profound effects on taste and texture, it is not unreasonable to assume that molasses is involved. But it's not.

Consequently, there is no reason for beet sugar packagers to resort to cane sources in order to make brown sugar. The syrups used to make brown sugar can be made from either.

Sorry for the error.

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#54 gknl

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Posted 26 January 2003 - 05:17 AM

I was looking for something else and stumbled across this article from March 1999 SF Chronicle. Just to be difficult. :wink: One thing though, in the article they say that brown sugar is white sugar plus molassas. Where did you find out that it's not molassas, but just carmelized sugar that makes it brown?

http://www.sfgate.co...7.DTL&type=food

SUGAR, SUGAR
Cane and beet share the same chemistry but act differently in the kitchen

Miriam Morgan, Chronicle Assistant Food Editor

Carolyn Weil and her crew at The Bake Shop in Berkeley were hard at work one morning, boiling down large pots of sugar syrup to make buttercream for the day's buns, cakes and confections.

It was a task the staff had done hundreds of times. But this morning the normally silky syrup crystallized into large, chunky granules.

Weil tossed it, along with plans for most of the baked goods she wanted to sell that day.

Not happy with a day's work and income wasted, Weil investigated, checking her equipment and ingredients and determining the one variable.

Sugar.

Weil's supplier had substituted another brand and, as it turns out, another type of sugar altogether. Weil thought she was getting cane sugar, but instead she got beet.

#55 KarenS

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Posted 27 January 2003 - 01:18 AM

Please contact Carolyn Weil or the Bakers Dozen re their extensive research on the merits of cane sugar vs. beet. I am a Bakers Dozen member who learned a lot about sugar from the group.

#56 elyse

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Posted 27 January 2003 - 12:13 PM

Thank you Dave for that thorough explaination. And now guajolote's explaination makes sense too (thanks guajolote!). Just needed to dumb it down a bit. Not really, but the more specific, the better I can grasp it. I didn't think you were condescending at all. Better to cover all of the bases in plain language than have me post yet again!

#57 Holly Moore

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Posted 27 January 2003 - 12:32 PM

I don't think this has been answered in this thread. Besides adding sweetness and I assume color through caramelization, does sugar play any other role in the baking process? Would it's absence affect the texture or otherwise detract from a cake product?
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#58 nightscotsman

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Posted 27 January 2003 - 01:48 PM

I don't think this has been answered in this thread.  Besides adding sweetness and I assume color through caramelization, does sugar play any other role in the baking process?  Would it's absence affect the texture or otherwise detract from a cake product?

Absolutely! Among other things, sugar contributes to structure; when creamed with butter it acts as a leavener; it causes baked goods to retain moisture; when whipped with egg whites it stabilizes the foam and helps the protein remain flexible; caramelization adds mucho flavor, not just color (just like browning meat); used properly, sugar is a flavor enhancer like salt - and that's just in baking. These are just examples off the top of my head. I'm sure there are many others I'm missing.

#59 col klink

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Posted 29 January 2003 - 12:40 AM

Nightscotsman, some day I will have some semblance of the experience upon which you draw. :wub:

And I'm saying this now, before you go to school!