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John DePaula

Beet Sugar vs. Cane Sugar

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Kerry and I have been talking about reproducing a caramel recipe. In the original, beet sugar was used. Here in the U.S. (and perhaps Canada, too) one usually finds cane sugar. Unless it says so on the package, it can be either.

My question is this: Does the type of sugar (white granulated cane or beet sugar) make a difference in the production of caramel?

If so, can you change cooking time, amount of glucose, amount of butter, etc. to compensate so that you achieve the same texture, color, mouth-feel.

I did a quick Google search and came up with lots of articles that say there’s no difference; however, there were some who claim they’ve tested both and there is, in fact, a difference.

What is your experience?

For your edification:

Sugar! - Post by KarenS

Crystal Unclear by Dave Scantland aka Dave the Cook


John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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So where am I going to find some beet sugar to experiment with?

I think the trick would be to do a few side by side experiments - perhaps pates de fruit using each sugar, identical caramel recipes with each sugar then comparing texture, flavour, etc.

So back to my original question, where am I going to find some beet sugar?

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So where am I going to find some beet sugar to experiment with? 

I think the trick would be to do a few side by side experiments - perhaps pates de fruit using each sugar, identical caramel recipes with each sugar then comparing texture, flavour, etc. 

So back to my original question, where am I going to find some beet sugar?

Possibly at a health food store? It will specify 'beet sugar.' Or, you could just go to France and buy some! :biggrin:


John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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So where am I going to find some beet sugar to experiment with? 

I think the trick would be to do a few side by side experiments - perhaps pates de fruit using each sugar, identical caramel recipes with each sugar then comparing texture, flavour, etc. 

So back to my original question, where am I going to find some beet sugar?

Possibly at a health food store? It will specify 'beet sugar.' Or, you could just go to France and buy some! :biggrin:

R O A D T R I P ! ! ! !

Who's in?

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In the US, you can be almost certain that if the package doesn't claim to be cane, it's beet. There's just no PR advantage in saying "made from real sugar beets" on the bag; packaging requirements simply allow flexibility in case the price of cane-derived sugar in the US drops below that of beet sugar. Not to cross John -- who must have done some digging to find my old column, and pays me a great compliment by posting a link to it -- but most of the refined white sugar on the shelves in the US (unless it's labeled otherwise), and especially in Europe, is made from beets.

The situation in Canada is not so clear. Canada has a national alliance with Australia, economic relationships with Cuba and Brazil, and ongoing negotiations with Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. All of these countries produce cane, and despite significant sugar beet production, Canada imports about 90% of its sugar (a lot comes from the EU and the US, too).


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I dont know if this is my experience , but I cook and bake my entire life in Italy and we have beet sugar.I have notice that caramel etc. come out much better with american sugar ( cane, white ).In Italy I had hard time making dry caramel and sometimes caramel in general, but again this is might be my experience.But I really dont think that would make much difference.


Vanessa

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I went to a demo once by Michael Recchiuti who wrote "Chocolate Obsession" with Fran Gage. At any rate, the entire basis of a lot of his recipes relies on his "burnt caramel"...they specifically mentioned to use cane sugar and avoid beet sugar at the demo. I guess they feel that there is a real difference in the outcome.

As Dave the Cook mentions, most generic brands of supermarket sugar are beet sugar as the cane sugar is more expensive.

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Kerry - check Rogers sugar. According to sugar.ca, Rogers operates the only beet processing plant in the country (Taber, Alberta ). I'm pretty sure there used to be a plant in southern Manitoba as well.

I went to university in a sugar-beet-processing town and passed another two sugar plants in North Dakota and Minnesota on the drive home from university. I think they were Crystal Sugar. I doubt you'll be able to find it in Ontario, but if you're across the border . . .

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I went to a demo once by Michael Recchiuti who wrote "Chocolate Obsession" with Fran Gage.  At any rate, the entire basis of a lot of his recipes relies on his "burnt caramel"...they specifically mentioned to use cane sugar and avoid beet sugar at the demo.  I guess they feel that there is a real difference in the outcome.

As Dave the Cook mentions, most generic brands of supermarket sugar are beet sugar as the cane sugar is more expensive.

Fran said the same at Bookfest back in 2002.

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Ok, got it. Beet Sugar .NE. Cane Sugar

So...

If I want to replicate a recipe that was based on beet sugar, can I make some simple changes to convert the recipe to use cane sugar?

We were using beet sugar in France and the recipe for caramels came out wonderfully. Therefore, I should be able to use the "superior" cane sugar to get the same result, yes?

Should I cook it to a higher temperature? Cook it more slowly?


John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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White Satin brand is beet sugar. I know this because last year when cane sugar prices went through the roof after Katrina, I had to switch to beet sugar. One thing I notice is that raw beet sugar stinks. Not sure what it smells like, but it's a little "feety". However, for most uses, I haven't noticed a performance change from the cane sugar, just the putrid smell when I'm measuring the raw sugar, a smell I've grown to dislike.

I did notice on a recent trip to Paris that the sugar had a little bigger crystals than that in the states (I use reg. granulated). I thought that the slightly bigger crystals would add a nice texture to certain cookies, much like kosher salt is good because it doesn't always dissolve all the way, leaving little salt pockets which are really nice in a sweet treat.

Organic sugar (and evaporated cane juice as well) seem to have nice uneven crystals which seem like they'd cut through butter very rustically. Also, organic sugar doesn't smell like feet, so I'm trying everything possible to replace beet sugar with organic sugar.

I find it interesting how many subtle differences there are in such a simple ingredient. Flour is even more complex.


Edited by sugarseattle (log)

Stephanie Crocker

Sugar Bakery + Cafe

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Here's an excellent article from the archives of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Despite what sugar industry officials claim, beet and cane sugar are not alike. And the sugar industry isn't bothering to tell.

The labels of most brands of sugars on supermarket shelves neglect to say whether what's inside is cane or beet. In some brands, the contents can vary from day to day.

The Chronicle tested and blind- tasted creme brulee, cookies and cakes made with beet and cane sugar and found that indeed there is a difference. In all cases, the products made with cane were superior.


Edited by Alex (log)

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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White Satin brand is beet sugar. I know this because last year when cane sugar prices went through the roof after Katrina, I had to switch to beet sugar. One thing I notice is that raw beet sugar stinks. Not sure what it smells like, but it's a little "feety". However, for most uses, I haven't noticed a performance change from the cane sugar, just the putrid smell when I'm measuring the raw sugar, a smell I've grown to dislike.

I did notice on a recent trip to Paris that the sugar had a little bigger crystals than that in the states (I use reg. granulated). I thought that the slightly bigger crystals would add a nice texture to certain cookies, much like kosher salt is good because it doesn't always dissolve all the way, leaving little salt pockets which are really nice in a sweet treat.

Organic sugar (and evaporated cane juice as well) seem to have nice uneven crystals which seem like they'd cut through butter very rustically. Also, organic sugar doesn't smell like feet, so I'm trying everything possible to replace beet sugar with organic sugar.

I find it interesting how many subtle differences there are in such a simple ingredient. Flour is even more complex.

Finally someone else smells it too. Beet sugar smells earthy to me like dirt.

Not everyone can smell it. I have asked friends to smell the beet sugar and they smell nothing. I thought it was my imagination.


"A few days ago, I heard a doctor talking on television about the dangers of stress. It can kill you. It can cause a heart attack or stroke. The doctor listed many ways of coping with stress. Exercise. Diet Yoga. Talk a walk. I yelled, "Bake cookies." I often talk to the television. I yelled it again and again. The doctor went on with his list of 12 ways to reduce stress and he never once mentioned my sure-fire treatment......"

Maida Heatter

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Oh yeah. I live in Turkey where we get beet sugar, and as I was reading the thread, I found myself wondering when someone would mention the smell. I don't notice it in anything I make with it, but when I open the container where the sugar is stored, the smell that hits me is not really pleasant. A friend of mine lived for a couple years in Eskişehir where they processed a lot of beets, and the smell got into everything she had...she once took a coat out of storage that she hadn't used since she lived there, and was instantly transported.... :cool:


"Los Angeles is the only city in the world where there are two separate lines at holy communion. One line is for the regular body of Christ. One line is for the fat-free body of Christ. Our Lady of Malibu Beach serves a great free-range body of Christ over angel-hair pasta."

-Lea de Laria

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White Satin brand is beet sugar. I know this because last year when cane sugar prices went through the roof after Katrina, I had to switch to beet sugar. One thing I notice is that raw beet sugar stinks. Not sure what it smells like, but it's a little "feety". However, for most uses, I haven't noticed a performance change from the cane sugar, just the putrid smell when I'm measuring the raw sugar, a smell I've grown to dislike.

I did notice on a recent trip to Paris that the sugar had a little bigger crystals than that in the states (I use reg. granulated). I thought that the slightly bigger crystals would add a nice texture to certain cookies, much like kosher salt is good because it doesn't always dissolve all the way, leaving little salt pockets which are really nice in a sweet treat.

Organic sugar (and evaporated cane juice as well) seem to have nice uneven crystals which seem like they'd cut through butter very rustically. Also, organic sugar doesn't smell like feet, so I'm trying everything possible to replace beet sugar with organic sugar.

I find it interesting how many subtle differences there are in such a simple ingredient. Flour is even more complex.

Finally someone else smells it too. Beet sugar smells earthy to me like dirt.

Not everyone can smell it. I have asked friends to smell the beet sugar and they smell nothing. I thought it was my imagination.

I definitely can smell it, and don't like it at all. I didn't know what it, though, until I read this thread today. I had thought it was the packaging or maybe some sort of interaction with the plastic resealable bag that I store the bag in. I wonder if the ability to detect whatever is causing that odor is genetic, like that for "asparagus pee."


"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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I definitely can smell it, and don't like it at all. I didn't know what it, though, until I read this thread today. I had thought it was the packaging or maybe some sort of interaction with the plastic resealable bag that I store the bag in. I wonder if the ability to detect whatever is causing that odor is genetic, like that for "asparagus pee."

Yeah, I didn't know that's what I was smelling either until I read the thread. Very cool thing to find out!


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So I found some beet sugar today at the Punjab Market. One of my favorite stores to find unusual things, he carries a huge variety of european goods, and the beet sugar appears to be a Polish product. It is a coarse sugar, but since I am measuring by weight that shouldn't make any difference in the recipe.

So I have just made a batch of the passion fruit/mango caramels with it and poured them into the bars. Scraping the pot, the caramel seems to be firmer than the version made with cane sugar, but is still quite tender to chew. Once it's had a chance to sit overnight, I'll cut and wrap it and do a more thorough comparison with the cane sugar batch.

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Years ago I bought the cheaper sugar at the market, took it home, and made my usual batch of caramel. Same recipe I'd been using for quite a while, all the other ingredients were unchanged. The only change was from C&H to store brand and the caramels were hard, unyielding and a bit more sticky on the teeth.

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