10 June 2009

Burch & Purchese Raw Ingredients 1 - What Is Sugar?

The raw materials we use every day in the kitchen are sometimes taken for granted, it is in our best interests though, to familiarise ourselves with even the most basic of ingredients. This allows the pastry chef or chef to understand the balance of structure of recipes and methods. In the case of sugar, we have at our disposal, a plethora of different types all of which can serve a purpose and subject a recipe or formula to various outcomes.

Glucids (sweeteners) are materials that give a sweetness of flavour to preparations. Sucrose (sugar) is the most common used but there are other less used or known sweeteners which contribute to a recipe other than to sweeten. Glucose for instance is used to prevent crystallization and give elasticity to a recipe.

Sugar cane (Saccharem robustum) originated in New Guinea and after a long journey was first used by the Hindi and Chinese. 'Sugar' the name comes from a Sanskrit poem written around 3 BC which tells of the 'grain' or 'sarkara'. First the Persians and then Arabs introduced sugar to the Mediterranean region and now it is grown in over 100 countries as cane or beet or both.

Common sugar (sucrose) is obtained primarily from cane but can be obtained from beet as well. The chemical properties of sucrose are carbon (C12), hydrogen (H22) and oxygen (O11), these are composed of two (equal) bonded molecules: glucose (dextrose) and fructose (levulose). It is therefore a disaccharide.

As we have said there are many types of sugar but these can be split into two groups, simple sugars and complex sugars.

Simple sugars are glucose and fructose which are found in fruits, vegetables and honey. They do not absorb water so cannot be hydrolyzed. They do however dissolve in water and therefore ferment, this is imperative to produce carbon dioxide in baking and alcohol in brewing.

Complex sugars are composed of more than one sugar (sucrose for instance), they can ferment, but only after hydrolysis. This is where a chemical reaction occurs when a substance dissociates with the presence of an enzyme in water. This procedure produces a simple sugar and can then ferment.

Each sweetener has differing levels of sweetness which varies according to concentration, temperature and pH. Sugar has a sweetening power of 100 and is the reference for sweeteners. Here is a quick table of common sugars and there sweetening powers.

Sucrose 100
Inverted Sugar 110 - 125
Honey 120 - 130
Fructose 130 - 150
Dextrose (Glucose) 70
Glucose Syrups
DE60 65
DE40 45
DE30 30
Maltodextrins 10 - 30
Lactose 15 - 25
Sorbitol 50 - 60

Burch and Purchese will elaborate further in our blog as to different types of sugars, their properties, strengths and uses. We will also focus on other raw ingredients with the aim for better understanding of their uses.

This for now is an introduction into our work of analyzing and ingredients and putting theories into practice, in the search to improve ourselves in our daily work


eatnik said...

Hi, very interesting. Sugar is one of those magic ingredients that does so much more than just give taste to food! I'm including a link for an article you might find interesting, by US baking goddess (and food scientist) Rose Levy Berenbaum entitled The Sugar Bible http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/2005/12/sugar.html

Burch & Purchese said...

Thanks for the link, we are gonna check that out now. It is an interesting subject certainly and it is in all our best interests to know our ingredients to achieve better results. Glad you found it interesting and thanks again for your interest. Darren