The difference between white and brown sugar
2 December 2022

The difference between white and brown sugar

What’s the difference between white and brown sugar? A lot of the time when it comes to pastry it is important to know what you can substitute and what the main differences are between them. Mixing different sugars is one of the easiest ways to change the flavour of cakes and pastries. Without adding or taking anything away from the recipe.

There are so many different types of brown sugar, and some are moister than granulated or caster sugar. In most recipes just switching them should be fine. There are a few exceptions to be careful of such as caramel, confectionary, recipes. These require bigger sugar granules like demerara and recipes that are supposed to be a lighter colour. Using dark sugar will turn the final product brown. But in normal cake baking this won’t make much difference.

How is brown and white sugar made

Producing sugar involves two steps, milling and refining.

Milling involves taking raw sugar from beets or cane. Refining is the process of turning this molasses covered raw sugar into pure white sugar or it’s less refined alternatives such as brown sugar.

The first step is to crush the fresh sugar cane and extract the juice with water. Calcium hydroxide and carbon dioxide are then added to the cloudy juice to trap impurities (fat, fibre and debris). These sink to the bottom and are drained off from the clear juice. Water is then evaporated to reduce it to a thick golden syrup. This is then divided into wide heated vacuum pans which concentrate it further. Once the syrup is concentrated enough, sugar crystals start to form. The crystallised mixture is then spun in a centrifuge to separate the crystals from the remaining liquid (molasses). This process is repeated a few times to get as much sugar separated as possible.

The sugar comes out of this process as light brown raw sugar, which then can be further refined to white sugar.

To get pure white sugar the light brown sugar is then sent to a sugar refinery. Here it goes through a process of washing and centrifuging to remove the last of the impurities. It is also passed through a carbon filter to decolourise and further purify the sugar, just the same as filtering water.

Read more about different kinds of sugars and how to use them here

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