For baking, granulated, brown or confectioner’s (powdered) sugar is most often specified for batters and doughs, but raw sugars come in handy for decorating and finishing. Here are three to try:
•Turbinado (tur-bih-NAH-doh) is obtained from the first crushing of sugar cane; think of it as extra-virgin sugar. Cane is cut and pressed, and the resulting juice is crystallized and spun in turbines to remove excess moisture and molasses. Turbinado has characteristically large, tan crystals. It can easily be substituted for white sugar in cakes and cookies for a “browner, more caramel-y” flavor.
•Demerara is the unrefined sugar originally produced in the Demerara colony of Guyana. Its crystals are caramel-hued.
•Muscovado, also known as Barbados sugar, is an unrefined brown sugar with a distinct molasses taste. It’s delicious anywhere you’d use brown sugar. Muscovado is promoted as more healthful than regular brown sugar (which is made by adding molasses back to refined white sugar), and it retains traces of minerals stripped away in standard refining.
Natural foods advocates use raw sugar whenever they can’t use honey, agave nectar or another liquid sweetener. Raw sugars also are mainstays of coffee houses, as they impart a caramel taste when melted in hot coffee and tea. But you’ll find lots of other uses. Sprinkle them on top of cookies, pies and cobblers before baking for a golden sparkle and delicate crunch. Try them on cereal and rice pudding.
Just remember that sugar—even the presumably more healthful unrefined types—is a source of energy and very little else. We eat sugar because we’re hardwired to like sweet foods, not because it’s nutritionally better than broccoli.
—By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.