Sweet and sweeter – sugar products in pastry making
Making pastries is impossible without sugar, but the offer of sweeteners is so varied that alternatives can be found for each recipe. Gemoss pastry chef Diāna Ozoliņa clarifies the introduction of the assortment and explains where each kind of sweetener is best used. Sugar is an invaluable ingredient in pastry making, but one should understand the essence of each product to make the best of it. To facilitate orientation among varieties of sugar, the sweetness is measured on a scale of 100. The value scale takes into account crystallisation, activity of sugar in a cold state, solubility, sweetness, etc. parameters.
White sugar – product known and used by all. Usually white sugar is produced from sugar cane or beet and refined to become clear and white. The melting point of these sugars is around 160-180 °C, and the sugar has the ability to absorb humidity.
Unrefined cane sugar – this sugar is produced from sugar cane juice, which is allowed to evaporate afterwards. It is a vitamin- and mineral-rich sugar, but it is not widely available in Latvia.
Muscovado or unrefined or partially refined cane sugar – product, made from sugar cane, which has acquired liquorice, coffee and caramel flavours after evaporation. It is a dark sugar and has a wet texture, therefore it is not suitable for all pastry products. It has strong sweetening properties.
Brown sugar – the sugar has a brown colour due to molasses, and its flavour has a hint of caramel.
Invert sugar is a sweetener that is able to retain wetness and texture, which is why it is more suitable for numerous pastries than saccharose. There are sugars of various humidity levels, which is why there are also various invert sugar – syrup, paste. Invert sugar syrup reduces water activity and extends the expiry term of the product, and also prevents saccharose from crystallising. Invert sugar is ideally suited for making pastry products, especially those that are due to be frozen, and also baking sponges and bread. The invert sugar paste is ideally made for sweets (fillings, as it contains less water).
As far as invert sugars are concerned, one has to mention honey, which is the only natural invert sugar. Honey also has properties of invert sugar, and it will perform the necessary functions; the only thing to bear in mind is the specific flavour of honey, which is not always desirable.
Glucose syrup is obtained as a result of starch hydrolyse, transforming it into dextrose. An advantage of glucose syrup is that it prevents the crystallising of sugar and adds volume, elasticity and soft texture to the product. Glucose syrups are categorised by their “D”, which is the equivalent of dextrose. The longer the starch hydrolysis process, the more dextrose is produced in this process. Usually 40-60 DE glucose syrup is used for pastry making. The higher the DE, the sweeter the syrup. 40 DE syrup has roughly half of sugar sweetness, 60 DE syrup has 70% and pure dextrose (100DE) has 80% of sugar sweetness.
Glucose is available in various forms – it may come in the form of powder or syrup. Making quality ice-cream is impossible without powdered glucose. The recipe must have 10% of the total sugar mass.
Apart from these sources of sweetness there are other sugars as well, which are used in the food industry and pastry-making. For example, fructose, which is obtained from fruit and various herbs, gives an even higher dose of sweetness than saccharose. Fructose is a popular choice for making dietary products.
Glycerine is used not only as a sweetener but also as a stabiliser and anti-frost agent.
Stevia is a well-known sweetener, obtained from the plant of stevia, therefore it is a natural product, suitable for diabetes sufferers and those who follow their sugar consumption. Stevia has great sweetening abilities, which is why it can be used for making various desserts, reducing the amount of sugar. Stevia is available as powder and tablets (suitable for sweetening drinks).
Sorbitol can also be used in pastry making, as it possesses great sweetening ability and, similar to others, acts as a powerful preservative and anti-crystallising agent. This sweetener does not crystallise, which is why it is a popular choice for making chocolate sweets and truffles.
Isomalt is obtained from saccharose and is a low-level sweetener. Its best advantage is that it does not become brown, even at high temperatures, therefore it can be used for making decorations, sugar mats, caramel and other dessert decorations.
Maltitiol is also made from starch, but it possesses better sweetening abilities than saccharose. This sweetener is usually used for making fondants, chewing gum, cookies and also diabetic products.
Erythritol is a calorie-free sweetener and healthy alternative to sugar. The vegetable origin product does not contain any artificial additives, therefore it is a popular choice when sugar consumption should be limited. This sugar is naturally found in mushrooms, pears and melons.
Sucralose is another sweetener, but it differs in its extraction form, being derived from usual sugar with a very high level of sweetness. This sweetener is widely used for making jams, beverages and low-calorie sweets.
The wide range of sugars can be viewed and purchased in Gemoss sales points or ordered from a sales agent.