Have you ever considered what sugar was like before we industrialized it into the pearly white granulated stuff? When I discovered a slew of artisan sugars made the old-fashioned way retaining high levels of molasses and fronting unmistakable flavor, I began to understand how refining foods can kill the nuance of natural ingredients.
Some of these sugars are organic, some are fair trade and others are both. The best thing about all of them is that they are unrefined and have very distinct characteristics. That means when it's brown sugar, it's really brown from molasses – not brown from food coloring like the stuff you buy at the grocery store. It also means that it's vegetarian friendly because it's not bleached using bovine bones.
Add to that, the fact that many of the fair trade brands help communities in Africa sustain themselves, and you can feel good about your sweet tooth. But the best part – they taste so darn good. Welcome to a world where sugar is actually an ingredient rather than a mere sweetener. Use the dark brown varieties in marinades or with chocolate and the large crystals of raw cane are great with anything ginger or to give muffins a crispy top.
• Florida Crystals (Organic powdered, demerara, brown and natural cane sugars)
• Trader Joes (Organic cane, demerara and brown sugars)
• India Tree Sugars (Dark muscovado, light muscovado, demerara)
Now Foods (Sucanat)