If you think sugar is just sweet, think again. Sugars like muscovado, demerara, and turbinado have flavor depths and aromatic heights that blow plain ol' granulated sugar out of the water.
While most of these sugars are classified as "raw," they're still typically refined to some extent in order to be used in cooking. Look for them in the natural foods section at your grocery store or in the baking section at natural foods markets. Also, keep your eyes open when traveling abroad. Other countries often have interesting kinds of sugars that we can't find here in the USA.
• Demerara - This is a type of cane sugar with a fairly large grain and a pale amber color. It has a pleasant toffee flavor and can be used in place of brown sugar.
• Sucanat - Made from crystallized pure cane sugar, this truly unrefined sugar retains a higher proportion of molasses than other types of cane sugars. It has an intense, rather burnt taste that can be jarring in lighter baking recipes but is fantastic in things like spice cakes and ginger cookies.
• Muscovado - Another cane sugar, this one has a very moist texture and a strong molasses flavor. It can be found in different strengths, as you can see visually in the image above and read about here. It's excellent in savory dishes like barbecue sauces and marinades.
• Jaggery - This sugar is typically made from palm, coconut, or java plants and comes compressed into a pattycake or cone. It has an earthy sweet flavor that we like over oatmeal and in some fruit crumbles.
• Piloncilo - Similar to jaggery, this uniquely Mexican sugar is the secret ingredient in many salsas, soups, and mole sauces. It has a strong and almost-smoky molasses flavor.
• Turbinado - Less processed than brown sugar, turbinado is made from the first pressing of sugar cane and retains some natural molasses. It has a light caramel flavor that makes it a good replacement for regular white sugar.
Do you cook or bake with any of these sugars?
(Image: Dana Velden)