Archive for Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Refining process has sweet ending

June 13, 2001


How is white granulated sugar made?

White refined sugar comes from sugar cane and sugar beets. During the refining process, the natural sugar that is stored in the cane stalk or beet root is separated from the rest of the plant material.

With sugar cane, this is accomplished by: a) grinding the cane to extract the juice; b) boiling the juice until the syrup thickens and sugar begins to crystallize; c) spinning the crystals in a centrifuge to remove the syrup, producing raw sugar; d) shipping the raw sugar to a refinery where it is washed and filtered to remove remaining nonsugar ingredients and color; and e) crystallizing, drying and packaging the refined sugar.

Beet sugar processing is similar, but it is normally done in one continuous process. The sugar beets are washed, sliced and soaked in hot water to separate the sugar-containing juice from the beet fiber.

The sugar-laden juice is purified, filtered, concentrated and dried in a series of steps similar to sugar cane processing.

What makes brown sugar different from white granulated sugar?

Brown sugar consists of sugar crystals contained in a molasses syrup with natural flavor and color components. Most sugar refiners produce brown sugar by boiling a special syrup containing the necessary flavor and color ingredients to a mass of crystals and syrup in a vacuum pan.

This mass is spun in a centrifuge but not washed, so the sugar crystals retain some of the syrup with its brown sugar flavor and color. Some refiners make brown sugar by adding syrup to white refined sugar in a mixer.

Four grades of brown sugar are available for food manufacturing but only two for consumer purchase. Designated as "golden brown" or "light brown" and "dark brown" or "old-fashioned brown," the intensity of the molasses flavor increases as the color darkens.

Can I substitute dark brown sugar for light brown sugar in a recipe?

Yes. For 1 cup of light brown sugar, substitute 1/2 cup dark brown sugar plus 1/2 cup white granulated sugar.

I know that sugar is needed in baked products, but how much do I really need to produce an acceptable product?

Sugar adds sweetness, increases volume, helps tenderize the product and aids in browning. But you can decrease the sugar content in many recipes without affecting the overall characteristics of the product.

Use the following guide to reduce sugars in cakes and breads:

For each cup of flour in a recipe, use only:

Cakes 1/2 cup sugar

Muffins and quick breads 1 tablespoon sugar

Yeast breads 1 teaspoon sugar

I was told that a snack of crackers can be just as harmful in promoting tooth decay as a fruit drink. Is this true?

Crackers eaten as a between-meal snack can be just as harmful to teeth as a sugary drink if teeth are not brushed after eating.

Eating too many sugary foods promotes tooth decay. But tooth decay is more than just a matter of sugars and how much of them we eat. Both sugars and starches which break down into sugars can contribute to tooth decay.

Sugars and starches are a natural part of many nutritious foods, including milk, fruit, vegetables, breads, rice and pastas. They also may contain added sugars as ingredients.

Other foods such as candies and sweets are high in added sugars. The more often any of these foods even a small amount are eaten, and the longer they are in the mouth before teeth are brushed, the greater the risk for tooth decay.

Eating sugary foods as frequent between-meal snacks may be more harmful to teeth than eating them at meals, when beverages and additional saliva help rinse the teeth.

Proper dental hygiene is also important for maintaining healthy teeth.

Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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