All You Ever Need To Know About Superfine Sugar

Have you never heard of superfine sugar? It's not surprising if you haven't. It's a product that you seldom see on the shelves of most grocery stores. Professional chefs know what it is. So do bakers, and so do bartenders.

Types Of Sugar

Most of us are familiar with cube or lump sugar, regular sugar, powdered sugar, and brown sugar. We've heard of sugar beets and sugar cane. We know that too much sugar isn't good for us. Sugar can cause cavities, and too many sweet things, made tasty through the use of sugar, can cause us to become overweight, not necessarily due to the sugar itself, but because of the good taste it can add, making us want to eat more.

It's also quite possible that more people are familiar with glucose, fructose, and sucrose than are familiar with superfine sugar. Glucose is a simple sugar, so called because of its chemical makeup.  Glucose occurs in fruits and a few other plants. Glucose is also the type of sugar found in our bloodstream. Glucose is used in the body as fuel. Fructose, another simple sugar, is the sweetest of the natural sugars, and is the sugar found in, among other things, honey, sugar cane, and sugar beets. Sucrose is a compound sugar. A molecule of sucrose consists of a molecule of glucose combined with a molecule of fructose. The sugar we keep in the sugar bowl is sucrose. Brown sugar is sucrose that contains or has been treated with molasses. Whether the sugar is light brown or dark brown depends upon how much molasses has been added. Most of the brown sugar we buy is white sugar to which molasses has been added. If it's natural brown sugar we want, about one quarter of the sugar found in sugar cane is naturally brown.

Where among all of these types of sugar does superfine sugar fit in? Is it powdered sugar that has been made even finer? The answer is no. Powdered sugar is still the finest of all of commercially packaged sugars. The superfine variety lies somewhere in between the sugar we put in our sugar bowl and powdered sugar. It's simply granular sugar that's been pulverized to have a finer consistency. If you want to make your own superfine sugar, just put some regular granular sugar in a food processor and turn the power on for 20 seconds or so.

The Sieve Experiment

Imagine you have a bucketful of sugar, consisting of some of each of the above types (excluding brown sugar) and you pour it through a series of sieves, with the sieve at the top having the coarsest mesh, and the meshes below becoming finer and finer was you progress downward.  The sieve at the bottom would have the finest mesh. When you're done pouring the sugar through the sieves, you'd find sugar cubes sitting atop the upper sieve. The next sieve would hold back larger granules of sugar, the type of sugar referred to as decorator's sugar or pearl sugar, used to decorate cookies and deserts. The next sieve down would trap your “sugar-bowl” sugar. The bottom sieve would trap the superfine crystals. Beneath the bottom sieve you'd find a pile of powdered sugar.

You can use the superfine variety just about anywhere you would normally use regular sugar, although the opposite isn't necessarily true. The superfine type, consisting of smaller grains, dissolves more easily, giving foods such as cakes and breads a finer texture, which is why baker's sugar is another name for superfine. It goes under a number of other different names as well, including bar sugar, extra fine sugar, ultra fine sugar, fruit sugar, and in the UK, castor or caster sugar. It is popular with bartenders because it dissolves easily and quickly in cold liquids. It's popular with bakers because bread made with it has a finer texture. It's popular with both bakers and chefs because of its food preserving qualities. Superfine sugar, or any sugar for that manner, is often added to jams and jellies, not only to impart sweetness, but also to help preserve the fruit, giving rise to the name fruit sugar.

Enjoy Your Sugar – In Moderation

In spite of all the talk about sugar being bad for us, it's no doubt here to stay. We can't avoid sugar entirely. It's found in most plants, including those we eat. It's only in sugar cane and sugar beets where the concentration is high enough to allow for easy extraction. We need glucose, a type of sugar, to live. It's our fuel supply. We eat fruits and vegetables that contain glucose, but mostly we manufacture it ourselves, from the starches we eat. Sugar does add a great deal to the taste of many things, and as mentioned briefly above,  also has preservative properties. We don't have to dump a lot of it on our cereal, or in our coffee, and it's best if we don't, but it's still a good idea to keep a little in the pantry, whether it's superfine or not.