Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sugar, sugar {or sugar 3 ways}

Stopped in to see now grown up sis's apartment. It has a European feel - tiny compact, intentional, and homey.

But... there is no storage. None. Her pantry is a 2'x2' table next to the kitchen door and a wall hanging spice rack from my grandmother. Might not matter if you don't cook, but she does. She cooks marvelous, exotic, complicated fare. With no pantry or prep space.

So we discuss the merits of basic ingredients - the true staples that produce all the stuff you usually buy. My pantry is bigger than sis's, but I find it clutters quickly unless I focus on staples. I can't keep four different types of the same product, for example. Which leads me to sugar.

White, brown, dark brown, powdered, turbinado. That's only the crystalized stuff. Never mind molasses, honey, agave, corn, and maple syrups. Sugar by any other name.

Trying to keep the pantry cabinet simple, I found I need 3 sugars: organic, unbleached cane sugar, unsulphurized molasses, and honey. From those three, I can make or substitute for any other 'sugar' ingredients.

I want to mount a mini soap box about organic sugar: you probably don't ingest many chemicals with regular sugar - it's highly processed. The chemicals and farming practices affect the regions where the sugar is grown, especially the water. We buy organic sugar for the sake of the plantation workers and their families. Something to think about.

For the recipes:

I started making powdered sugar when I realized I was out of powdered sugar halfway through a recipe blurgh. After making it once, I was so pleased by how easy it was that I gave up buying powdered sugar. {Making your own is also an easy way to get organic powdered sugar, which can be tricky to find.}

To make 1 c powdered sugar:
Pour 1/2 c granulated sugar into a blender or clean coffee grinder. Pulse for several seconds at a time on low speed until the sugar starts growing. Continue pulsing at 10-20 second intervals on a higher speed until sugar has reached desired consistency {usually 5-6 minutes}. It will double in size during the process. Ta da!

To make vanilla sugar {perfect for homemade hot chocolate or sugar cookies}:
Fill a 1 qt glass ball jar with 4 c of granulated sugar. Bury a vanilla bean in the sugar. Shake every few days. After 2 weeks, remove vanilla bean. Ta da!

To make brown sugar {courtesy of Homemade Pantry}:
Mix 2 t molasses into 1 c granulated sugar. Blend with fork, past the clumpy stage, until smooth. Ta da!
For dark brown sugar, add more molasses.

An additional note about sugar:
Regardless of the form, too much sugar isn't good for you {duh, right?}. I found baking at home that I'm more likely to count the sugar when I add it myself. I poured 3 c of powdered sugar in those meringues the other week. I'm not going to eat six in a sitting. Also, sugar can't be hidden under a different name if you bake it yourself. There are hundreds on monikers for sugar, and they can all be listed separately, giving the appearance that a food is healthier than it really is. Again, when you mix in the sugar, you know exactly what your family is eating.

So... I use real sugar, no Splenda or Truvia. Because I know what's going into our food.

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