role sugar baking world

The Role of Sugar in the Baking World, Part 1

Within the world of baking, particularly dessert baking, there are few more vital ingredients out there than good, old-fashioned sugar. Every baker worth their salt (no pun intended) is distinctly familiar with sugar and all its qualities for the baking process, plus how it helps deliver the wonderful tastes you’re often going for.

At Street Sweets, several of our quality bakery items count sugar as a primary ingredient, from our donut shop options to our birthday cakes, wedding cakes and many pastry shop items as well. We also offer catering and fundraising bakery services for those in need. In this multi-part blog series, we’ll go over everything you need to know about sugar in baking and baked products, from what it’s made of to how it’s used and the numerous types available.

Sugar Basics

First and foremost, what is sugar?

At the simplest level, sugar is a sweet substance that comes from a molecule you may have heard of, known as sucrose. Sucrose is found in all plants around the globe, but has particularly high amounts found in both sugar cane and sugar beets – nearly all sugar used for baking is taken from one of these two plants.

Interestingly enough, the two plants produce harvested sugar that is chemically identical. You’ve almost certainly tasted both in your life, and there’s virtually no chance you’ve ever been able to tell the difference. In most cases, the sugar you buy in a store will be beet sugar unless cane sugar is specified.

Functions of Sugar in Baking

Sugar has numerous functions within the baking world, from flavor to structure, texture and others. Here are several of its primary functions:

  • Sweetness and flavor: The main function of sugar in many baking projects, and in popular culture, is to sweeten and add flavor. Numerous varieties of sugar add significant flavor depth on top of basic sweetness.
  • Moisture retention: Sugar is known to be a hygroscopic substance, meaning it holds moisture well. For this reason, baking products involving sugar will not go stale as quickly as others, so it’s often used for items that require a decent shelf life.
  • Browning: Sugar also caramelizes when it’s heated up, which makes it perfect as a browning substance for various baking items. Those with lots of sugar will brown faster.
  • Tenderizing: Because of its moisture retention properties, sugar also helps reduce gluten development and keep baked goods tender.
  • Leavening: Sugar also helps baked items leaven and rise, creating a web of air when creamed with butter that lightens several baked goods.
  • Stabilizing: When in its beaten egg white form, sugar dissolves and takes up space between air bubbles – this offers a cushion, bringing a stable egg foam.
  • Decorations: Finally, sugar is often used as a decoration or garnish on various baked goods, usually in the form of powdered or cinnamon sugar.

For more on sugar and its role in baking, or to learn about any of our bakery services, speak to the staff at Street Sweets today.