In order of sweetness, there are five types of sugars you should be familiar with: fructose, sucrose, glucose, maltose, and lactose. They range in sweetness from the highest, fructose or fructose, to the lowest, lactose or milk sugar. Sucrose is made from sugar cane or sugar beet and is our common table sugar. Derived from barley and other grains, maltose is most commonly associated with brewing beer. It is also formed when glucose is caramelized.
Other sources of sugar used in cooking include honey, maple syrup, molasses, sorghum (like molasses but made from African grains), and corn syrup. Corn syrup is mostly glucose, so it’s less sweet than honey or table sugar. If you think back to the slave trade, you may recall the problems caused by the New World’s craving for sugar.
Molasses is a less refined liquid made from cane sugar or sugar beets. Brown sugar is made by adding 1-3 tablespoons of molasses back into plain white sugar. I never buy brown sugar anymore, but instead have molasses on hand and add more or less of it to get the light or dark brown sugar called for in a recipe. That way I don’t have to deal with that rock hard brown sugar lump in my pantry.
Honey is also a sweetener that can be used in place of sugar. It is natural and although it can crystallize it will never spoil. You can use 2/3 cup honey (or maple syrup) plus ¼ cup flour as a substitute for 1 cup granulated sugar. If you’re baking with honey, reduce your heat to 25 degrees Fahrenheit and cook a little longer. Honey also tends to darken the end product more than if you use white sugar. Since I usually have honey on hand, I use an equal portion of honey instead of corn syrup when a recipe calls for corn syrup.
Powdered or icing sugar is very fine-grained white sugar. You can make it yourself by adding regular sugar to a coffee grinder. It comes in handy for glazes and glazes where quick dissolution is important. Be aware that store-bought powdered sugar has a release agent added to it. Check if this remedy is most likely cornstarch or wheat flour. You can use ½ cup honey plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar as a substitute for 1 cup powdered sugar.
If you really want to reduce granulated sugar in a recipe, substitute up to half with nonfat dry milk and increase the overall sweetness by adding fruits like raisins. To add sweetness without adding calories, consider doubling the amount of extract you use in baking.
The obesity problem is often linked to high fructose corn syrup, which is used in many soft drinks and foods. Corn syrup used in baking is made from corn and is a glucose, while high fructose corn syrup introduces proteins and creates a syrup that is slightly sweeter. Because white sugar is more expensive and the government subsidizes corn, US food manufacturers prefer to use this corn derivative to sweeten foods.
The sugar substitutes mentioned here are the most commonly used sweeteners that are readily available in foods. Chemical substitutes like saccharin or aspartame and more natural sweeteners like agave and stevia are substitutes that need further investigation.
Thanks to Linda Murdock