While sugar gets a lot of bad rap in the health department, it’s a pantry staple for a reason. This versatile ingredient is a favorite in both cooking and baking, and holds many functions in food prep methods aside from making your food sweet. We do recommend that every home cook and baker use this ingredient in moderation, but also do encourage our readers to embrace all its uses outside its sweet taste. Here are a few examples:
1 Sugar makes cakes soft and moist.
In baking, sugar is considered a liquid ingredient. It starts dissolving once you incorporate it into wet ingredients and melts even further once it is exposed to the heat in the oven. Keep this in mind the next time you decide to lessen the amount of sugar in a cake or cupcake recipe. You might end up with a dry baked treat!
2 Sugar thickens sauces, spreads, and drinks.
When sugar is incorporated into a hot liquid, it melts and turns the mixture into a simple solution. We don’t advise that you use it as a thickening agent the same way cornstarch and flour are used, but a touch of sugar in your sauces, glazes, and spreads can make them more luscious, heavy, and indulgent. Be careful with the amount that you use so that you don’t make them overly sweet!
Also, it is important to add the sugar as the last step to make sure your mixture thickens properly. For example, hot chocolate will get thicker if you add the sugar after the chocolate and milk are already combined as opposed to letting the sugar dissolve in the milk prior to adding the chocolate.
3 Sugar gives cookies that coveted crunch on the outside.
Cookies that have high sugar content are often the ones that build up that crusty, crunchy outside. This is because sugar crystallizes once exposed to very high heat. Try baking your cookies in high heat for short periods of time to get a good outside crunch and chewy inside! We have more tips on making cookies the way you want them here:
4 Sugar kick starts fermentation.
The process of fermentation involves yeast “feeding on” sugars to release the gas or alcohol that kick start and sustain the process. This is why drinks and dishes like kimchi and kombucha need measured amounts of sugar for fermentation to happen.
5 Sugar crystallizes and glazes.
Who doesn’t love thick, sticky glazes over savory stir-fries and deep-fried dishes? Toss in a pinch or two of sugar in your stir-fries and watch your meat and vegetables achieve that glossy look and sweet-and-savory flavor profile.