Whether found in the soft chew of caramel or in the crisp snap of a candy cane, sugar is quintessential to holiday baking. Sprinkled on top of sweet breads, cookies, and cakes, the snow-like powder adds an extra sparkle to the season’s baking. Lending a hand to structural elements, sugar is the icing cement that supports skillfully-designed gingerbread houses. And those classic holiday cookies? Intricate decorations come alive with sugar piped on in any color. No matter the form these traditional crystals take, recipes wouldn’t be the same without them. Here, we’ve brought you five facts about the sweet stuff. For more on different types of sugar and recipes that use them, look to our new November/December issue, out on newsstands now!
- Sugar as we know it was first made from sugarcane in the Pacific Islands. By the sixth century, it made its way west through India and was available in Persia.
- December holidays are historically associated with sweets because sugar is a great way to preserve summer goodies for winter feasting.
- Turbinado and Demerara are “raw sugars,” unrefined large grains with a light amber color.
- Molasses, a natural byproduct of the sugar refinement process, is either refined out of sugar entirely (for white sugars), removed partially (for raw brown sugars), or removed and added back in later (for conventional brown sugar).
- Sugar didn’t hit its stride until the 18th century when a process was developed to extract sugar from beets. These days you can find both cane and beet sugar on the market.