Sugar properties: beyond providing sweetness

By Marcela Barillas (nutritionist)

Do you think that the only reason why sugar is added to a dessert is to give it a sweet flavor? No. Sugar is sweet and helps desserts taste better. However, sugar does much more than provide sweetness. Without this product, jam would spoil sooner, ice cream would crystallize, and bread would lose its freshness and dry out.

Some of the properties of sucrose are:

Texture and surface gloss: sugar crystals can be chosen to add crunch and visual texture to the surface of products such as candy.

Texture and mouthfeel: sugar helps provide the soft structure in baked goods and the smoothness in frozen dairy products. In bread, sugar affects the volume of the dough by accelerating the fermentation process. In the manufacturing of jams, preserves, and jellies, it is important to achieve the right balance between sugar, pectin, and acid. The ability of sugar to thicken when combined with pectin is vital to the product’s consistency.

Color: sugar can give an appetizing color to many food products. This may be due to caramelization, the “Maillard reaction”, or its ability to retain color. The “Maillard reaction” (a reaction between sugar and amino acids) results in browning and flavoring in products such as bread, coffee, heated desserts, and pastries.

Preservation: this property is exploited in products such as jams, juices, and pickling solutions. Microorganisms need water to grow. If the sugar concentration in food is raised to a certain level, all the water bonds to the sugar. This inhibits the growth of microorganisms because water availability is reduced and water activity decreases.

Lowering the freezing point: the higher the sugar concentration, the lower the freezing point. A low freezing point is important in ice cream and frozen desserts. It reduces the risk of large ice crystals forming.

Knowing the role of sugar in the foods we prepare is important. For example, if we bake a cake and want to substitute sugar with an artificial sweetener, we would not have the same results.

Source: Esto es azúcar

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