Indeed, sugar is an incredible ingredient. It provides a single flavor that we all love: sweetness. But, sugar can definitely be more than that. With a little bit of curiosity and creativity, we can make something more out of it – flavored sugar! As the term speaks for itself, flavored sugar is nothing more than just a sugar that is flavored or seasoned. It is most commonly infused, but it can also be pre-blended in the food processor or blender. The history and origin of flavored sugar were yet to be confirmed but Iraqi has been infusing sugars with fruit and spices as early as the 9th century; infused sugars were used as a medicine. Nowadays, flavored sugar is being utilized as a garnish in baked goods, toasts, hot and cold drinks, and even cocktails.
Flavored Sugar Trivia
- One doctor from the 18th century once proposed blowing powdered sugar directly into the eyes; he claims to cure eye irritations and ailments.
- Flavored sugar can be used as a preservative too! It helps remove moisture from any bacteria that is present in the product; thus, bacteria cannot thrive on items with a high concentration of sugar.
- The scientists who discovered sucralose, a zero-calorie artificial sweetener, were originally attempting to make an insecticide; one of the assistants misheard the instruction to “test” as “taste.”
Flavored Sugar Buying Guide
Although it is best to make flavored sugar at home, some find it more convenient to buy in large supermarkets such as H-E-B or Natural Grocer. Thus, it might be helpful to know the following tips when you are buying commercial flavored sugar:
- You can find more varieties in baking supplies shops and at various farmers’ markets.
- Be sure to always check out the ingredients list and pick the ones with lesser preservatives and hard to pronounce chemicals. Remember, mass-produced products usually contain these bad stuff (see below).
- Pick the ones that are not lumpy as this is an indication that moisture has been penetrating the product, which means that your flavored sugar is not anymore in its best quality and it’ll have a shorter shelf life for sure.
- Pick the ones that are completely sealed or vacuum-sealed if possible to assure that the product hasn’t been contaminated.
Flavored Sugar Production & Farming in Texas
Sugarcanes thrive in tropical climates like Louisiana, Florida, and Hawaii. Although it can be grown in the state of Texas, it is usually planted in limited amounts. The Gulf Coast region has the most number of sugarcane plants and Texan farmers prefer growing them through stalks from a mother plant. Hand planting normally takes place from the end of August until January of the following year.
Furthermore, some ingredients that can be turned into flavorings can also be grown in the state of Texas. Our Texas Real Food Promptuary is home to many items that can show you how they are grown and cultivated in the state. Just click on each spice or herb to see how they are individually produced and farmed. On another note, Texas is home to countless numbers of local food vendors and artisans who specialize in producing such wonderful flavored sugar. Likewise, you can also search for them on our website.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
Although mass-produced flavored sugar might be more convenient for some people, it’s good to know that they might not be our best choice. Not only that these commercially-produced products are usually heavy on salt and tend to provide less flavor, but they sometimes contain additives and chemicals for a lower cost yet fast-producing and shelf-stable products. Thus, here are some additives that we found on best-selling brands:
- Dextrose and Maltodextrin – It is a type of sugar that acts as an artificial sweetener, food neutralizer, and a preservative. Too much consumption of this ingredient can lead to body fluid build-up and high blood sugar.
- Modified Food Starch – This additive is usually made with wheat, potato, corn, or tapioca. It acts as a binding agent, thickener, stabilizer, and preservative. This additive offers empty calories – they provide no nutritional value, yet it adds a considerable amount of carbohydrates which can promote weight gain. This ingredient should also be avoided by someone who is gluten intolerant.
- Silicon Dioxide – This chemical compound is also known as silica. It is used as a thickener, stabilizer, anticaking agent, and carrier for aroma and flavor. Although it is safe to consume, it can lead to lung problems when consumed past its RDA.
- Color additives – these are food colorings or dyes that are added to food products to improve its color. Some are natural and some are artificial. Examples of these are annatto extract (yellow), caramel (yellow to tan), beta-carotene (yellow to orange), grape skin extract (red and green), and dehydrated beets (bluish-red to brown). Nonetheless, this additive can cause skin irritation, rashes, and eczema. Artificial ones can also upset one’s stomach and experience difficulty in breathing.
- Vanillin (for vanilla sugar) – It is a naturally occurring chemical compound that provides vanilla flavor. Finding this additive in the ingredient list is an indication of a cheap and unhealthy alternative for the real vanilla extract. And although vanillin is generally classified as safe to consume, it can cause allergic reactions, migraines, and digestive disorders.
- Extractives – These additives are made with essential oils or condensed flavor essence of different spices. It can be mixed with solvents such as alcohol, or water. They act as a flavor enhancer and it also contributes to a longer shelf-life.
- Carnauba wax – Also listed as E903, this additive is sourced from the leaves of a Brazilian palm tree. It makes the products shiny and keeps them from melting. It also provides texture that is mostly needed in chewy candies and fruit snacks. And although this additive is classified as generally safe to consume, it may cause skin irritation or rash.
Flavored sugar is packaged in many ways but the most important thing to consider is that the product should abstain moisture. Thus, flavored sugar is usually sealed; it can come in jars, pet bottles, glass bottles, pouches, and cartons.
Enjoying Flavored Sugar
There are a countless number of ways to enjoy flavored sugar. It is usually sprinkled on baked goods and pastries from cakes, shortbreads, puddings, muffins, and cookies to chocolates and holiday pies. You can also use it as an alternative sweetener to teas, coffee, and juices. And, it makes the perfect rimmer for cocktails and mocktails!
Flavored sugar must be kept in an airtight container or a sealable plastic bag. They should be stored in a dark, dry, and cool place away from sunlight and away from hot and humid zones like stoves, grills, or ovens. The shelflife of flavored sugar depends on the added flavorings. Any sugar flavored with fresh ingredients will start to diminish after a week; but, it can practically last up to a year or two. Dried herbs and dried citrus sugars can retain its freshness for 2-3 months; edible flower-flavored sugars for 3-6 months; whole coffee bean flavored sugar for 6-9 months; instant coffee powder, vanilla sugar, spices, and herbs for 1-2 years, with optimum quality and potency within the first 6 months.
Make your own flavored sugar:
Indeed, flavored sugar is something that you don’t have to spend much money on as this fancy stuff can easily be done in your own kitchen. There are two basic methods for flavoring sugars: infusion and blending. Infusion is a process where you completely submerge whole ingredients into sugar. That way, it’s easy to determine what flavor is infused; it especially works when you’re making different varieties or sending it as a gift! However, infused sugars usually have subtle flavors and it takes more time to make. On the other hand, blending is a process where you mix the ingredients through the use of a food processor or blender. The good thing about this process is that sugar is immediately flavored right after blending and can be used right away. However, besides the fact that it could be difficult to determine the flavor by just looking at it, the sugar could clot and might be lumpy if you used a liquid extract. Nonetheless, whichever method you use, don’t forget to give it a good shake after the process and sift the sugar prior to usage.
To get started, you may use the following generic ratios:
- Citrus – Use 1 tablespoon of dried zest for every cup of sugar. Examples of citrus are orange, lime, or lemon.
- Herbs – Use 1-2 teaspoons of dried herbs for every cup of sugar. Examples of herbs are rosemary, thyme, and mint.
- Spices – Use 4 teaspoons of ground spices for every cup of sugar. Examples of spices are cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and even chili powders.
- Extracts – Use 2-4 drops of extracts for every cup of sugar. Examples of extracts are vanilla, peppermint, and almond.
- Edible Flowers – Use 1-2 tablespoons of dried edible flowers or petals for every cup of sugar. Examples of edible flowers are lavender, rose, and honeysuckle.
- Food Coloring – Use 1 drop of gel or powdered food coloring for every cup of sugar; use 2 drops of liquid food coloring for every cup of sugar. Drop the food coloring into a ziplock bag first and crumple the bag for the dye to distribute well before adding sugar.
And if you want to be more specific, here are some creative recipes that you can try:
- Vanilla Sugar – Steep 1 vanilla bean into 1 cup of sugar and infuse for at least a month. If you want more flavor, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Or, you can blend ½ vanilla bean with 1 cup of sugar using a food processor.
- Coffee Sugar – Steep 2 tablespoons of whole roasted coffee beans into 1 cup of sugar and infuse for at least a week. Or, you can blend 2 teaspoons of instant coffee or espresso powder with 1 cup of sugar using a food processor.
- Citrus Sugar – Steep 1 tablespoon of citrus zest (best if dried but fresh rinds works) into 1 cup of sugar and infuse for at least 24 hours. Or, you can blend ⅛ teaspoon of citrus extracts or oil with 1 cup of sugar using a food processor. Lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit zests are must-tries!
- Lavender Sugar – Steep 1 tablespoon of dried lavender petals into 1 cup of sugar and infuse for at least a week. Or, you can blend 1 teaspoon of dried lavender petals with 1 cup of sugar using a food processor.
- Rose Sugar – Steep 2 tablespoons of dried rose petals into 1 cup of sugar and infuse for at least a week. Or, you can blend 1 tablespoon of dried rose petals with 1 cup of sugar using a food processor. Rosewater or rose extracts also work, but instead, use ⅛ teaspoon for every cup of sugar.
- Rosemary Sugar – Steep 1 tablespoon worth of rosemary sprigs (fresh or dried) into 1 cup of sugar and infuse for at least a week. Or, you can blend 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary (not so old, please!) with 1 cup of sugar using a food processor.
These techniques are pretty standard; and really, your creativity is the only limit! So, feel free to experiment with herbs, spices, and other flavorings. And don’t forget that you can actually dye them too! Just try your best to tint your sugar with natural food colorings instead of the artificial ones. Enjoy!