It’s no great secret that my palate leans somewhat guiltily to the sweet side rather than the savoury. Another one of those genetic things, I think… Now, I don’t take sugar with my tea or sprinkle it on my morning cereal and I’m not at all tempted by the rows of chocolate bars in the supermarket, but when it comes to desserts… a perfectly baked cheesecake, a citrus tart, a silken pannacotta or sweet treats, like macarons or freshly-baked crostoli, I tend to go weak at the knees.
Sugar of some sort, in it’s many forms (often naturally occurring in the raw ingredients we use), is necessary to balance the flavour of most dishes. However one thing I’ve recently begun to question is the use of white sugar in my cooking. So I started to do a little research…
I don’t mind at all that the cane sugar has been crushed and liquefied, boiled and evaporated and then centrifugally spun. This kind of processing seems necessary to create a product that can be easily scooped, mixed and dissolved when required. However, I hadn’t really thought too much about the bleaching side of producing these sweet little crystals. My research uncovered that sulphur dioxide is what’s commonly used to inhibit colour-forming/browning reactions that occur in the refining process and that there seems to be some debate out there as to whether the level of sulphur dioxide used is actually safe for human consumption. Added to the fact that it’s only bleached for cosmetic reasons, to be more appealing to the consumer, I felt it a worthwhile project to look into other possible alternatives to use on a daily basis in our home.
After years of believing brown sugar to be the healthier, less processed cousin to white sugar (after all, this is the case with rice and flour), it was both surprising and disappointing to find out that most brown sugar out there on the market is actually just white sugar that has been coated with molasses (the darker the sugar, the higher percentage of molasses added). It’s effective in adding a caramel-like flavour and colour to the food, but the molasses apparently don’t add any health benefits worth mentioning.
With this in mind, from now on I’ve decided to try and use mostly raw sugar (which can be found now in Australia in the convenient, finer texture of caster sugar for baking). When I baked the following well-loved recipe over the weekend using raw sugar for the first time, the vote from my three seasoned taste-testers was unanimous – superior in both flavour and texture to the white-sugared muffins of the past.
I’ll be intrigued to see if all recipes work so well with raw sugar…
Raspberry White Chocolate Muffins | Gather and Graze
- 220g/1½ cups Plain Flour
- 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
- Pinch of Salt
- 115g/½ cup Raw Sugar
- 180ml/¾ cup Milk
- 180ml/¾ cup Vegetable Oil
- 1 Free-Range Egg
- 100g White Chocolate (chopped into small chunks)
- 100g Raspberries (fresh or frozen)
- A little icing sugar for dusting (optional)
Insert muffin cases into a 12 hole muffin tin. Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the sugar and mix through evenly. In a separate bowl (or measuring jug), mix together the milk, oil and egg until well blended. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing quickly but thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Stir in the chocolate and raspberries, being careful not to break up the berries too much. Spoon into the muffin cases and bake for about 25 minutes, until cooked and golden brown on top. Allow to cool a little, then dust the tops with icing sugar.
Somehow that doesn’t surprise me re soft brown sugar that I buy here. If it’s true then it’s also shameful. Yes, I’m really into the raw cane sugar, especially molasses that I can buy here. It’s also cheaper than muscovado. I’m also finding that a little goes a long way.
Raw sugar certainly seems to be the way to go… and what a beautiful honey-like flavour it imparts. Lovely to hear from you… your blog is inspirational!
Wow, I had no idea about the whole white-sugar-coated-in-molasses thing. Terrible (you can’t trust anyone, I tell you!). I definitely share your love for raw sugar… I recently spotted raw caster sugar in my local Woolworths and I’ve used it a few times with great success. Have you tried coconut sugar? It’s my current favourite. Soft, brown sugar with a mild coconut flavour. I love it to bits… I do believe it’s low GI too? I need to do a refresher. Anyway, gorgeous recipe!
Thank you Laura! Yes, feeling a bit duped about the whole ‘brown sugar’ thing… It does give a great flavour though to certain dishes, so I’ll most likely still keep a little stash in the pantry. The coconut sugar sounds really lovely – I’m thinking cookies would be pretty wonderful with that subtle coconut coming through.