Thursday, February 19, 2009

A study of homemade vs. white powdered sugar

Okay so here's a post showing my kitchen geekness / Martha Stewartness.

I hate using white flour because it has no nutrition whatsoever. But, you can't make cupcakes with wholewheat flour -- you might as well call them muffins. Or hockey pucks. Next best option should be unrefined, unbleached white flour, but that stuff's not available commercially and affordably. Healthy Options sells Bob's Red Mill organic unbleached white flour but... who can afford that stuff anyway? Who buys that stuff in this country, under these economic circumstances? Probably the expats and the class AAA's. RIght now I'm limited to refined white flour, b

My next baking peeve is white sugar. At least in this arena we have alternatives -- brown and raw sugar. I'm trying to switch to raw sugar in my baking permanently. Quite surprisingly brown and raw sugar are cheaper than white by like three pesos (6 US cents?) at the baking supply store. According to this site:

"Unrefined raw sugar is made from the juice from the sugar cane plant and has trace minerals and nutrients present. Refined sugar is devoid of all nutrients. Typically, white sugar is made of pure carbohydrates. Today, it is common knowledge that refined white sugar has devastating affects on the body and health in general. Besides being a certain way to elevate blood sugar levels, refined white sugar is considered to be “empty calories” as it offers no nutritional substance whatsoever. Raw sugar contains minerals and nutrients that are stripped from refined white sugar. Raw sugar contains roughly eleven calories per teaspoon and has the same vitamin and mineral consistency that is found in the juice from the sugarcane plant. These minerals include Phosphorus, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, and Potassium. In addition, when sugar is refined and processed there are many harmful ingredients that are added to the sugar as a result. Unrefined raw sugar does not have these harmful chemicals. Some of these include: Phosphoric Acid, Sulfur Dioxide, and Formic Acid."

Raw sugar: the lesser of 2 evils

But what's difficult is the frosting. You can't have cake and cupcakes without frosting, and you can't have frosting without powdered sugar. Commercially available and prepared powdered sugar is of course, made of refined white sugar.

I've seen recipes for homemade powdered sugar
in a couple of vegan cookbooks which I've been dying to try out. I finally was able to experiment last week. I used the recipe from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan. Pretty straightforward: blend 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar for a few minutes until powdery. Instead of cornstarch I used sweet potato starch; instead of white sugar I used 1 1/4 cups packed raw sugar. In the homemade-powdered-sugar arena, blenders are superior over food processors.

It did take me a few noisy minutes to come up with homemade powdered sugar. I also had to stick a knife in to occasionally break up the clumps (turn off the motor when doing this). Here are the results:

the devil's posion. Right: the homemade stuff.

You can see that powdered sugar made from raw sugar is a little honey-colored while that refined stuff is dead white. Homemade doesn't clump up as much because of the blender -- obviously blenders made for the home cook / baker are less powerful than industrial blenders made for corporations. I think the powdered raw sugar granules are heavier than their white counterpart, hence its non-clumping qualities. The texture is actually slightly coarser but it will still be able to pass through a sieve. Oh yeah, while white powdered sugar has no smell, raw powdered sugar has a slight molasses-like smell.

I used my favorite vanilla frosting recipe and here are the results:

immaculately white vanilla cupcakes with white vanilla frosting.
Right: vanilla cupcakes made with raw sugar, with vanilla frosting made from powdered raw sugar.

I think this world is not ready for vanilla cupcakes made with raw sugar (what more with wholewheat flour?). People are purist about vanilla cupcakes -- they must be white white white. If frosting's not white, okay if some other artificial color. Not saying there's anything wrong with wanting white cupcakes, it's purely a matter of physical preference.


aTxVegn said...

Great post! I don't mind that the homemade version isn't as white. I think it looks more homemade and even more vanilla-ish.

Jeni Treehugger said...

This is a great post!
I definitely prefer natural over anything!

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