Properties of sugars

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Properties of sugars

When we think of sugars we think of sweet, but that is not the only contribution to food that they can provide. The variety of sweeteners and their shapes provides a wide field for play when we want to make specific features in confectionery but in other products as well. Most commonly discussed sugars are dextrose, maltose, lactose, fructose and galactose (Davidson, 2014).

Plain sugar – sucrose, is made from juice of sugar cane or sugar beets, its granulation can be various from coarse to powder fine, and many other variations in between. One of the best characteristic of sugar is that it only gives sweet taste and it doesn’t stand in the way of the other aromatic ingredients. Whereas some other sweeteners can give an unwanted off flavor or sensation, as stevia sometime gives bitter aftertaste, or as xylitol gives cooler sensation. Regarding flavor they also participate in Millard reaction, by reacting with amines (proteins or amino acids ) at high temperature, thus they elevate the taste of the product, the product gains brown color and crunchiness of the crust (Reineccius, 2006). This is mainly recognizable in bakery products.

Sugars are highly hygroscopic (especially amorphous sugars), meaning they like water and bound to it. In food industry this feature is very much welcomed because it makes the product cheaper, as water is one of the cheapest ingredients, and it is still in the final product. This also plays a significant part in the physical form of the product, meaning they provide equal plasticity in the product and by adding them the product becomes more viscous, and the product retains its fresh look (Whrolstad, 2012). In practice this means that when you prepare cookies addition of crystal sugar will make the cookie harder and crispy, but addition of amorphous sweeteners (as molasses) that are more hygroscopic will retain the water and make softer cookie. Of course this will vary also for other ingredients and physical parameter as mixing, baking etc.

Different granulations of sugars add different features. Finer granulated sugar dissolves more easily so it is used in mixtures where it would be harder to dissolve, for instance low moisture medium as syrup or in fat. Also it retains the structure of the cookies and lowers the speadability, thus when baking it, the bottom edges are not sharp and the cookie has bigger hight than when coarse sugar is used. The second one makes the cookie more “liquid” and it can’t retain its shape when you put it for baking, and it starts to spread in the pan. And also granulated sugar allows the air to enter the fat based creams and mixed dough, thus gives lighter texture (Gisslen and Griffin.,2007).

When preparing confectionary product a special attention should be put on the process parameter to avoid sugar crystallization, because sugars have tendency to change their shape. Using high temperature melt crystal sugar, but getting back to their crystal structure (ordered arrangement of the molecules, opposite than amorphous) is slow reaction that can be avoided. Sugars that are less soluble have bigger tendency toward crystallization as sucrose (Whrolstad, 2012).

Sugars are also food for yeast in the process of fermentation. The yeast cells undergo fermentation where fermentable sugar is converted into ethanol and CO2. This is used in bakery (when dough rises) in wine production etc.(Vaclavik and Christian, 2008).

Food sugars can also lower the freezing point and elevate the pasteurization and boiling point (Sun, 2012) and they can also participate in several chemical reactions as caramelization, enzymatic browning, mutarotation, oxidation, etc. (Whrolstad, 2012).

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