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May 1, 2006 07:29 PM

sugar- beet vs pure cane

  • s

Is there a difference when you bake with pure cane sugar vs beet sugar?

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  1. Not that I am aware of. Beet sugar is more common in Europe than the US, if I recall correctly.

    1. Oh yes there is and all you have to do is prepare exact same recipes side by side to find the difference. After embarassing myself bringing a dessert I made with beet sugar to a dinner I will never buy the junk again. With beet sugar caramel sauces become gummy and gluey. Baked goods have a much coarser texture. Regulars on CH know this is a soap box issue with me. Spring the few cents more for 100% pure cane sugar. The sugar beet people would like you to think sugar is sugar but no way. You can do your own test but when it comes to baking and cooking I've done the test and will reserve any beet sugar I accidentally purchase forr hummimg bird food.

      If the sugar package does not say 100% cane or pure cane then you are getting beet. And boy does that stuff smell bad too!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Candy
        Hungry Celeste

        Hear, hear, Candy! Pure cane is the way to go. Even accounting for my local bias (I live in a sugarcane growing area in LA), my encounters with beet sugar have been consistently bad.

      2. I wouldn't go as far as Candy, but yes, there are slight differences between beet and cane sugar. The SF chronicle food editors did a bunch of side-by-side tests with different sugars and agreed that cane sugar was the best, especially for baking.

        What makes a somewhat bigger difference than beet vs. sugar is refined white sugar vs. organic sugar, which is usually a little less refined (has a brown tinge) and has more moisture, which can make a difference in some recipes.

        1. It pains me to disagree with one of the most brilliant posters to this board--Karl S--but I fear I must. All sugars are chemically different, beet sugar, milk sugar, cane sugar, alcohol. They all breakdown eventually to the same chemical substance (C6 H12 O6, those are subscript numbers for those who care). The sensation of sweetness comes from the oxygen-hydrogen bonds. Not much of a baker myself but logic would dictate that Candy is correct as high tempertures would certainly effect the structure of the different sugars chemical bonds.

          7 Replies
          1. re: dk

            Not quite - most of what you list are wholly different chemicals. That's not the case with refined sugar which is more or less pure sucrose, whatever its source.

            I don't think anyone's studied it closely enough to understand exactly why they behave differently, but the SF Chron article mentions an (almost infinitesmal) difference in mineral content, which is presumed to be the "culprit."

            1. re: dk

              The goal of both beet and cane sugar manufacturers is to produce
              five pund bags of pure sucrose, C12 H22 O11. The problem is, they
              don't quite get there. Enough by-products and impurities are left in
              the final product to create a unique character for each.

              For a long time I was pretty sure people who complained about beet
              sugar were nuts. But after many years of only using only cane sugar, I
              got some beet a while ago and found it to be a distinctly different,
              less pleasant, experience. Even my morning cofee tasted wrong.

              1. re: dk

                and some people might say that all salt is sodium chloride so its all the same regardless of source. Others might disagree.

                1. re: Marie Hoch

                  can't stop when I'm on a roll..and all vodka is ethyl alcohol so it all tastes the same..any differences are trace and can't be detected. Some would disagree.

                  1. re: Marie

                    Thank you for your reply Marie. I get fascinated by CH postings of fact vs. feelings. All salt IS sodium cloride. All vodka is just mostly ETOH. These are indisputable facts. You might FEEL sea salt, kosher salt and plain table salt taste and you'd be right because of the added impurities. Same with the vodka. Beet sugar, milk sugar and pure cane are all nonrelated compounds (unlike salt or vodka) that eventually break down to give more or less the sensation of sweetness. Logic simply makes me side with the experienced bakers that heat has different effects on these different compounds.

                    1. re: dk

                      I hate to be pedantic (:-)), but this is the second time you've given the
                      same incorrect information:
                      Beet sugar and cane sugar are, ideally, EXACTLY THE SAME CHEMICAL.
                      The chemical is sucrose. They are not "unrelated compounds"

                      Any perceptible difference in the two is a result of impurities left
                      during the refining process or introduced in storage, not as a result
                      of them being "different compounds".

                      The advice given about salt is also completely wrong, but in the opposite
                      sense: All salt is NOT NaCl. Sea salt in particular, while predominantly
                      sodium and chloride, contains a large proportion of other components.
                      Most common are magnesium, calcium, sulphur, and potassium.
                      When cooking with sea salt vs. cooking with table salt it's EXPECTED
                      that there will be significant differences in flavor since you're throwing
                      much different chmicals into the mix.

                      1. re: dk

                        "I get fascinated by CH postings of fact vs. feelings. All salt IS sodium cloride. All vodka is just mostly ETOH. These are indisputable facts."

                        Allow me to dispute your "facts":
                        "All salt" is not sodium chloride. A "salt" is the common name for *any* ionic compound. Sodium chloride is the one most commonly used for seasoning, sure, but even good old Morton's has another salt in it- Potassium Iodide. Sea Salt is comprised of many different salts.

                        Vodka is not mostly Ethyl Alcohol. Vodka is mostly (60% by volume) water.

                        Milk sugar is lactose. Grain sugar is maltose. Fruit and honey sugar is fructose. Corn sugar is dextrose or D-glucose. Beet sugar is sucrose, a molecule composed of a glucose and a fructose molecule bonded together. Cane sugar is sucrose. The biochemistry of sensations is complex and not well understood, but suffice it to say that sugars do not " break down to give more or less the sensation of sweetness".

                        Argue all you like about Beet vs Cane, but stop saying that they are chemically distinguishable as separate compounds. They are not.

                2. The big difference is in cooking, it seems.