In a low oven, granulated sugar develops a toasty flavor reminiscent of light caramel or turbinado, yet it remains powdery and dry. That means you can use it to replace white sugar in any recipe, adding a subtle note of complexity to round out the simple sweetness of your favorite dessert. Because of the time involved, you’ll want to roast a whole bag of sugar to make it worth your while. Just give it a stir every thirty minutes or so to help it toast more evenly, then cool and store like plain sugar.
You can toast smaller quantities of sugar while you blind-bake a pie crust—just use sugar with a foil liner in place of pie weights—or make small quantities in just 30 minutes at 350° F. Pour the sugar into a 10- or 12-inch skillet in a layer that’s a quarter-inch thick so that it toasts evenly. The exact timing will depend on the accuracy of your oven—keep a close eye on the sugar the first time around, then adjust the temperature for future batches accordingly.
Excerpt from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts by Stella Parks. Copyright © 2017 by Stella Parks. Reprinted with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. —Stella Parks
- Makes 4 pounds (9 cups)
(4 pounds) refined white sugar
- Key Point: This technique will not work with raw or semirefined cane sugar, as its natural molasses content will begin to melt at much lower temperatures, causing the sugar to clump.
- Preheat the oven to 325° F. Put the sugar in a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish and roast, stirring well once every 30 minutes, until it darkens to a sandy tan, with a coarse texture like turbinado, about 2 hours. The color change can be strangely difficult to judge in the dim glow of an oven, so scoop out a spoonful to examine in better light.
- Let the roasted sugar cool away from any sources of moisture or steam until no trace of warmth remains, about 1 hour. If you notice molten caramel around the edges, pour the hot sugar into a heat-resistant container, leaving the melty bits behind; once cool, the baking dish can be soaked clean. Despite its innocuous appearance, roasted sugar can be dangerously hot, so take care not to touch it.
- Store for up to a year in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Metal baking pans conduct heat more rapidly, and their corners may harbor traces of grease or moisture, factors that make the sugar more likely to liquefy around the edges.
- Given the importance of maintaining a low temperature, use an oven thermometer to verify that yours runs true to dial. Otherwise, the sugar will caramelize too quickly and begin to liquefy.