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Why use confectioners’ sugar?
Confectioners sugar is a crucial ingredient in all of your favourite treats. Without confectioners’ sugar, the milk icing on your favourite cupcakes wouldn’t be so smooth and creamy. Your cheesecakes wouldn’t have that rich texture! And your beignets just wouldn’t feel complete without that light dusting to really give it that finishing touch.
Confectioners’ sugar vs table sugar
At first glance, the two sugars aren’t that different from one another. While the crystals that make up confectioners’ sugar are finer than the ones that make up regular sugar, the two kinds are chemically and nutritionally identical. Both kinds of sugar provide the same level of sweetness and contain about 390 calories for every 100 grams. On top of that, the two sugars even carry the same health risks as they’re both made of sucrose.
But, while these sugars are identical in terms of taste and nutritional value, the fineness of confectioners’ sugar makes all the difference in the kitchen. For one, confectioners’ sugar dissolves in liquid much faster than other kinds of sugar, and it’s this quality that makes confectioners’ sugar so important for glazes and frosting. Confectioners’ sugar also helps keep air out of dough and batter as its powdery crystals make it a lot denser than regular sugar.
The fineness of confectioners’ sugar is also important for food presentation. While a sprinkling of table sugar adds the same level of sweetness on a batch of freshly-baked cookies, the snowy effect from a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar can make them look absolutely divine!
However, even with the unique qualities of confectioners’ sugar, you can use table sugar as a substitute in a pinch. While your pastries might not get the same texture from table sugar, they would be just as sweet. Just remember that you need about half as much table sugar as you need confectioners’ sugar since regular sugar is a lot less dense. And, if you aren’t sure about your conversions, you can always make one-to-one substitutions based on weight.
Confectioners’ sugar vs caster sugar
Like table sugar, confectioners’ sugar is chemically and nutritionally identical to caster sugar as both are just ground versions of regular sugar. However, since caster sugar crystals are somewhere in between table sugar and confectioners’ sugar in terms of size, caster sugar has unique uses in the kitchen.
For one, it’s used in sweets like meringue that need the dissolvability of confectioners’ sugar and the rough texture of table sugar. Caster sugar is also often used as a sweetener for cocktails and other cold drinks for its dissolvability.
Where can I get confectioners’ sugar?
Unlike other special ingredients, you should be able to find confectioners’ sugar in most major stores at around twice the cost of regular sugar. However, if you’re shopping at your local Coles or Woolworths, you need to look for icing sugar instead as Australian brands prefer to use that name.
That said, if you’re looking to cut costs, you can easily make confectioners’ sugar at home by grounding table sugar into a fine powder using a food processor or other similar machines. For decorative purposes, your homemade confectioners’ sugar should be just as effective as the commercial kind. But, if you’re following a recipe, you might want to add a bit of cornstarch as the recipe might need the tiny bit of cornstarch found in store-bought confectioners’ sugar.