Cooking

Caster Sugar

2:34 PM

I am in full Christmas menu planning today, and have plans on roasting a small chicken tomorrow as well as making a chocolate sponge cake filled with orange marmalade and topped with a glossy icing.
Now the issue I face the most while baking here in India (I'm a enthusiastic baker) is the quality of sugar.
The most commonly found is a half processed yellowish thick crystallised cane sugar, it has difficulty melting in liquids unless the fluid in question is warm to hot, making it ideal for chai, but a bit more difficult to use in let's say "nimboo pani" (home made lemonade), and downright challenging in baking. While most cookies recipe and rough muffins, or cakes like a carrot cake are pretty forgiving and you can pull off a good result,this rough sugar simply can't give you a light decent fluffy sponge, for this you need finer sugar known as caster sugar the world over.

This particular sugar IS available in India though very few stores actually stock up on it, and most local mom and pops grocery stores simply don't know about it. In Bangalore I used to stock up whenever I found it in a supermarket (and half the time it's not in stock).
Here in Mumbai I had no luck so far, I made all my Christmas cookies with the common granulated sugar, or icing sugar when the recipe called for that one.
But now with my sponge cake project, I find myself in a catch, didn't have any more luck on the caster sugar front yesterday, and I know icing sugar is far far too powdery and super fine to behave well in a sponge batter, so today I resorted to crushing regular sugar in finer crystal, a task you can't even do in a mixie because the friction heat from the blade tend to caramelise the sugar a little, so here is how you can get a more decent sugar out of a rough one :

Pour the amount of needed sugar in a ziploc bag and seal leaving as little air as possible trapped inside, take a heavy thick rolling pin and roll over repetitively applying extreme pressure to crush the sugar. You might have to go at it for a while take breaks in between, and while you will not really get the same quality as proper caster sugar, you will end up with something less rough that will dissolve much much better and quicker in room temperature melted beat butter.

In a way I find it funny how moving to India actually is forcing me to be so creative and inventive when it comes to baking, in fact I can't help thinking of both my grand ma who are both happy bakers and how they must have come with their own techniques over the years or watched their own mothers doing so before electric beaters, food processors, non-stick baking tins and what not came more easily available.

India isn't by default a nation of bakers, cakes and cookies probably have been brought by the British and nowadays people still buy these ready made in stores. It's only for the past 4 years that I'm seeing more and more cake tins on the market around Christmas as the idea is probably coming back with NRIs repatriating or visiting back home. I actually got quite a few of my baking things from Switzerland when I visited in 2008 and still cook out of my microwave/grill/convection oven. My dream still being to get myself a regular sized convection oven so I can bake bigger batches, but that will have to wait until we get our own house.

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