Infused Sugars are an excellent way to enhance the flavor and aroma of your baked goods and cocktails, elevating even simple recipes to gourmet level goodness!
Over the past few days, I’ve been posting infused sugar recipes:
- Vanilla Bean Sugar
- Orange Sugar with Szechuan Peppers
- Lemon Zest Sugar with Cardamom
- DIY Citrus Sugar with Lemon and Dill
- Lemon and Lavender Infused Sugar
Here I’ll go into a little more detail about how to approach making your own infused sugars.
Choose Your Sugar
There are so many different types of sugars out there. Choosing what sugar you want to use can be hard.
Think about what you will be using the sugar for and what flavor profiles you are interested in emphasizing.
If you want more of a toasted caramel flavor, consider using coconut sugar, roasted sugar, or raw sugar. Or if you want something clean and light in order to let the spices, herbs, or other flavor components shine, consider using regular white sugar.
Certain sugars, like raw sugar, don’t dissolve very well in liquid. If you are going to primarily use the infused sugar in cold beverages, consider using regular white sugar.
Pick Your Spices, Herbs, or other Flavor Components
My biggest piece of advice is to get adventurous and use your sense of smell!
I think most people can agree that Vanilla Bean Sugar and Lavender Sugar are very popular. They are well-loved favorites with established track records in recipes. But using your own judgment and observations can led you to surprising results.
For example, every time I get a whiff of fresh dill, it smells incredibly sweet to me. Even though I’ve never had a dessert that used dill in any way, I went ahead and trusted my sense of smell. And the DIY Citrus Sugar with Lemon and Dill is delicious.
The Orange Sugar with Szechuan Peppers is another result of following my nose. I took a big whiff of some Szechuan peppers and fell in love with the aroma, especially when it was next to some fresh orange zest.
Sometimes when you are experimenting, you might add too much flavor. I did this with the Orange Sugar with Szechuan Peppers. Originally I had it at one cup of sugar but the orange flavor was very bitter. Adding an extra cup of sugar easily fixed the problem.
Think About Texture
Texture is a component I didn’t think about when I first started making infused sugars. But soon I was crunching on a bite of pepper or a hard piece of cardamom and it became apparent that texture shouldn’t be ignored.
When working with hard spices (peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, cumin seeds, etc.), anyway that you can break them down further into smaller less intrusive pieces, the better. Your mouth will thank you.
I crush them in a mortar and pestle first and then add the spices to a spice grinder with a little sugar to break down the spices.
Why Not Use Ground Spices?
When the texture of whole spices is so bothersome, why not just use ground spices?
If all else fails, you can. But infusing sugar is mostly about aroma, and ground spices are simply less aromatic than freshly ground whole spices.
To use ground spices instead of whole, you will have to use more spice. Use this handy dandy whole to ground spice conversion guide from Food52 if you decide you don’t want to bother with whole spices (but you should totally bother).
How to Use Infused Sugars
Infused sugars can be used exactly like regular sugar. However, they really shine when you build flavor throughout the entire recipe.
The aroma and flavor of these sugars may seem very strong but in reality, once baked that flavor decreases a lot.
Therefore, to capitalize on their flavor and aroma, it’s beneficial to use infused sugars throughout the different layers and components of a recipe.
For example, if I wanted to make a pie, I would add a little sugar to the crust dough, inside the filling, and sprinkle some on top of the crust right before baking.
I would also add more of the flavors that went into the sugar in the first place. Maybe I would knead some orange zest and ground Szechuan pepper into the dough of the crust to increase the flavor.
There is no limit to the exciting things you can do with infused sugars in your baking. I’ll be working on some special recipes developed with them. But simply substituting regular sugar with an infused sugar will perk old recipes up.
It’s harder to think of ways to use infused sugars in your cooking, at least at first. But think about how many times savory recipes require a little sugar. Salad dressings, sauces, BBQ, cured meats or fish – all of these are cases when you could toss a little bit of these flavor bombs into your cooking.
Whether you’re muddling the infused sugars into a mojito, making a simple syrup with them, or simply adding them to your tea or coffee – infused sugars do especially well in beverages.
Making an excellent well-balanced beverage is often about aroma – so using aromatic infused sugars can make a huge difference in your cocktail & mocktail game.
All of these infused sugars will be used in an upcoming DIY Gin Bar post that I can’t wait to get to. In the meantime though, cheers!