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March 16, 2008

Demerara sugar (Recipe: cherry pistachio cookies)

Demerara1

How do you know when you're losing your grip?

You find five -- five -- bottles of vinegar in the pantry. Five bottles identical in size, shape and color. You can't remember the last time you used vinegar for anything except pickles, yet you keep buying more.

At the same time, you find none -- zero, zip, nada -- of your favorite chili paste with garlic.

And then you find demerara sugar.

You have no idea when this sugar arrived, or by what mode of transport, yet it looks quite at home, having graduated from temporary housing (bag or box) to permanent accommodation (recycled grated cheese jar... hmmmm, where did that come from? You really are losing your grip.).

You just have one question. Well, two questions:

What is it, and what can I do with it?

Demerara sugar is an unrefined, large-crystal brown sugar, extracted from sugar cane rather than sugar beets. Named after a colony in Guyana, which first began producing and selling the sugar in large volume, most demerara sugar now comes from Mauritius, where it is made by pressing the sugar cane, and then steaming the juice of the first pressing to form thick cane syrup. The cane syrup is allowed to dehydrate, leaving behind large golden brown crystals of sugar.

The sugar has a rich molasses-like flavor which enhances baked goods. And, like a sweet counterpart to sea salt, the large crystals also remain crunchy, which makes this sugar a good choice for sprinkling, topping and coating.

Demerara adds texture and a creamy sweetness to banana-coconut bread, citrus sables, peach cobbler, ginger-pecan biscotti, rhubarb crumble cake, and apple-buttermilk scones.

If you spy some demerara sugar in your pantry, don't be surprised to find turbinado and muscovado, too. All three of these unrefined "specialty" sugars, once available only at gourmet and baking supply stores, are now easy to find in supermarkets everywhere, including the one in my small town in Rhode Island.

Cherry pistachio cookies

My friend Cindy Salvato, an executive pastry chef, shared this recipe for cookies that have all the colors of the Italian flag. Makes 6 dozen.

Ingredients

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, separated
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
1 8-oz container glazed red cherries

Directions

In a large bowl of an electric mixture, cream together the butter, sugar and salt. Beat in the egg yolk; mix well. Cover and refrigerate the egg white for finishing the cookies. Add the flour and nuts; blend on low speed until just combined. Remove from the mixer and with a strong spoon, or your hands, mix in the cherries. Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a log about 10-inches long; wrap in plastic and chill over night.

To finish the cookies:

1/3 cup demerara sugar

Adjust the oven rack to the center shelf and preheat to 350°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with a Silpat; set aside. Pour the sugar onto a piece of wax paper or aluminum foil. Lightly brush the egg white over the surface of the log; press and roll the log into the coarse sugar; transfer to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife slice the log in 1/2-inch slices; transfer to the cookie sheet and bake 12-15 minutes. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container or freeze.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Ted's Very Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies
Honey-gingerbread cookies
Drop In & Decorate sugar cookies
Raisin banana scones
Irish soda bread

Comments

Lydia, is this similar to Sugar in the Raw, or a different product. I've got plenty of Sugar in the Raw that I need to use up ...

TW, great question. Sugar in the Raw is turbinado sugar, which is similar to demerara but, I believe, smaller crystals that will dissolve more quickly. You can substitute Sugar in the Raw for granulated sugar in equal proportions. Demerara will remain chunkier, and if substituted one-for-one for granulated sugar, will give a more dry and crunchy result.

I'm laughing because just yesterday I came home with a bottle of Tamari from the store, only to find a full unopened one in the pantry.

Five bottles, it the kind of thing I'd do, I get extra confused because I do my Mum's shopping as well as my own!!

LOL! I have 2 or 3 bottles of vinegar.

The cherry pistachio cookies sound terrific.

Paz

I always have at least 5 different vinegars in my pantry... Plus the plain one for pickles.
No Demerara, though, hmmm....

About a year ago I ordered almonds for my store, but got sent demerara sugar instead -- 55 pounds of it! I was intrigued, read about it, read about Mauritius, found Sweet Temptations blog... It's my sugar of choice now when "real" sugar is called for. It's used in Britain, Ireland, etc. for tea, I believe; also a natural for our chai masala mixes. Mmm, time to look for surprises in my pantry.

How well would demerara sugar work for carmelizing the top of creme brulee? I was curious if it would dissolve well with a culinary torch, but remain a bit crunchy under heat, versus traditional sugars which would give a smoother, glassy surface?

Five bottles of vinegar? Try seven bottles of fish sauce ! It becomes a habit to toss one in the grocery cart every time we're at the Asian market. We never eat use it fast enough to even have 2 back up bottles.
I was just thinking the same as Sandie. It would be nice to try a different sugar to caramelize atop creme brulee! The molasses notes on it sound even better.

I love demera sugar especially in my coffee. I don't plan on purchasing regular refined sugar again!

N.

http://badhuman.wordpress.com

Kalyn, Kelly-Jane, Paz, Katie: thank you -- that does make me feel better! I always feel like a complete space shot when I come home to find that once again I've bought something I already have, but I've forgotten the thing I meant to get.

Susan, my goodness, 55 pounds?! That would be a lifetime supply for me.

Sandie, I honestly don't know the answer, so you'll have to experiment and report to us. Seems to me that, because the sugar won't melt quite as quickly, the top could burn in some spots while not melting in others. Readers, can you help?

WORC, okay, multiple bottles of fish sauce is right up there with my vinegar stash! It would take me years to use that much. But nice to know I'm not the only one who shops by habit rather than paying attention to my list.

N, more and more I see large-crystal brown sugar in coffee bars, so I'm guessing you are not the only one who loves this.

I own it. I use it. Though I just discovered Date Sugar in my pantry that I don't remember buying. :)

Oooh, I discovered Demerara sugar for the first time when my family went to England and they gave us carmelized grapefruit with Demerara sugar crusted on top. It was the most heavenly thing I have ever tried. These cookies look like they might live up to that experience!!

That is the sugar that my desserts having been crying for! I'll occasionally try to finish things off with a light dusting of whatever sugar I have on hand, but those tiny crystals pale in comparison. Also, those cookies sound awesome...once I find demerara, I know the first thing I have to try...

I am the one who added Demerara sugar to the pantry. I used it for the topping for sablés - those yummy french cookies. And I put it in the glass jar because it came in a bag.

I have never used demerara sugar, Lydia - those are some delicious recipes for me to start!

Peabody, now what on Earth is date sugar? I'm going to have to look that one up.

Cakespy, I'm not usually a sugar-on-grapefruit person, but the thought of a demerara crust makes me swoon.

Mike, this will give you a whole level of texture that I think you'll really love -- crunchy, like sea salt, but sweet.

Rupert, thanks for fessing up -- and for all the wonderful things I know you'll be making with this sugar. So now I have to own up to all of those vinegar bottles.

Patricia, I can just picture the beautiful cookies you make, with a little crust of this sugar....yum!

Ha! My mother did something similar-each time she went to make my grandmother's Irish Soda Bread recipe, she thought she didn't have caraway seeds and bought some more, which resulted in, you guessed it, like 5 tins of Caraway seeds! The pantry takes on a life of it's own!

My mother in law used to get teased a lot for her kitchen, because she intentionally bought copies of utensils, knowing that she never could find the so-and-such when she needed it! And now you have crunchy coarse sugar on hand for those fabulous sounding cookies.

Rebecca, I'm giggling. I have a better chance of using up my vinegar supply (at least I can wash the windows with it) than I would have with all those caraway seeds!

Callipygia, I totally understand where your mother-in-law was coming from. One of the joys (curses?) of having a large pantry is that there's room to store the multiples.

So this is the same as cane (brown) sugar. I only use cane(brown) sugar in my cooking incidentally because I just don't like the idea of refined sugar.

I love the way you introduced your story. Ahah. I too seem to sometimes lose grip when I discover untouched items in my pantry. But oddly enough, this was one of my resolutions this year! ;-) Not waste and use what I have. SO I regularly check what is in the pantry!
I too have all these sugars, and many more. Thank God for labels, especially as I butcher the English names all the time.

Sounds like our minds are on the same warped time plain with the vinegar.
The cookies sound so good.

This is the closest thing I found to the brown sugar called "cassonade" in France that grew up with. Well, at least my dad approves wen he comes visit! The cookie recipe does sound wonderful!

Tigerfish, this isn't quite the same as brown cane sugar -- it's larger crystals, and does not have molasses added (which much brown sugar does).

Bea, I'm sure you are doing amazing things with these sugars in your pantry. I, too, have resolved to put my pantry to work more this year, so I expect to discover more multiples in hiding!

MyKitchen, welcome to my world...the world of not always being able to trust my memory at the market....

Tartelette, I've not heard of cassonade. I will ask my sister-in-law to look for this while she's spending the year in Paris.

Oh wow I didn't know there was a difference between muscovado, turbinado, and demerara sugars. Learn something new everyday! Thank you Lydia!

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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