Sugar Talk Sugar Talk
How is sugar used over the holiday season?
From Thanksgiving pecan pie to Hanukkah doughnuts, the winter is a period full of festivity and sweet treats. For this week’s blog, we’ve looked at how sugar is used in just a few of the season’s celebrations.
Thanksgiving is known for being celebrated across the United States of America (USA) and Canada, and often best represented by the image of a dining table full of food.
Sweet potato casserole is made using soft brown light sugar to emphasise the flavours of the potato, rather than overpower them. If that wasn’t sweet enough, the casserole is then covered with marshmallow, made with white sugar, and baked to ensure a crispy, toasted top. Pecan pie uses soft brown light sugar and golden syrup to give a sticky, sweet consistency that holds together when cut into slices for guests.
Hanukkah is a Jewish festival, celebrated to commemorate the victory and rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after a battle against a formidable enemy.
One of the most popular Hanukkah foods is doughnuts, known as Sufganiyah. They are made using white sugar which ensures their light and fluffy texture by feeding the yeast in the dough. Their crisp outer layer is enhanced by a layer of white sugar and they are often filled with jams, made from coarse, white sugar, ensuring they are a deliciously sweet treat.
The winter solstice marks the day with the shortest period of sunlight and the longest night. It has long been a significant day for many cultures, marking the end of the lengthening nights and the beginning of the ‘rebirth’ of the sun.
A contemporary alternative to this fire is the edible, chocolate Yule log, which is a long, rolled, chocolate cake decorated to have a wooden texture. Its recipe uses light cane muscovado sugar which adds colour and flavour, with the fine texture ensuring the sponge has volume but is still able to be rolled.
This Hindu Family Festival of Giving spreads joy and harmony across family, friends, associates, culture and religion, taking place over 5 days and used to make amends and forgive. Each day a tray of sweet is prepared and offered to Lord Ganapati, Lord of culture and new beginnings. These sweets are also eaten at gatherings, outings and feasts that take place across the five days.
One of the traditional Indian sweets that is prepared and eaten at this time, and many others, is Gulab Jamun. This is made by frying small balls of khoya and flour and then serving them soaking in liquid sugar, which is often flavoured with saffron.
A Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus, this tradition has been adopted by much of the world as a time for family, gifts and food.
Warm, homemade drinks are popular at Christmas, with golden granulated sugar used to subtly sweeten egg nog, and dark soft brown sugar used to bring out the spices in mulled wine. It wouldn’t be Christmas without the traditional pudding, which provides a fiery spectacle, as well as a filling dessert. Christmas pudding is filled with fresh and dried fruit, all brought together and sweetened by dark cane muscovado sugar, with the well-known stickiness coming from black treacle.
Japanese New Year
New Year is regarded as one of the most important, if not the most important, holiday in Japan. Businesses shut and families come together for several days, decorating and cleaning in preparation. A traditional drink at this time of year is Amazake, served hot or cold and often referred to as ‘winter sake’.
When made with sake lees, known as sakekasu Amazake, the drink is less sweet and requires sweetening with white sugar. Another favourite at this time of year is a Japanese rice cake called mochi, a savoury snack or sweetened with fillings made with white sugar.