Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Most Elegant Sugar Cube

Once, when I was a kid, my mom returned home from dinner out with my dad with an awesome treat: a wrapped white sugar cube. I don't think I'd ever seen a sugar cube before, much less one wrapped like a tiny present. I was smitten. Ever since I've been fond of the sugar cube.

While I use white granulated sugar for baking, the sugar that goes in my coffee is the raw variety. I keep two kinds - Sugar in the Raw, a granulated raw sugar for everyday use and La Perruche sugar cubes for entertaining or for mornings when having a sugar cube in my coffee is what I need to start my day off with a smile. (Shopping tip: Sugar in the Raw is priced well at Target. La Perruche is a specialty item I pick up at Treasure Island and Whole Foods.)

La Perruche cubes are rustic, elegant and great-tasting. They dissolve pretty quickly in hot coffee. Mainly, I love them for their playful sophistication. In case you're curious about the tongs pictured here, they are vintage sterling silver sugar tongs I acquired off eBay a few years ago. They're about 3-inches long and adorable.

Raw sugar is closer to the cane than white sugar, the latter having been bleached, filtered and exposed to various chemical agents to make it recognizable as we know it. Raw sugar is not the same as brown sugar which has been through all that same bleaching and refining, only to have molasses added back it at the end. I keep brown sugar in good supply but it is an abomination similar to the enriched white flour. "Enriched" is a just a nice way of saying that vitamins were added back to the flour after the refining process destroyed the grain's natural nutrients. I shouldn't shake my fist too hard at the sugar industry; until I develop cookie and toffee recipes that use unrefined product I'm going to be a part of the problem.

Anyway, back to raw sugar. Its brownish color comes from not having been bleached or stripped of every trace of molasses. On the tongue, raw sugar is more syrupy than white sugar, but it usually (depending on the degree to which its refined) doesn't have an overwhelming flavor. Both Sugar in the Raw and La Perruche are very mild flavored.

Having these sugar cubes on hand adds a very nice touch to coffee service.And when you use them you're one lump closer to the cane. It's not a man-on-the-moon step forward, but every lump counts, right??


Anonymous said...

I love these too, I was wondering if there is a way to make them at home from raw sugar.

Katie Fairbank said...

first, thanks for visiting. :) and second, how funny is the internet. or, how funny are the people who USE the internet? to research your question - how do i make sugar cubes? - i entered that phrase into my google search bar, and giggled at the common queries (how do i: know if i'm pregnant; find out my IP address; hide my friends on myspace).

as for sugar cubes, it seems to be a reasonably easy task. Moisten sugar, press into a mini ice cube tray (prob the hardest part will be FINDING a mini tray), and let dry. here's the site:

Polytopal said...

If you like delicious raw sugars, you might try Piloncillo, though it is processed somewhat. It's commonly made in cast iron pots by locals depending on where you live, it's absolutely wonderful. Boiling sugarcane, distilling it somewhat (leaving the contents un-separated though, as in, no filtering, the canes are however, removed), then drying into a soft brick. Break off pieces and use them in cooking and coffee/tea, viola, the most rich cane sugary/molasses flavor you could imagine!