I am all about making baked goods and desserts taste that little bit more interesting, be it by playing around with different flavours (bonus points if I can use pantry staples like orange blossom water, toasted sesame seed oil or dried spices or spice mixes like Chinese five spice powder), or adding a finishing touch with an interesting twist like a nice glaze (e.g. with Sumac or Kinako) or dusting whatever I just made with a flavoured sugar – we all know how difficult it is to resist a sugar-dusted jam doughnut, the sugar adding not just sweetness and crunch but also stickiness to the otherwise rich yet plain doughnut dough, making it fingerlicking good.
But what is even more fun than dusting baked or fried things with plain sugar (like for these Gibassiers which get brushed with butter after baking and then get rolled in plain sugar), is using flavoured sugars to do the same thing. This can be done to amplify a flavour (like in the case of these Italian Ciambelline al vino where anise seed is used both in the dough of these olive oil and white wine cookies but also in the sugar used to roll the cookies in) or to introduce an additional flavour (like in the case of these Banana fritters which, once fried, get rolled in a Garam masala spiced sugar mix). So today I wanted to share some ideas with you for different flavoured sugars and how to use them.
You are probably already familiar with the idea of rolling Morning Buns or Cinnamon Rolls in cinnamon sugar but there are many different options for creating flavoured sugars for all manner of pastries, cookies, fried doughs etc. In fact, you can even create flavoured sugars using fresh herbs like basil or mint or verveine and use it to scatter over fresh fruits.
Rule of thumb: use around 1 tsp ground spice per 100g sugar. When it comes to things like fresh herbs, citrus zest etc. you have to play around a little bit – different types of herbs will vary in intensity, so best so start with a few leaves and pulse them together with part of the sugar in a food processor (so you don’t turn it all into powdered sugar) and then adjust by adding more leaves if necessary.
Here are some ideas for different flavoured sugars and how to use them:
Single spices and spice mixes: When it comes to single spices, why not try one of the following to make a flavoured sugar: sumac for a sherbet like tang (I can imagine it working well and looking beautiful on a Pavlova with sourcherries); tonka bean in places where you might otherwise use vanilla sugar (or maybe adding a generous pinch of sea salt flakes to your vanilla sugar for a bit of a twist); cardamom, coriander (which would work even better if mixed with some lemon or orange zest), cloves, anise seed (which works beautifully with baked or fried goods flavoured with citrus zests and/or orange blossom water) etc. When it comes to spice mixes, depending on where you live, pumpkin spice, gingerbread spice, pain d’epices, four spice mix or Lebkuchen-spice all work beautifully with anything involving root vegetables, chocolate and fruits like plums and cherries. But beyond that I also love using Chinese five spice mix, or ras el hanout for similar dishes.
Fresh herbs: When it comes to fresh herbs, basil, mint, verveine and tarragon for example are all great to use with fresh fruits or to scatter over things like panna cotta or mousse to add some crunch and extra flavour. E.g. a tarragon sugar would work beautifully alongside some poached rhubarb and pannacotta. And a basil sugar would be amazing with some fresh loquats or cantaloupe melon. Note that these won’t keep very long so are best made fresh and used immediately. If you have some kaffir lime leaves to hand, try pulsing a couple of leaves with some sugar and maybe scatter over a rice pudding made with coconut milk and a pinch of salt for something a little different.
Some other ideas: You could also try a sweet version of Japanese Gomasio, where toasted sesame seeds are ground with salt and instead use a mix of sugar and ground sesame seeds which I could imagine working well with silken tofu and syrupy candied kumquats as an unusual but simple and not overly sweet dessert with a slight nod to Tau Foo Fah (a Chinese Tofu Custard my friend Michelle introduced me to). And here is one of my favourite flavoured sugars: Miso Sugar. I picked up this idea from Bon Appetit a few years back and am always glad when I remember this – below are the instructions for how to make this. You can use this to scatter over French Toast as shown in the first image in this post, roll some doughnuts in after frying or add some sweet and salty crunch, for example to a simple vanilla custard.
2 tsp white miso
Ideally make this a day or two before you want to use this so the sugar has time to dry out.
In a food processor pulse 150g sugar with 2 teaspoons white miso until well combined and the sugar is an even light brown colour. Spread out on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and set aside to dry.
Once dry, and if the sugar seems a bit clumped together, just pulse the sugar a few times in a food processor. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.