Toasted Sugar is a great way to add flavor to your favorite baked goods. By gently baking granulated sugar, it develops a unique caramelized flavor that lends itself well to cookies, cakes, and more.
Toasted Sugar is really easy to make but does take time. However, if you have the time, it’s totally worth it for the flavor complexity it adds to your favorite recipes! I recommend toasting a 4-pound bag all at once and then storing it in the pantry until ready to use.
We like to use this toasted sugar in desserts like our Levain Copycat Cookies, mixing it with cinnamon to coat our Churros with, or adding it to coffee! This method really is a fun and easy way for home bakers to add complex flavor to recipes without spending a fortune on specialty flavorings and products.
Sugar Doesn’t Melt. Wait… What?
Did you know that sugar doesn’t actually melt? It goes through thermal decomposition when it reaches a temperature of around 365 degrees F. But with this granulated caramel recipe, we won’t even get that far. This sugar is baked at a lower heat over a long period of time to begin the caramelization process, which leaves us with granulated sugar that tastes like caramel and can be used as a one-for-one substitute for plain sugar!
With this method, you’re not creating brown sugar (which is essentially granulated sugar and molasses), and you’re not making turbinado or demerara sugar, as those are raw and partially refined sugars. This is simply white granulated sugar that has been toasted to a light beige or golden brown color, which allows for a caramel flavor. Its texture doesn’t change, and it’s perfect for using in recipes like shortbread cookies, cakes, and brownies.
You can read the whole scientific explanation by Stella Parks behind it if you want, but I’m including a basic guide for how to make it that won’t feel overwhelming!
How To Make Toasted Sugar (step-by-step)
You’ll need to use a glass or ceramic baking dish as metal will get too hot and risk burning the sugar along the edges and bottom. I found that using two baking dishes works best because it was easier to stir.
So, grab two baking dishes and divide the bag of white sugar between the two, and spread it around so it’s in a relatively even layer. Bake for 1 hour on a middle oven rack, then whisk or stir the sugar around, making sure to move the sugar near the edges into the center and the sugar in the center out to the edges. Bake for two more hours, stirring the sugar every 30 minutes.
Stirring is extremely important when toasting sugar to ensure that that steam doesn’t get trapped in the sugar. The moisture can cause the sugar to clump.
You can bake for an additional hour or two but stir every 15 minutes. We prefer sugar that has been toasted for 3 hours.
Once it’s done, transfer the sugar to a large rimmed baking pan and spread it out. Stir often to make sure that the steam can release and prevent clumping.
Once the sugar is at room temperature, you can sift it into a bowl. The clumps of sugar that don’t sift can be run through the food processor on quick pulses to break up the clumps. Transfer the sugar to an airtight container to store for later use.
Hour By Hour
Let’s take a look at the process hour by hour.
You can see that after just 1 hour, the sugar is no longer white, but it’s really toasted yet, either.
By 2 hours in, you start to get the light beige color.
By 3 hours in, you have a nice golden color and a lovely caramel taste. This is our favorite to use.
By 4 hours, the color really starts to deepen, and that sugar needs to be stirred more often because clumping is more likely to occur.
Toasted Sugar FAQs
What If My Sugar Sticks To The Bottom Of The Pan?
It will stick if you don’t stir it often enough or if your oven is too hot. But it’s okay! When done baking, salvage what’s there by pouring the loose sugar onto the baking sheet to cool but leave all the stuck sugar in the pan. Once the pan has cooled, go ahead and wash it out.
Some Of My Sugar Is Sticky, What Do I Do?
This can happen in the corners where the sugar is likely to get the hottest. Don’t worry too much if this happens; just make sure to stir well and transfer any salvageable sugar to the baking sheet and clean the baking dish well after cooling.
Can I Use This Toasted Sugar 1:1 for Brown Sugar?
Not in all recipes, as there are different acid levels in brown sugar and granulated sugar. Remember, this is just toasted granulated sugar. So it will not work as an even substitution and deliver the results expected when using brown sugar.
How To Make Toasted Sugar
- 2 large cremaic or glass baking dishes
- rimmed half sheet baking pan
- 4 pounds granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven to 300°F and divide the sugar between two ceramic or glass baking dishes.4 pounds granulated sugar
- Bake for 1 hour, then whisk, making sure to get into the edges and corners of the dish to move the sugar around.
- Bake for 2 additional hours, whisking the sugar every 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a large rimmed half-sheet baking pan and whisk every 15 to 30 minutes to remove steam until it cools to room temperature.
- Sift the sugar into a bowl and then transfer to an air-tight container and store it in a cool, dry area.
- Use as a 1:1 replacement for granulated sugar.
- Sugar can be toasted for up to 6 or 7 hours, but you must stir much more often to prevent decomposition and clumping.
- What if my sugar sticks to the bottom of the pan? It will stick if you don’t stir it often enough or if your oven is too hot. But it’s okay! When done baking, salvage what’s there by pouring the loose sugar onto the baking sheet to cool but leave all the stuck sugar in the pan. Once the pan has cooled, go ahead and wash it out.
- Some of my sugar is sticky; what do I do? This can happen in the corners where the sugar is likely to get the hottest. Don’t worry too much if this happens; just make sure to stir well and transfer any salvageable sugar to the baking sheet and clean the baking dish well after cooling.
- Can I use this toasted sugar 1:1 for brown sugar? Not in all recipes, as there are different acid levels in brown sugar and granulated sugar. Remember, this is just toasted granulated sugar. So it will not work as an even substitution and deliver the results expected when using brown sugar.