Beet sugar vs cane sugar - live and learn!

Here's a quick tip - pay attention to what the granulated sugar package in your grocery store aisle tells you!  If it doesn't specify CANE sugar it's most likely BEET and, it turns out, the two can behave very differently.

I thought I was quite attentive to that little detail when buying sugar at my local MEIJER store, but, just the other day I realized that their largest line of granulated sugar is actually beet sugar.  Heretofore I don't recall that was actually printed on the bag - but now it is.  Turns out the purple and white Meijer brand bags of granulated sugar are actually beet sugar, while the green and white bags clearly state CANE sugar.

Why am I bringing this up, you might ask?

Since we've been living in Grand Rapids MI I've made a couple of batches of my favorite caramel sauce, a staple I always like to have on hand in my fridge and a recipe I've made many, many times. While it appeared that the sugar cooking process proceeded normally to the medium-dark amber stage, once I added my cream, a little butter and a good pinch of vanilla fleur de sel and chilled the caramel in the fridge, weird things started happening.

The caramel turned a paler tan color and had chunks (and I mean CHUNKS) of crystallized sugar in it - not a pretty picture!  I had to warm it up to try and dissolve the chunks or strain them out, but the stuff still was not the same as my usual deep brown, rich, tasty caramel sauce.

So I finally went on line and found my answer - beet sugar caramelizes differently.  I won't go into the various scientific explanations, but, suffice it to say, I learned my lesson.  I'll be sure to pay very close attention to the sugar package labeling from now on.

what a difference!

I should note that you shouldn't be too concerned about beet vs. cane when doing every day baking like many cookies, brownies, quick breads and more, for many folks won't notice any difference in flavor.  In fact, I made a batch of Steve's favorite brownies just the other day, using the (at the time unrecognized) beet sugar, and they came out just fine and dandy!

FYI - two cane sugar brands available here in GR are Domino and C&H.

So here's to paying attention to the little things!