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Artisan Chocolates
  • Writer's pictureBoyana Ivanova

The role of sugar in our chocolate filings

Sugar plays an important role in both the flavour and structure of confectionery, which is why it is important to have a basic understanding of technical sugars and how they interact in a recipe.

What is “sugar” and which are the most common sugars in pastry?
Simply explained, sugar is a form of carbohydrate that contains carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules. When carbohydrates are consumed, they are digested and broken down to glucose, which is used as energy source for our cells. They are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.
The main sugar we use in our kitchens is sucrose (table sugar), which is composed of two sugars (glucose and fructose). It is extracted with water from sugar cane and sugar beet. The juice is then purified, filtered and concentrated to syrup from which sucrose is crystallised and dried. The dark residual syrup is molasses. The brown sugar is simply a sucrose that contains some of the molasses, which gives the characteristic flavour and colour.
But let’s be honest- sucrose is not a good sugar to use in our filling as it tend to re-crystallised (affecting the texture of your fillings) and it is not as good as other sugars in retaining water. So, how we made a smooth caramel? – you may ask. The answer is by combining the sucrose with other types of sugars that do not want to crystallise.
Examples of sugars I use to prevent crystallisation and improve the shelf life of my fillings are:
- Glucose
- Invert sugar
- Fructose
- Dextrose
- Sorbitol
- Maltitol
- Honey


Technical properties of sugars: SWEETNESS
The primary functions of sugar in food products are to provide sweetness. Who does not love sweet flavour? Our inherent affinity for sweetness may be explained by the fact that sweet is the first taste we encounter through the breast milk and, second, the sweet products in the nature are rarely poisonous.
Okay, but too sweet is not considered good. In fact, sometimes adding too much of a sugar results in a bitter taste. So, how we know which sugars to use and what quantity?
Sugars have different sweetening powers. To understand this, we consider the sucrose (table sugar) as benchmark with “100” sweetening power and we compare the sweetening powers of other sugars.


​Type of sugar

Sweetening power

​Sucrose

1

Glucose

0.74- 0.8

Invert sugar

1.20

Sorbitol

0.6

​Dextrose

0.7

Fructose

1.17-1.75



When creating a recipe for chocolate filling, it is recommended to reach between 25-30% sugar content in order to have a stable shelf life. However, imagine using only invert sugar in your recipe, especially if the water content in the recipe is higher and you need to increase the sugar content. You will end up with a filing that is way too sweet. We can avoid this by combining sugars with different sweetening powers. For example, in my recipe for coffee ganache I use a combination of glucose, invert sugar and sorbitol. I need to increase the sugar content because the ganache is based on water (black coffee) but I don’t want it to be too sweet or too bitter. In that case, using sorbitol will allow me to keep the sweetness and water activity down. That`s why I replaced some of the glucose and invert sugar with significantly less sweet sugar- sorbitol. VOILA- now I have a balanced ganache with just enough sweetness and low water activity.

Technical properties of sugars: TASTE AND AROMA
Sugar is a flavour enhancer. The sweetness makes the components of your fillings taste more (think about fresh strawberries and when you add sugar to them. Taste and sell different, doesn’t it?). Sugar is also used to balance the taste of your ganache, especially when you work with bitter products, such as citrus.
One thing that I highly admire the sugar is its ability to bring my filling different flavours through its ability to caramelise. Imagine making a praline with just white sugar. It will still taste good but we all know that the caramel enhances the nutty flavour and gives more depths to the recipe. It`s the same with caramel ganaches. Honestly speaking, I love making caramel cream to use in my ganache recipes as it improves not only the flavour of the ganache (especially dark chocolate ganache) but the texture as well, which leads to our next point....

Technical properties of sugars: TEXTURE
Sugar is soo versatile. It can gives your fillings a crunchy texture (dry caramel), chewy texture (toffee) or smooth, silky finish (like in ganaches). Sugar is probably the best texturizer. Sugar`s ability to gel when combined with pectin is essential for the smooth, elastic consistency of my fruit gels.
The more sugar you have in your filling the smoother and silkier texture you will end up with. Example for this statement is the caramel ganache. To avoid confusion, by “caramel ganache” I mean a filing that has 50/50 caramel and ganache characteristics, and not a ganache made with caramelised white chocolate. The caramel ganaches are made the same way as caramel but the ration sugar:liquid in different and it can take more chocolate without getting oversaturated.
So, why the texture of caramel ganaches is softer and smoother than that of a normal ganache? Well, in the normal ganache making the main texturizer is the milk fats, which are saturated and, therefore, in a hard form at room temperature. In the caramel ganache, on the other hand, the main texturiser is the sugar that will stay in the form we want it to stay (in our case, we want it to stay in a liquid form).

Technical properties of sugars: SHELF LIFE
Sugar is the key player in your filling`s shelf life!!!
Microorganisms need water in order to grow. They can only live in ”free” water meaning that the lower the water activity in your filing, the less potential for bacterial growth and the longer shelf life.
Sugar has the ability to bind water, which is the reason why sugar is soo valuable for the shelf life of your products. The more sugar your filing contains the longer the shelf life. Take glucose for example. It is a mixture of 80% sugar and 20% water but the water is so well bound that there is not any water available for the organisms to thrive. Is the same with the caramels- the sugar content is soo high in caramels that barely any water is left for the microorganisms. In comparison, a ganache has less sugar content, therefore, more free water leading to shorter shelf life compared to caramel.

But again, be careful with the amount of sugar you use as it may completely destroy the taste of your filing!!!!

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