Pearl sugar is a decorative sugar that consists of irregularly shaped lumps or fragments of sugar. It can range in size from small crystals the size of pretzel salt to large peas. It’s also known as nib sugar or hail sugar because it resembles hailstones. Pearl sugar is popular in Europe, particularly in Scandinavia, Belgium, and the Netherlands, where it is used as a decorating sugar and an ingredient in cakes and waffles.
There are two methods for producing pearl sugar. The most common method is to boil white sugar in a water solution, allowing the resulting syrup to form large sugar crystals over several days. The large crystals are then broken up into fragments, sorted by size using a series of screens.
Another method for making pearl sugar is to combine finely ground sugar with a small amount of water to make a dough-like paste. It is then pressed through an extruder to form individual pearl sugar pieces, which are dried and packaged.
Swedish pearl sugar is smaller and used primarily as a garnish or decorative topping for baked goods, adding sweetness and crunch. Belgian pearl sugar comprises larger fragments that are frequently mixed into doughs and batters to add sweetness and crunch to the insides of baked goods rather than just on top. Belgian sugar waffles contain pearl sugar fragments that melt and caramelize in the waffle iron before hardening when the waffle is served.
Top Substitutes for Pearl Sugar
1. Sanding Sugar
Sanding sugar, like pearl sugar, is essentially the same as refined white sugar but with larger granules. Sanding sugar has the same properties as pearl sugar, such as decoration, crunch, and sweetness. The grains of sanding sugar are shinier and more translucent than the pearl sugar’s matte surface and opacity.
Sanding sugar is available in a variety of colors. We can use sanding sugar in most pastries and baked goods that call for pearl sugar. The appearance may differ slightly, but the texture and flavor will be similar.
2. Sugar Cubes
As the name implies, Sugar cubes are compacted blocks of refined white sugar. Sugar cubes, made of the same material as pearl sugar, can play a similar role in some baked goods. Sugar cubes can be used as a topping for cinnamon buns and other items traditionally topped with pearl sugar. To achieve the desired consistency, gently crush the sugar cubes.
Sugar cubes are not a good substitute for pearl sugar in baked goods where they are baked into doughs or batters, and they may dissolve, which means they will not provide the same crunch as pearl sugar. Keep in mind that sugar cubes are typically made from cane sugar. Cane sugar is slightly sweeter than beet sugar, which is used to make pearl sugar, and it lacks the earthiness and slight bitterness that beet sugar has.
3. Demerara Sugar
If you can’t find simple Demerara sugar, Turbinado sugar is a good substitute, and its large grain and caramel flavor make it an excellent replacement for pearl sugar. Turbinado sugar is a light brown with a moderate molasses content and a light caramel flavor. On the other hand, light brown sugar lacks Demerara’s distinct crunchy texture.
To make sugar pearls, first break up large chunks of sugar into small pieces. We should then place the sugar clumps in an airtight container. If you want them smaller, add half a teaspoon of water and cook them on low heat, and they could take longer to dry. After making the sugar pearls, keep them in an airtight container.
4. Swedish Sugar Pearls
Make Swedish pearl sugar to add a special touch to your favorite baked goods. Swedish pearl sugar has a similar texture to Belgian sugar and is made in smaller pieces sprinkled on baked goods before baking. They’re smaller than Belgian pearl sugar, but the main distinction is their appearance. This type of sugar is used as a garnish and topping in Swedish desserts. Despite being smaller than Belgian pearl sugar, the granules add a rich caramel flavor to sweetbreads and waffles.
Which is the Best Choice to Substitute Pearl Sugar?
Make Your Own!
Pearl sugar is made up of clumps of refined white sugar. It’s simple to make these clumps with refined white sugar and a little water. You want the sugar granules to stick together, which they tend to do when exposed to humid air for too long.
You can speed up the process by melting about a cup of sugar in a pot with about a tablespoon of water. To make small clumps, combine the sugar and water. If much of the sugar remains as loose granules, add a teaspoon of water at a time until it begins to stick together.
You should avoid adding too much so that it becomes a syrup, and you should keep a close eye on the heat and the color of your sugar because you don’t want it to caramelize.
Remove from the heat and set aside to cool once you see clumps that hold together reasonably well. Sugar clumps can be used in the same ways that pearl sugar can.
Pearl Sugar vs. Sugar Pearls
Pearl sugar is sometimes confused with sugar pearls, but the two are not the same. Sugar pearls are a decorative sugar sprinkle that resembles tiny opalescent spheres and is used as a topping on cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and other baked goods. The difference is that sugar pearls are manufactured to be perfectly round and smooth, whereas pearl sugar is irregularly shaped and rough.
What are Some Recipes you can Make with Pearl Sugar?
Let’s have a look at them.
Chouquettes are small choux puffs topped with sugar crystals. They are usually eaten plain, but you can fill them with anything you want: cream, fruit, chocolate, or whatever.
The French adore “moelleux,” or moist fondant cakes with a melting center. Grapefruit flavor pervades this mini-moelleux, and the grapefruit flavor is accentuated by combining juice, zest, and candied peel.
The texture of Liège waffles is distinct: dense with a crunch of sugar crystals. They also have a distinct shape: round and relatively small. Then there’s the unique flavor of the delectable light caramel crust.
St Tropez tart
Brioche feuilletée (flaky brioche)
Brioche feuilletée (or flaky brioche) is made by treating brioche dough like puff pastry, with layers of butter incorporated through repeated turning and rolling. Fine sugar crystals add a sweet crunch. They are extremely rich and completely irresistible.
What are Some Uses of Pearl Sugar?
Pearl sugar is used in three ways by bakers:
A sweetener: Because it is made of granulated white sugar, pearl sugar is a popular sweetener for baked goods such as brioche buns and pastries, and bakers frequently use it in addition to granulated sugar or brown sugar.
Added Texture: Pearl sugar is primarily used as a textural agent because it does not melt or incorporate into desserts like other sugars, resulting in crunchy, sweet sugar clumps that caramelize when heated. Belgian liege waffles (also known as Belgian sugar waffles or simply Belgian waffles) are a yeasted waffle brunch recipe that includes Belgian pearl sugar throughout the waffle batter and browns in the waffle iron or waffle maker for crispy, caramelized pockets of sweetness.
A decorative topper: In addition to mixing it into batters and doughs, bakers will sprinkle pearl sugar granules on top of baked goods (especially Swedish pearl sugar, which is slightly smaller and more decorative than Belgian pearl sugar).
3 Ways to Make Homemade Pearl Sugar
Home cooks can make their pearl sugar crystals in a variety of ways:
Stovetop pearl sugar: To make stovetop pearl sugar, combine sugar and water in a saucepot and heat over low heat until clumps form. This method produces small, round pieces of compacted sugar resemble professionally made pearl sugar.
Overnight pearl sugar: To make overnight pearl sugar, combine sugar and maple syrup on a plate and spread it out to dry overnight before breaking it up into smaller pieces. This method produces sharper, flatter sugar shards.
Sugar cube pearl sugar: Place store-bought sugar cubes in a sealable plastic bag and pound them with a kitchen mallet or other hard, heavy object, such as a cast-iron skillet, until the pieces break into small clumps is the quickest method for producing pearl sugar.
How to Make Stovetop Pearl Sugar?
You can make pearl sugar on the stovetop with just a few ingredients. First, you’ll need a cup of white sugar (turbinado or superfine will also work), four teaspoons of water, and any flavorings, such as vanilla extract. Here’s how to make pearl sugar step by step:
Combine all of the ingredients: In a small saucepot, combine the water and sugar, then add any flavoring that you want to include.
Adjust the temperature: Reduce the heat to low and stir the mixture frequently with a wooden spoon to encourage the formation of clumps and prevent any sugar from burning on the bottom of the pot. If clumps aren’t forming, add 14 teaspoons of water at a time.
Dry the sugar out: Allow the clumps to sit in the pot for at least 15 minutes on low heat to dry out and help them stick together, occasionally stirring to prevent burning.
Place the clumps on a plate. Turn off the heat and transfer the clumps to a plate or baking sheet to cool to room temperature and completely dry.
How to Use Pearl Sugar in Cooking?
Before baking, pearl sugar is commonly sprinkled on top of cookies. Because the fragments are so large, the heat from the oven will not melt or dissolve them. We can also sprinkle pearl sugar on iced cookies, frosted cakes, and cupcakes. When the crystals are mixed into cake, cupcake, or waffle batter, they remain intact, providing a crunchy texture and additional sweetness.
What do you Think it Tastes Like?
Pearl sugar has a sweet flavor because it is made entirely of sugar. Furthermore, because it is a decorative sugar, the crystals do not dissolve on the surface of whatever sweet treat it is sprinkled on, imparting a pleasant sugary crunch. Pearl sugar melts and caramelizes, similar to the glassy topping of a creme brulee, when cooked against the intense heat of a waffle iron, adding a crunchy texture and a caramel flavor.
Where can I Buy Pearl Sugar?
Pearl sugar is not widely available in most North American supermarkets, but it may be available in specialty food and cooking stores. If you live near an Ikea, you may be able to find it in the food section, and it is also available online.
How do you Store Pearl Sugar?
Because sugar does not spoil, the shelf life of pearl sugar is practically infinite. On the other hand, Moisture can cause the quality to deteriorate over time. As a result, it’s best to keep it tightly sealed and in a cool, dry place. It will last for years if stored in this manner.
Pearl sugar is made from granulated white sugar and is commonly used in baking. The smaller pieces remain in the baked goods, giving them a crunchy finish. Many people, however, do not have access to pearl sugar because it is not very sweet. There are numerous ways to substitute Swedish pearl sugar. You have two options: cook it at home or dry it in a resealable plastic bag. You’ll have a sweet and tasty baked treat either way!
So, these are all the substitutes for pearl sugar. Hope you have found this article helpful and useful. Either you can use any of them or make your own; the Choice is Yours!