Our pantry has a bag of granulated white sugar, of course, which we use as an all-purpose sweetener. But when we want to add a light caramel flavor along with sweetness, we use golden brown Demerara sugar. This large-grained crunchy sugar was originally produced from sugar cane grown in Demerara, now part of Guyana, in South America. The British controlled the colony in the nineteenth century and exported the sugar home. They still use it today to sweeten coffee and tea.
Don’t confuse Demerara with brown sugar, which is refined white sugar mixed with molasses. Demerara is a light brown, “raw” sugar produced from the first crystallization during processing cane juice into sugar crystals. Since Demerara is only partially refined, it retains some of its natural molasses flavor and has large dry golden crystals. It can be used as a substitute for granulated sugar in most rustic recipes.
We keep Demerara on hand to use in baked goods or to sprinkle on top of cookies or fresh strawberries. It provides the sweet crunch on our Roasted Orange Marmalade Toast (Vol. N° 6, The Grocery Store, page 108). Our friend Jeremy Lee, head chef of Blueprint Café in London, uses it to add a depth of flavor to his mum's Marmalade (Vol. N° 3, Winter & Spring, page 25) and says that it is without equal for making the caramelized top on crème brûlée.
At most grocery stores, Demerara is available in small bags in the baking aisle.