Every time I read a recipe that calls for super fine sugar or granulated sugar, I wonder if there is a difference and if so what is it? Did you ever read the "Little House on the Prairie" books where they talk about chipping the sugar off a loaf, then pounding it into pieces so they can use it? I did. I assumed they would pound it until it was the desired type of sugar but now a days, the sugar comes ready to go.
It turns out that the classification of the sugar is based on the size of the crystals. Some sugars are only used by bakeries or stores while others are available to the public.
Regular sugar, the type you have at home in your sugar bowl, is general sold in the store. It might be labeled as extra fine or fine but these crystals will not cake and is used in most recipes calling for sugar. Then is a fruit sugar whose crystals are finer than regular sugar and more uniform in size. You are likely to find it in gelatin and pudding mixes. The uniformity of crystals keep them in the mix better and most crystals do not settle out which is extremely important in these mixes.
Bakers special sugar is even finer than fruit sugar and was developed to be used in the baking industry. It is used on doughnuts, cookies and often makes a crumblier cake due to its fineness. Then is superfine, bar sugar, or ultrafine sugar has the smallest crystal sizes. This is often used in meringues, and drinks where you want the sugar to dissolve quickly. In England, it is similar to Caster sugar.
From here, we move to powdered sugar which is regular sugar that has been ground to a powder that is then sifted with a bit of cornstarch added to prevent caking. Sugar is ground into three different finenesses. The finest is 10X which is found in the supermarket and used in icings, etc. The other two are used only in the baking industry. I discovered my shortbread turns out better when I use powdered sugar rather than the regular sugar.
Last is the course sugar and sanding sugar which have much larger crystals than the others. Course sugar is used in fondants, confections and liqueurs while sanding sugar is used in the baking industry as sprinkle on baked goods.
As for brown sugar, there are a few types. First off is turbinado which is a partially processed raw sugar which has had only the surface molasses rinsed off. It has a lighter color and a mild brown sugar flavor. It is good in tea and other beverages. Next is evaporated cane juice which has been filtered, crystalized and cured. It has a light brown sugar flavor.
Both light and dark brown sugar retains some of the surface molasses. Both are used in an assortment of ways from glazes to candy and both sugar clump due to the higher moisture than white sugar. If you find Muscovado or Barbados sugar, it is a much darker and sticker brown sugar than the normal variety.
These are the major sugars out there. I left out a few but still I didn't know there were so many and I learned quite a lot. I hope you learned something from reading this.