Dusting baked goods with confectioners' sugar can instantly elevate their appeal, but only if the snowy coating doesn’t vanish. This disappearing act can happen when you don’t allow the item to cool completely before dusting it, but it can also occur with treats that are particularly moist. That’s because sugar is hygroscopic, meaning it has a strong tendency to bind with water. As it traps water from both the baked good and the air, the confectioners' sugar dissolves, becoming more and more transparent.
Even chunkier turbinado sugar sprinkled over muffins, sweet breads, and other sweets is prone to a meltdown; over time, as the crystals pull moisture from baked goods, they shrink to just a portion of their original size, sometimes even leaving little pools of wetness in their wake.
Luckily, the following two sugars can banish these problems.
Nonmelting Confectioners' Sugar
Also called snow sugar or doughnut sugar, this finely powdered sweetener, which is slightly less sweet than the traditional stuff, is made with dextrose and a vegetable fat or oil, which forms a barrier that keeps the water and sugar separate. (It also contains an anticaking agent, often cornstarch, to help prevent clumping.) That means when you apply the sugar to treats such as flourless chocolate cake, lemon bars, pastries, and cookies, they will retain their snowy coating right up until you’re ready to eat them.
Swedish Pearl Sugar (Pärlsocker)
These crunchy “pearls” are a popular finishing touch on Northern European desserts, including the Swedish cinnamon buns called kanelbullar. The nuggets are made by compressing sugar crystals into larger, round particles; their limited surface area to volume means they won’t melt in the oven and will maintain their shape during storage. (Don’t confuse them with Belgian pearl sugar, which features larger crystals and is used almost exclusively in Belgian Liège waffles.) Use them to add sweetness, crunch, and pops of white anywhere you might use turbinado sugar: muffins, cookies, sticky buns, and sweet quick breads.
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