A timely sale at the supermarket recently had me forgoing granulated white sugar in favor of the caramel-colored raw kind. But it was only after I'd begun using it in everything from agrodolce sauce to cocktails that I realized I didn't truly know what turbinado sugar really is. Is it brown sugar? Or simply a less processed version of the white stuff?
A little digging revealed that the answer is, in some respects, yes to both. Raw sugar — sometimes known as turbinado or demerara sugar — is a not-so-refined version of its white counterpart.
Sugar is made from the heated juice of crushed sugarcane, which contains both sugar crystals as well as dark molasses. The two are separated in a centrifuge; what remains is granulated white sugar. To achieve brown sugar, some of the molasses is added back into the granulated white.
Unlike standard granulated white sugar, which is rid of all impurities, raw sugar maintains a certain level of molasses, which, in essence, makes it a sort-of brown sugar lite, with caramelly and coffee-like flavor qualities. But don't go too crazy with it: even though it's slightly less refined, there's no proven health benefit to eating raw sugar over its refined counterpart.
Source: Flickr User Pen Waggener