What Is Pearl Sugar And How Do You Use It?

When it comes to baking, the type of sugar you use can make a difference in the flavor, texture, and even crunchiness of your creations. After all — baking is essentially chemistry (via Sciencing).

Pearl sugar (also known as nib sugar) is a white specialty sugar commonly used in Scandinavia and in Europe, according to PureWow. Typically, it's used for baked desserts, such as breads, cakes, cookies, and pastries, and is prized for its ability to stay intact in the oven. Cook's Illustrated says, "pearl sugar is made by compressing sugar crystals to form larger, round particles that won't dissolve in baked goods." This quality makes the ingredient excellent for decorating sweets. Also, since pearl sugar is special in that it won't fully melt when baked, it can offer mini pockets of caramelized texture and flavor to some of the desserts it is incorporated into.

Make your own pearl sugar at home

Spiceography explains there are actually two different types of pearl sugar, which are distinguished by the size of the granules. Swedish pearl sugar is smaller and mainly used to decorate or garnish baked treats, whereas Belgian pearl sugar is larger and can withstand higher temperatures, according to Baker Bettie. Belgian pearl sugar is an especially important ingredient in Belgian Liège waffles, because it gives these fluffy and airy treats small bits of caramelization when mixed into the batter. Spiceography shares that this is because the larger sugar pearls "melt and then quickly caramelize when exposed to the waffle iron's high heat."

Pearl sugar can be fun to incorporate into a variety of sweet recipes: "Sprinkle it on top of sweet buns, Danish pastries, and even croissants!" says Baker Bettie. If you want to add an interesting texture to things like cookies, brownies, or cinnamon rolls, the outlet suggests "sprinkling the sugar on top of the pastries before baking will add a crunchy element to the final product."

However, pearl sugar can be difficult to find in the U.S. depending on your local stores, and when you do come across it, Baker Bettie says that it's often expensive. Because of the higher price and difficulty in sourcing this sugar, many bakers opt to create their own pearl sugar instead. It's easy, affordable, and can be made using white cane sugar cubes; but be warned, PureWow says when it comes to Liège waffles, only the real deal will do.