The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Mexican Brown Sugar

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mexican Brown Sugar

I recently started trying to use the molded brown sugar that can be commonly found in our local Mexican or Latin grocery stores. They seem to come in 2 or 3 sizes, the larger being 4-5 oz. each. They are dense and hard to crumble so I have been shaving some off using a chef's knife. I want to use this brown sugar in some baked goods because of the dark intense flavor it has and I think a hint of pepper heat also. I love the flavor.


Can anyone help me understand how to use this product? It seems like heating it is a slow process as it takes a while to melt in a pan of water. I would like to be able to weigh out some in dry form to add to the dough but so far I'm stumped.


Eric

proth5's picture
proth5

I presume you mean in bread doughs?


My educated guess is that you could just use the shavings, weigh them, and let them dissolve in any liquid that is in the formula.  That certainly is what was done when all sugar came in molded hard form.  Sugar "nippers" were also employed to cut off chunks of sugar which was usually pulverized by the creaming process for cakes and cookies.   A mortar and pestle would also come in handy.


We are instructed that if regular brown sugar (which I do understand is not nearly true unrefined sugar) turns into a hard lump that we should microwave it and it will temprarily soften.  Is that what you mean by "heating" it?


Another thought would be to try the old slice of bread/marshmallow/slice of apple with the sugar in a bag to soften it so that it is easier to work with.


Let us know how it works out.  I have some true unrefined sugar from Okinawa that I would like to use  - when I finally get that organized....

ehanner's picture
ehanner

This stuff is hard like a rock on the day you buy it. I suspect it is warm and moist when it is pressed into the mold. I'm hoping some one in the group that uses the product will let me know what I'm missing.


Eric

proth5's picture
proth5

See below for lots and lots of information.


But I think I was on track with chop it, shave it, or crush it (mortar and pestle being more kitchen like than a river rock...) then use.


Have fun.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Piloncillo, Mexican Brown Sugar

http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Articles/Ethnic-Unique-Foods-Ingredients-645/piloncillo.aspx


Piloncillo is an unrefined sugar from Mexico produced in "cone" shapes of various sizes.


General Information

The name piloncillo refers to the traditional cone shape in which the sugar is produced. It is also know as panela and panocha. There are actually two varieties of piloncillo produced one is lighter (blanco) and one darker (oscuro). The cone size can vary from as small as 3/4 ounce to as much as 9 ounces per cone. The cones shown in the picture above are about 3" tall.


How To Use Piloncillo

Piloncillo is very hard compared to the brown sugar you purchased in a box at the local grocer. Chop the piloncillo with a serrated knife. You can substitute piloncillo in any recipe calling for dark brown sugar.


Traditional Uses For Piloncillo

Cafe de Olla - An earthy mixture of Viennese-roast coffee, cinnamon, aniseeds, and piloncillo (Mexican dark brown sugar).

Champurrado - A special hot chocolate thickened with masa and flavored with piloncillo and aniseeds.

Piloncillo Pralines
1 1/2 C. sugar
8 to 9 oz. piloncillo, softened and chopped
1/2 C. plus 2 T. whole milk
6 T. butter
1 1/2 C. pecan pieces, toasted
1/2 tsp. ground canela (cinnamon)
2 tsp. vanilla extract


Grease a 24-inch sheet of wax paper. Set it on several thickness of newspaper.


Combine all ingredient except the vanilla extract in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil slowly so that the piloncillo melts and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 238°F.


Add vanilla extract, remove the pan from the heat, and continue stirring as the candy cools. When the mixture becomes creamy and cloudy, and the pecans remain suspended while stirring, spoon the mixture onto the wax paper. You can make pralines of any size. Work quickly, before the candy hardens in the pan. The pralines set as they cool. 


These are best the day they are made, but they will keep for several days if tightly covered. Use leftover pralines by crumbling them over ice cream. You can also pour the praline mixture into a pan and cut it like fudge.



Substitutions And Storage

Substitution


If your recipe calls for piloncillo you can substitute 1 cup dark brown sugar and a couple of teaspoons of molasses.


 


Storage


You can store piloncillo indefinitely. It should be tightly wrapped and stored in a cool, dry spot in your cupboard or pantry.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Panela

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia   (Redirected from Piloncillo) Jump to: navigation, search This article is about the unrefined sugar product. For the cheese, see Queso Panela.


Panela
Botanical Panela
Source plant(s) Sugarcane (Caña de Azucar)
Part(s) of plant Cane
Geographic origin Latin America
Uses Water of Panela
Main producers Colombia
Main consumers Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico
v • d • e

Panela is unrefined whole cane sugar, typical of Latin America, which is basically a solid piece of sucrose and fructose obtained from the boiling and evaporation of sugarcane juice.

Common Spanish names: chancaca, papelón, piloncillo, panocha, rapadura, atado dulce or empanizao. In India and Pakistan a similar product is made which is called gur or jaggery. In Brazil, it is known as rapadura.

Contents [hide]

[edit] Economics of panela

Panela is commonly sold in this form. Brazilian panela in tablets.

The main producer of panela is Colombia (about 1.4 million tons/year),[1] where panela production is one of the most important economic activities, with the highest index of panela consumption per capita worldwide. Panela is also produced in Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico,[2] Panamá, Peru, Venezuela and Bolivia. In Colombia, the panela industry is an important source of employment with about 350,000 people working in nearly 20,000 trapiches (panela farms).

[edit] Process

The sugarcane plant is processed in a large press, to obtain the juice, which is cooked at very high temperatures. The panela can be manufactured in disc-shaped pieces or in cubic pieces of cake form and is usually gold or brown in color. Besides sugar, panela also contains large amounts of proteins, calcium, iron and ascorbic acid.

[edit] Uses

The main use of the panela is in aguapanela which is one of the most widely drunk beverages in Colombia. Also it is used as a sweetener and in the preparation of desserts. Since it is a very solid block, most Colombian homes have a resistant river stone (la piedra de la panela) to break the panela into smaller, more manageable pieces.[3]

Known as piloncillo in México, it is most often seen in the shape of small truncated cones. Many Mexican desserts are made with piloncillo, such as atole, capirotada, champurrado and flan. It is also made blending different spices such as anise, cayenne or chocolate.

In Perú, chancaca is used in typical food such as "champús", "picarones", "calabaza al horno" and "mazamorra cochina". In Costa Rica, it is used in preparations such as "tapa de dulce" and "agua de sapo".

In the Philippines, panocha or in Filipinized term panutsa and its Visayan name Tam-is is traditionally used as an ingredient for "latik" and "kalamay" as well as a comfort food eaten straight.

[edit] Record

The city of Palmira, Colombia on 30 November 2009 broke the world record for the largest and heaviest panela, with one that measured 10 feet and 20 inches and weighing 715 kg. For this purpose 70 tons of sugar cane were needed, and 90 people worked for 28 consecutive hours. This panela is the equivalent at 1210 regular 510 gram panelas. The record has not yet been registered by Guinness World Records.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Looks like, maybe, a good way to pulverize it would be to chop it up as much as possible, then run it through a coffee mill.

Jane Llewellyn's picture
Jane Llewellyn

I saw someone using it for water kefir (a fermented drink) that looked great.   Healthy too.  If you want to use it though, just grate it - or use the coffee grinder as another poster commented - and substitute for sugar in your recipe.

ehanner's picture
ehanner




Here is what it looks like before smashing it 3 times hard with a carpenters hammer and after and then softly tapping to take it to crumb. It seems like the structure softens after being shocked with a river stone and becomes much more manageable.


Eric


 

audra36274's picture
audra36274

  Thanks for the demo!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Was my only choice for brown sugar.  Much smaller chunks, I think from rolling in leaves.  That looks like a dixie cup!  That brings back memories!  I would hit it like you did and also grate it with the medium size box grater.  Sometimes when hitting it it would turn liquidy.  Always got me fingers coated after holding it a while.  Bet you have something electric around that could do the job.


Great caramel taste and it can spoil you!  I would often get pieces with too many impurities and end up melting it with a little water to make a syrup thin enough to run thru a sieve.  Reheat,  to 180°F and pour into hot jars to seal or cool and pour into honey bear.  Reheating after sieving prevents fermentation.  (Been there, what a mess!)


Mini

ehanner's picture
ehanner

after smashing it a few times. Kind of strange. I really smacked it with a framing hammer 3 times and after that it was much softer. I'm sure it would break up in a spice grinder. You are right it's very caramel spicy tasty. Delicious. The one I bought is about Dixie cup size and they also come double that size.


Eric

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

from the heat (just like the energy in hitting)


Now with large impurities I don't recommend chopping it up in a spice grinder because it makes removal more difficult.  If it is clean, no problem, careful not to overheat the sugar or the machine.  It may be a mess to clean up.  The fine impurities (molasses) remains and I'm sure the reason the sugar doesn't dry completely or form large crystals.  Does your food processor have a grate blade, like for cheese?  This would be worth a try.  Grate only as much as you need because any left over crumbs stick themselves back together given a little time.  Store in wide mouth jar for easy access.


The little chunks of sugar are used in baked goods as they make little hollow spots in the crumb, crunchy caramel bursts of flavor.  Inside the middle of rice cakes or steamed buns is where I have often seen it.  I used it with cinn. rolls as it sticks so much better to the dough as dry sugars.


Mini

ehanner's picture
ehanner

That's a good idea. All those little bits of extra flavor. I'll have to try that.


Eric

leucadian's picture
leucadian

I buy date sugar (gula jawa) from the local oriental market. It comes from Indonesia, but I'm pretty sure it's made in Malaysia as well. It's softer than the local Mexican piloncillo, darker, and to my taste, much more complex. Much more molasses taste. Makes great chutney. (Cranberry chutney for Thanksgiving: boil ginger, garlic, red pepper, vinegar, and sugar to reduce, then add canned cranberries. after Mahdur Jaffrey.) Last week I used it in some speculaas cookies, where it left little dark holes in the cookies, just like you described.  


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:)

leucadian's picture
leucadian

Ack, I need to engage brain before letting fingers type. Sure tastes good though.  Reading the label I see that the product I have actually contains cane sugar as well. 'arenga sugar, cane sugar'. A book I have says the cylindrical shape comes from the shape of the bamboo culm used to hold the reduced syrup. I expect everything is industrialized now, but that was the origin of the cylindrical shape.

diverpro94's picture
diverpro94

It's called piloncillo (pi-lon-ci-yo) here in America and in most parts of Mexico. There are other names for it in other countries. It's basically a compressed whole cane sugar that is close to brown sugar. We use it in mainly in drinks and sometimes in sweets. You can probably grind it in a coffee grinder and use it like sugar. Although, it is best to dissolve it in hot water as the piloncillo cones are really meant for drinks!

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thank you for responding to my question about what this product is and how to use it. Could you then tell me the names of a couple drinks I might try also? I'm guessing the sugar is melted in advance and used by the spoonful in the drink. Pumpkin pie also seems like a good place to try it.


Eric

diverpro94's picture
diverpro94

I know two off of my head! Atole which is a spiced masa porridge drink and Champurrado which is the chocolate version of atole. Here's my recipe for champurrado.

 

1/2 cup masa dough (1/2 cup masa flour mixed with a 1/4 cup hot water)

1 1/2 cups water

2 1/4 cups milk + a splash at the end

1 disk of Abuelita Mexican Chocolate

3 tablespoons piloncillo

1/2 teaspoon ground anis (Spanish for aniseed/anise)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Make the Masa Dough: Mix the masa harina and hot water in a medium sized sauce pan and let sit for a minute or two.

 

Make Champurrado: Add in the rest of the water and mix with a whisk. Add the milk, chocolate disk, piloncillo, anis, and cinnamon.  Bring the mixture to a simmer while whisking every now and again to make sure everything is blended. It is very thick so depending on your desired thickness, add a splash of milk at the end.

 

You can find the masa flour (masa harina in  Spanish), Mexican chocolate disks, and the anis in the Mexican or international section of your grocery store.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thanks diverpro94, that looks interesting.


Eric

diverpro94's picture
diverpro94

No problem! Have a happy Thanksgiving! BTW, if you do made a piloncillo pumpkin pie, I'm telling you now that you must share the recipe! :o)

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Dear Eric,
Thanks for asking this question. I bought some piloncillo sugar only to make cafe de olla, and never once thought about using it any other way. This sugar has such a remarkable flavor - why not figure out other ways to enjoy it?!
With thanks to the other posters here who have provided so much interesting information about this sugar. 
I like to use a chocolate chipper to break apart the sugar cone. 
Regards, breadsong
 

Franko's picture
Franko

 


Hi Eric,


The sugar cooking chart below will give you a good reference point as to how sugar behaves at increasing levels of temperature. My experience with sugar cooking is that it takes more time than one would think for the right physical conditions to appear. Much as I'm tempted sometimes, a hammer is not normally used when dealing with sugar.


I would try slowly bringing the sugar mass up to a heat of approx. 200-210F over a period of 5-10 minutes or longer, (depending on weight) then try to separate some of the sugar crystals from the mass with a fork. This should give you a good indication as to how much more time and heat are needed. What you want is for the surface of the sugar crystals to liquefy enough that they can be separated as they cool. You may need to repeat this a few times to get it all separated.


Franko


A Table of Sugar-Cooking Stages


 


Cooking stage Temperature Comments
Pearl 104 to 106° C / 220 to 222° F
Thread 106 to 112° C / 223 to 235° F
Blow or Soufflé 110 to 112° C / 230 to 235° F
Soft Ball 112 to 166° C / 234 to 240° F
Firm Ball 116 to 120° C / 242 to 248° F
Hard Ball 121 to 129° C / 250 to 265° F 121° C (250° F) - At this temperature the cooked sugar syrup is thicker. Dip the tip of a soup spoon into the boiling syrup then immediately plunge it into cold water: the sugar should form a soft ball.

Temperature peak for Italian Meringue

Soft crack 132 to 143° C / 270 to 290° F
Hard crack 149 to 154° C / 300 to 310° F
Light caramel 160 to 170° C / 320 to 338° F
Dark caramel 176 to 182° C / 350 to 360° F

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

leucadian, the date sugar sounds interesting also. Maybe I was off track here because of the difficulty I was having breaking up the cone. Once the structure is softened, it's a totally different product and easier to break up. More like the brown sugar I am familiar with.


Breadson's idea of using a chocolate chipper looks like it will work also. A less violent approach. Franko, how do you suggest heating the cone?


This interest in sugars is a result of trying to boost the flavor in dishes I normally use a processed brown sugar in. The soft 2 Lb package that can be found in any supermarket in this country is all that is referenced in any recipe I have seen. I think these darker, molasses laden sweeteners would improve the flavor of my bbq rub and the sauce too. Lots of uses for a richer sweetener with a complex flavor. Cinnamon sticky buns seems like a good place to start.


Eric

Franko's picture
Franko

Eric,


I'd try the microwave first, but on a low power setting over 8-10 minutes . Just keep heating it gradually and eventually it has to start liquefying on the outside of the crystals. Probably not the quickest method, but less damaging to the sugar in the end.

robqc's picture
robqc

This is very traditional ingredient in Central America. Mostly used as syrup for different candies, beverages or yuca root fritters.


Melt one of  the pieces in two cups of hot water, when is melted boil 5 - 10 minutes, during the process you can add cinnamon or your desired spice. After that you can use the syrup and try different options, as you know at this moment it has a very strong flavor.


Yuca fritters recipe:


 - 2 cups of ground raw yuca


 - 2 eggs


 - 1/2 tp of baking powder


 - 4 onz APF


 - 1/4 tp salt


 - Vegetable oil for deep frying 


Mix all the ingredients.


Make small balls (1.5 - 2 inches), and fry them


Pour the syrup all over the fritters or use it as a dip.


 


 

eschmale's picture
eschmale

Hi Eric,


I just started to work with Piloncillo about a month ago. I was scratching my head as well and wondering if it would be worth the trouble of shaving the whole thing up everytime I have to use it. Since I use it for water kefir I decided that if I just mix it in water it would disolve and then I just do the math to see the "baker's percentage".I make a very concentrated solution so that I measure the amount of sugar I need for the recipe, calculate how much water comes with that (from the solution) and add more pure water to meet my total water requirement for the recipe.


I usually mix the piloncillo in water the day before I use it and leave it in the fridge. I think you could probably do the same for bread.


Good luck,


Elme

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

put the cone in the middle and set it on fire.  The melting sugar falling into the spiced warm wine adding even more flavor.  I believe it helps to put a little schnapps on the sugar cone first to get the fire going.    ...Hey, we're throwing ideas together!

Dragonbones's picture
Dragonbones

I would avoid the word 'panocha' if you're shopping for this in Mexico. Definitely ONLY use the word piloncillo.


You don't want to know why. LOL

coquette's picture
coquette

Hi  - I love using mexican piloncillo sugar in my cooking and baking but really struggle to break it up. I've tried sitting on the floor hitting it with a mallet (cone is double wrapped in plastic). That is quite loud and scary if you live with small children. I've tried cutting it with a knife and then putting the smaller pieces into a food processor and blender. To date, I've broken one blender pitcher and one food processor. 

I want to use it dry and don't want to use water or liquid to melt it and get it wet.

Any suggestions?

Many Thanks

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

The best way I have found is to place the cone in the microwave and warm it for maybe 20 seconds. Then set it on the counter and tap it with a hammer or meat tenderizer is what I use. The heat will soften it and makes it easy to break it up.

Eric

Maya1's picture
Maya1

microwaved piloncillo, just grate away what I need then store in a zip luck until next time.

After reading the entire thread, I'm surprised Capirotada [Mexican Bread Pudding] wasn't mentioned. Yummy!

coquette's picture
coquette

Thank you for the advice.

I'll try it and let you know.