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Soft brown sugars used in the production of cinnamon buns

Nordic foods: more sugar applications from across the North Sea

01/07/2021 By Frank O’Kelly in Recipes Cane molasses, Europe, Invert sugar syrup

The latest blog in our series of global sugar applications sees us take another trip across the North Sea, this time focusing on popular uses of pure sugars and syrups in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. Of course, this is too large a feat to achieve in a single blog, so we have crudely narrowed our selection down into three broad categories: confectionery, desserts and beverages.

Enhancing flavour and performance in confectionery

Nordic countries are famed for their creative, flavoursome and diverse types of confectionery, with pure sugars and syrups crucial to the production, flavour and stability of these different sweets. Perhaps the most obvious is their affinity for liquorice, which is sold far and wide in a variety of shapes and sizes. Straight sucrose and cane molasses are typically the most common sugar constituents in these applications, though black treacle is often used too.

For all things liquorice, including the Nordics’ favoured salmiak liquorice, read this recent Ragus blog.

Chocolates with filled centres rely on specialist sugar syrups to protect the filling

Like the UK, filled chocolates are highly popular in the Nordics. 

Aside from liquorice-based sweets and chocolates, toffees and caramels are also highly popular in Scandinavia, with various ‘filled’ chocolates available on the market. The centre of these filled chocolates depends on the manufacturer in question, with caramel, toffee, nougat and rum centres all popular choices. In these confections, both invert sugar syrup and glucose syrup can be used to stabilise the centres while straight sucrose is used to sweeten the chocolate coating.

Other popular confections in the Nordics, such as fruit flavoured wine gums or jelly men, also rely on both invert sugar syrup and glucose syrup for sweetening and binding purposes, as well as to attract fruit flavourings.

Developing mellow flavours in desserts

Scandinavian desserts are often varied in style, but certain ingredients are widely used across these different styles. Such ingredients include cinnamon, cardamom, fresh berries, dried fruits and nuts, chocolate and, of course, different types of sugar. Let’s explore two of our favourite traditional Nordic desserts below.

Close up shot of freshly baked cinnamon rolls

Freshly baked cinnamon buns. 

The first is cinnamon buns, which are synonymous with the Nordics, though they do of course have different names in each country. For example, they are usually called kanelbullar in Sweden, kanelsnegle in Denmark, kanelboller in Norway and korvapuusti in Finland. They also appear in different shapes in these regions, ranging from buns through rolls to twists and snails.

Cinnamon buns are produced using yeast dough, combining the strong flavours of cardamom and cinnamon. Each artisan baker or commercial manufacturer produces them differently, but pure sugars always play a role in both the dough and the filling. Straight sucrose is typically used to enhance the texture of the dough while soft light brown sugar and golden syrup are often combined in the filling, with their mellow and caramelized notes complementing the spicy flavours of cinnamon and cardamom.

Traditional Swedish toffee, knäck, is popular at Christmas and made from golden syrup and white sugar

Golden syrup gives Knäck its mellow flavour and amber appearance. 

The second of our favourites is the traditional Christmas toffee, knäck. As highlighted above, toffees and caramels are popular throughout the Nordics – in a range of forms and styles – with this after-dinner tradition being more of the simple yet effective ilk.

It dates to late-nineteenth century Sweden, and while recipes vary, most include golden syrup, straight sucrose, butter, almonds and cream. However, to create and build the optimum mellow toffee flavour, we recommend using raw cane sugar rather than refined white sugar.

Boosting mouthfeel and fermenting beverages

In our increasingly globalised world, the beverages that appear on shop shelves are typically multinational, too. The Nordics are no different. However, below we have chosen to focus on some of the most storied Nordic drinks – a seventy-year-old soft drink that is still available in supermarkets the world over, as well as a unique lemonade that is only created for a domestic tradition.

The soft drink with the seventy-year history is chocolate milk, with brands from each Scandinavian nation famous for championing the minimalist ingredients used in their products to this day. These are milk, chocolate and straight sucrose. Due to the connections between the Nordic nations and other countries in Northern Europe, it is usually white beet sugar that is used in these chocolate milk applications.

How can such a popular drink have so few ingredients? Well, it is a testament to the performance of sugar, which adds a sweet and neutral flavour while developing a velvety mouthfeel.

Close up of several large Sima bottles, the unique Finnish tradition, fermented made from water, lemons and soft brown light sugar

A collection of homemade Sima bottles. 

Referring now to the unique homemade beverage, Sima is a valuable part of Finnish Mayday traditions. Sima translates as mead in English but, in reality, lightly fermented lemonade is a better way to describe the beverage. While it has a long history, today it is usually drunk on 1 May to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Typically, recipes involve bringing water, lemon, straight sucrose and soft brown light sugar to the boil before taking the liquid off the heat, adding dry yeast and allowing the liquid to ferment overnight. It should then be strained into bottles, with more sugar added, after which it should be sealed and refrigerated for up to five days. But be careful, the longer it is left the more it ferments and some of it could eventually turn alcoholic.

Range of pure sugar products used in Nordic foods

As highlighted earlier, covering the full breadth and depth of sugar applications across the Nordics was always going to be an impossibility. In fact, so unique and varied are their pastries and biscuits that we will soon be writing a dedicated blog to the different types of baked goods alone.

However, one takeaway is clear – pure sugars and syrups play an integral role in a variety of Nordic confections, desserts and beverages, with entire applications based around the performance of the sugar constituents.Pictures of the pure sugar products most widely used in Nordic foods
Ragus understands and can advise on the unique and diverse uses of sugar in various overseas markets. To find out how we can help you select the ideal pure sugar product for your application, please contact our Customer Services Team. To see more sugar news and updates, continue browsing SUGARTALK and follow Ragus on LinkedIn. 

Frank O’Kelly

Frank is the primary contact for many of our largest customers.

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