Sucanat™ is a minimally refined form of cane sugar. Some cooks use Sucanat™ in lieu of more refined forms of sugar because they believe it is healthier, or because they prefer the flavor. It is readily available at many markets and health food stores in packages which vary widely in size from large bags designed for industrial applications to smaller containers for home use.
The process for making Sucanat™ starts out like that used for other forms of cane sugar, with the harvesting of the sugar canes. The canes are cut, leaving the roots behind so that they will sprout new canes in the coming year, and then they are crushed in a mangler which extracts their naturally sweet juice. If the sugar was going to be refined, the juice would be run through an evaporation process which included measures for purification, and in this process, much of the natural molasses would be extracted.
In the case of Sucanat™, however, the sugar cane juice is simply heated and then allowed to cool, forming granular crystals of what is basically dried sugar cane juice. The Sucanat™ retains the molasses, creating a very distinctive and quite strong flavor, along with other impurities which may be present in the cane. Unlike more refined sugar, Sucanat™ is grainy, rather than blocky and crystalline. It also contains less sucrose, because it is has not been purified; white sugar contains the most sucrose, and is in fact almost entirely sucrose.
Sucanat™ is a contraction of “Sugar Cane Natural.” It can be difficult to bake with, because it behaves very differently from more processed forms of sugar. The lower sucrose content makes Sucanat™ less sweet, which can be confusing for bakers who want to replace regular sugar with Sucanat™ on a cup for cup basis. The granular texture can also manifest in finished baked goods, causing a disappointing texture, and the strong flavor can be unpleasant, especially when mixed with other intense flavors like citrus or chocolate.
Sucanat™ is a trademark held by Ragus Holdings, Inc. Other companies certainly manufacture similar products, but they generally do not label them as “Sucanat™” to avoid a copyright infringement lawsuit. The fact that Sucanat™ is trademarked can make it easier for consumers to identify the real thing; Rapadura™ is another product made using the same process.