Welcome to Paulina Cocina. Today we are going to travel through the exciting world of panelaa treasure that, in addition to sweetening, has a particular flavor and properties that make it unique.
We are also going to answer the most typical questions about this food: why is it called that, where is it popular, is it better than sugar, what are its properties? These and other issues will be explained in this very complete note.
What is panela and what is it for?
The word panela sounds like music for sweet lovers and it is no wonder. It is a natural sweetener that is obtained from the juice extracted from sugar cane. Unlike refined sugar, this sweetener It maintains much of its nutrients and characteristic flavor.
It is a very versatile product that is used in many cuisines around the world, especially in Latin America, and has gained popularity in gourmet cuisine thanks to its unique flavor and beneficial properties. In addition, it can be used in drinks, desserts, sauces and even savory dishes to provide a touch of sweetness.
This sweetener comes in the form of compact dark brown blocks that vary in texture from hard to softer depending on the production process and the region in which it is manufactured.
What is panela made of?
Panela is the result of a process of transforming sugar cane juice, which is often called “cane honey.” To produce it, the juice is extracted by grinding the cane and undergoes a cooking and evaporation process. During cooking the juice concentrates and crystallizes, forming the characteristic blocks. This artisanal process is carried out in rural mills by local farmers and producers, and has been transmitted from generation to generation.
The purity of this ingredient is one of its main qualities. Unlike refined sugar, it does not contain additives or chemical substances and is a completely natural product that preserves the nutrients present in sugar cane, such as iron, calcium and phosphorus, according to health professionals.
The origin of panela
Sugar cane is native to Southeast Asia and is believed to have been brought to America by European colonizers in the 15th century during the time of the conquest. From then on, sugar cane began to be cultivated in various regions of Latin America. Then, during Spanish colonization, its production and consumption expanded, and since then, it has become a fundamental element of culinary culture in many countries.
Panela, piloncillo or papelón?
The name “panela” has its origins in the colonial era of Latin America., when sugar blocks were stored in wooden containers called “panels.” Over time the name became popular and became the official name of this product.
In Mexico the term “piloncillo” is more common.. Unlike panela, which comes in the form of blocks, piloncillo comes in the shape of cones or pilons, hence its name. Piloncillo is very common in preparations such as pineapple tepache, a fermented drink or capirotada, a traditional Mexican dessert.
In Venezuela this sweetener is called “papelón” while in other places it may be known as “chancaca” or “raspadura”. These regional names are testament to their popularity and versatility in Latin American cuisine.
Where is panela popular?
It is an essential ingredient in the cuisine of several countries in Latin America and Asia. Colombia, for example, is one of the largest producers and consumers in the world. In this country, It is used to prepare traditional drinks such as aguapanela and desserts such as custard.. In addition to Colombia, countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Mexico also enjoy this natural sweet.
On the Asian continent, this sweetener is widely consumed in countries such as India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Its versatility in cooking and its properties make it a valuable ingredient in these regions.
Pan the sugar?
A common question in the culinary world is whether panela is better than refined sugar. The answer depends on personal preferences.
The first, being a natural product without chemical processing, preserves its nutrients, as we have mentioned previously. In addition, its flavor is richer and more complex than refined sugar, providing nuances to culinary preparations.
However, it is important to remember that panela and sugar are ultimately sources of calories and carbohydrates., so they should be consumed in moderation. But if you are looking for a more natural option with a unique flavor, it is a good alternative to refined sugar.
Main uses of panela
It is an ingredient that is mainly used as a natural sweetener.for different preparations in the cuisine of many parts of the world, especially in Latin America.
Some of its most common uses:
- Sweetener: It is used to sweeten drinks such as coffee, tea and juices, as well as in the preparation of desserts, sweets and jams.
- Food: Due to some benefits in its content, panela is used in some cases as a source of instant energy, so it is often consumed to obtain this energy boost.
- Traditional cuisine: It is used in many traditional Latin American recipes, such as aguapanela in Colombia or piloncillo in Mexico, to give flavor and sweetness to typical dishes.
- Hot drinks: It is dissolved in hot water to make comforting drinks, such as panela with lemon, which is popular as a home remedy for colds and flus in some places.
- Cake shop: It is used in making cakes, cookies and other baked goods as a substitute for refined sugar.