Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Brown Sugar 101

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We love the taste of brown sugar. It has a rich, mellow flavor that adds depth to our homemade graham crackers and deliocous cheesecake crusts. Recipes generally specify which type of sugar should be used: light or dark brown, confectioner’s or refined white sugar, which is usually just listed as sugar. So what’s the difference?

To make sugar, fructose is combined with glucose. The juice is filtered to extract the plant matter and is boiled down, forming a thick syrup.
The syrup is then spun in a centrifuge to separate out the crystals, which become what is commonly referred to as raw sugar. The rest is molasses.

If the molasses are boiled again to remove the next level of crystalized sucrose, it becomes second molasses, and if done again, it creates third molasses, or “blackstrap molasses.”

If the sugar crystals are not refined further, they will become brown sugar. Continued refinement will result in pure, white sugar.

Commercial brown sugar is often made by adding back molasses to refined white sugar.

If you are baking and discover you are out of brown sugar, it is possible to create your own at home. You may even find it superior enough in flavor to get into the habit of making it yourself.

All you need is plain, white granulated sugar and molasses. It’s best to use pure, dark, unsulphured molasses, which are free of additives. Blackstrap molasses can tend to be a bit bitter for this use.

Start with a cup of plain, granulated white sugar. For light brown sugar, pour 1 tablespoon of molasses over the top of it, and for dark brown sugar add 2 tablespoons of molasses. Mash this together with a fork, until it is fully combined. Use your fingers to break up any lumps that appear. If you are mixing large quantities, you can use the paddle attachment of your stand mixer to do this.

It’s best to use it right away, but you can store it in a tightly sealed container as you would store bought brown sugar.

photo: glasshouse images

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