Brown sugar consists of sugar crystals coated in a molasses syrup with natural flavor and color.
Measure brown sugar by packing it into a metal measuring cup with a spoon and leveling the top.
To keep moist, store brown sugar in an airtight container in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator.
I like to store mine in an airtight plastic bag–a cup measure fits inside making it easy to measure with less mess.
BROWN (light and dark): When recipes say brown sugar, use the sticky, damp kind, not raw brown sugar crystals (like raw sugar) or free-flowing dry brown sugar called “Brownulated”. Dark brown sugar has more color and a stronger molasses flavor than light brown sugar. Lighter types are generally used in baking and making butterscotch, condiments and glazes.
Dark brown sugar has a rich flavor that is good for gingerbread, mincemeat, baked beans, plum pudding and other full flavored foods. Its presence will keep sugars from crystallizing during candy-making.
To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year and once opened store in an airtight container to prevent the sugar from going hard or damp.
Brown sugar hardens during storage when the moisture in it has evaporated. Therefore, the various methods used for softening brown sugar are intended to return moisture to the sugar, but they don’t always work:
To soften hard brown sugar, place an open bag of sugar in the microwave with a cup of water next to it. Microwave on high (100%) for 2-3 minutes. If your microwave doesn’t have a carousel, turn the bag after each minute. NOTE: This worked great, but isn’t a permanent fix. Any unused sugar will dry up again. However, the process can be repeated each time you need sugar.
Place about 1/2 lb. of hardened brown sugar in microwave safe bowl. Cover sugar with two pieces of wet paper towels. Tightly cover bowl with plastic wrap. Heat in microwave at HIGH for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes.* Divide sugar with fork (sugar will be hot); stir. Use immediately. *Microwave ovens vary in power; cooking time may need adjustment.
Place a piece of foil or plastic wrap directly on the sugar. Set a piece of crumpled, dampened paper towel on the foil. Cover container tightly. The sugar will absorb the moisture from the paper towel and become soft. Remove the paper towel when it has dried out.
Place about 1/2 lb. of hardened brown sugar in a bowl. Cover sugar with two pieces of wet paper towels. Cover bowl tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Let stand overnight at room temperature. Divide sugar with fork; stir. Use immediately.
BROWNULATED: Brownulated granulated is free-flowing sugar with a medium molasses flavor. It is less moist than “regular” brown sugar. It is pourable and doesn’t lump, cake or harden. Don’t interchange it with regular brown sugar because it will produce differences in texture.
DATE SUGAR: Date sugar is more a food than a sweetener. It is ground up from dehydrated dates, is high in fiber, and a long list of vitamins and minerals, including iron. Its use is limited by price and the fact it does not dissolve when added to liquids. Substitute one cup date sugar for each cup granulated sugar.
DEHYDRATED CANE JUICE CRYSTALS = GRANULATED CANE JUICE
DEMERARA: Popular in England, it is a light brown, slightly sticky sugar with large golden crystals. Used as a specialty item for household baked goods or in tea, coffee or on top of hot cereals. Substitutes: turbinado sugar.
JAGGERY: [JAG-uh-ree] (Also known as Panela) This dark, coarse, unrefined sugar (sometimes referred to as palm sugar) can be made either from the sap of various palm trees or from sugar-cane juice. It is primarily used in India, where many categorize sugar made from sugar cane as jaggery and that processed from palm trees as gur. It comes in several forms, the two most popular being a soft, honeybutter texture and a solid cakelike form. The former is used to spread on breads and confections, while the solid version serves to make candies, and when crushed, to sprinkle on cereal, and so on. Jaggery has a sweet, winey fragrance and flavor that lends distinction to whatever food it embellishes. It can be purchased in East Indian markets. To order it, click here.
MALT SUGAR OR SYRUP: Barley malt syrup or powdered malt is used in breads because it doesn?t interfere with gluten development and because the diastatic variety contains enzymes to convert flour to yeast food. It contributes both flavor and color, although these enzymes require at least eight hours to work effectively in fermenting dough.
MUSCOVADO = BARBADOS: Muscovado sugar is a British specialty rich and dark brown unrefined sugar obtained by evaporation of cane sugar and draining off molasses. However, it still has a particularly strong molasses flavor. The crystals are slightly coarser and stickier in texture than “regular” brown sugar. Uses: good for toffee & gingerbread. Not suitable for cooking with fruit. To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year and once opened store in an airtight container to prevent the sugar from going hard or damp.
PALM SUGAR: Commonly referred to a jaggery in SE Asia where it is widely used. It is brown with a crumbly texture. Palm sugar is the sap obtained from various palm trees which is produced when the tree converts starch reserves into sugar in preparation for growth. The actual sugar content is between 10% to over 15%.
RAW SUGAR = TURBINADO = SUCANAT = DEHYDRATED CANE JUICE (CRYSTALS): Natural sugar is refined to produce pure sucrose In the form of dry, brown sugar crystals (the color being due to the presence of impurities) obtained from the evaporation of clarified sugar cane juices.
Raw or sucanat sugar comes in both granular and liquid forms, while both turbinado and light brown sugar comes in granular form. Granulated raw or turbinado is a dry, coarse-textured sugar that’s not been refined to make white sugar. It’s light brown and tastes mildly like molasses. The blond color with a mild brown sugar flavor come from the molasses in the crystals. It has the same carbohydrate and calorie content as white sugar. As it contains only trace amounts of any minerals, it offers no nutritional value over white sugar.
Liquid sugars were developed before today’s methods of sugar processing made transport and handling granulated sugars practical. Liquid sucrose (sugar) is essentially liquid granulated sugar and the most popular types are corn syrup, honey or molasses.
All of syrups below, except for those having corn syrup in their makeup, have the same storage characteristics. Generally, they can be stored on the shelf for about two years and up to a year after opening. Once they are opened, they are best kept in the refrigerator to retard mold growth. If mold growth does occur, the syrup should be discarded. The outside of the bottle should be cleaned of drips after each use. Some pure cane and sorghum syrups may crystallize in storage, but this causes no harm and they can be reliquified using the same method as for honey.
AGAVE SYRUP: This neutral or golden syrup, containing 23 to 25 percent water, is produced from organically grown blue agave cactus. The golden variety has a slight taste of mescal. Because it?s fructose, its sweetening power is higher than sucrose when not heated above 120 degrees F, at which point it also begins to color. Unlike fructose sweeteners that are produced chemically, the fructose is separated by an enzymatic process and then evaporated to the desired consistency. It?s used to make beverages such as Tequila and soft drinks, and it may be more tolerable for some diabetics.
BARLEY: Melt granulated sugar to 185C and it forms barley sugar, continue heating to 200C and it caramelizes.
CANE JUICE: A slightly milky liquid which is crushed sugar cane. Lightly chilled makes a very refreshing drink.
CORN SYRUP: This is starch extracted from corn kernels and treated with an acid or enzyme to create a sweet syrup. Corn syrup is an invert sugar, meaning it takes half as much of it to sweeten as much as regular sugar. DO NOT substitute corn syrup in a recipe, a liquid sugar, for a crystalline or dry one, such as table sugar. Each has different properties and the recipe may not bake the same way that you intended.
Corn syrup serves different functions in different types of recipes and is an important ingredient. It controls sugar crystallization in candy, prevents the formation of ice crystals in frozen desserts, enhances fresh fruit flavor in jams and preserves, and sweetens and thickens.
In baked goods, corn syrup holds moisture and maintains freshness longer. Corn syrup also balances sweet and sour flavor flavors, and is therefore a key ingredient in many Asian dishes. When brushed onto baked ham, barbecued meats, baked vegetables or fresh fruit, it is an ideal glaze. Light and dark corn syrups can also be poured over waffles, hot cereal and pancakes.
Corn syrup comes in both light and dark varieties, and are interchangeable, but recipes usually specify which type - DO NOT interchange them unless instructed. If your recipe calls for dark corn syrup, you can mellow out its flavor, by using 50% dark and 50% light, instead of 100% dark.
Corn syrup should be stored, tightly sealed in a dark cupboard at room temperature. If you can’t open it after storing, hold top of bottle under the faucet running with medium-hot water. The hardened syrup will loosen and the top should open. It should be noted that all corn syrups tend to darken if stored for longer periods of time under high temperatures.
I like to use Karo Corn Syrup, readily available from the grocery store. You can technically interchange their light and dark corn syrups, but be careful because the dark has a richer, molasses taste and dark color, which will change your recipe’s flavor and look:
Karo light corn syrup - is used when a delicately sweet flavor is desired, such as in frostings, fruit sauces and jams. It is a mixture of corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup (to provide increased sweetness) and is flavored with salt and pure vanilla. It is clear and colorless, with a moderately sweet flavor.
Karo dark corn syrup, with its more robust molasses flavor and rich brown color, is ideal for many baked goods, such as in a Pecan Pie. It is a mixture of corn syrup and a small amount of refiners’ syrup (a cane sugar product with a molasses-like flavor). Caramel flavor, sodium benzoate (a preservative), salt, and caramel color are added.
FRUCTOSE: Sugar found in honey and certain fruits.
FRUIT JUICES: For the best results, use freshly squeezed fruit juices in baking (besides, you’ll have the grated zest or peel to add for even more flavor). Some recipes call for fruit juice concentrates. You can use the familiar frozen fruit juice concentrate (thaw before using), or the new shelf-stable variety. Do not dilute fruit juice concentrates.
GOLDEN SYRUP: Particularly popular in England (where it’s also known as light TREACLE), this liquid sweetener has the consistency of corn syrup and a clear golden color. It’s made from evaporated sugar cane juice and has a rich, toasty flavor unmatched by any other sweetener. Golden syrup, the most readily available brand being Lyle’s, can be found in some supermarkets and many gourmet markets. It can be used as a substitute for corn syrup in cooking and baking, and for everything from pancake syrup to ice cream topping.
GRAPE SYRUP: This import from Italy is pure fructose in liquid form. It works well to sweeten fruit, particularly for fruit salad.
HONEY: Honey is probably the oldest sweetener known to man. It predates recorded history and has been found in the Egyptian pyramids. It’s typically sweeter than granulated sugar by a factor of 25%-40% depending upon the specific flowers from which the bees gather their nectar. This means a smaller amount of honey can give the same amount of sweetening as sugar. The source flowers also dictate the flavor and the color of the sweetener as well. Honey color can range from very dark (nearly black) to almost colorless. As a general rule, the lighter the color and the more delicate the flavor, the greater the price the honey will bring.
Honey is an invert liquid sugar. It is used to add sweetness and moistness to baked goods. Containing 17.2 percent water, this common ingredient is the nectar of plants gathered, modified, stored, and concentrated by honey bees. It?s made up of levulose (fructose) and dextrose (glucose). Honey has many sources, such as borage, buckwheat, avocado, thyme, clover, and its flavor varies accordingly. It is sweeter than sugar because it contains fructose.
Recipes made with honey tend to be moist because the fructose in it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. It also helps to extend shelf life because it releases its moisture slowly and absorbs humidity. Due to its high fructose content, honey should not be fed to infants under 1 year of age. Honey is a safe and wholesome food for older children and adults.
Too much honey may cause the product to become too brown. Honey has a distinctive flavor and the darker the color, the stronger the flavor. I like a full-flavored honey for baking such as wildflower. A 12-ounce jar of honey equals a standard measuring cup.
As you might expect, since honey is sweeter than table sugar, it also has more calories as well – 22 per teaspoon compared to granulated sugar’s 16 per teaspoon. There are also trivial amounts of minerals and vitamins in the bee product while white sugar has none. Raw honey may also contain minute quantities of botulinum spores and should not be fed to children under one year of age. Raw honey is OK for older children and adults. Honey is not a direct substitute for table sugar however, it’s use in recipes may call for a bit of alteration to get the recipe to turn out right.
Honey comes in a number of forms in the retail market. For the best results, use recipes developed for using honey, but it is best substituted with other liquid sugars. Buy labeled U.S. GRADE A or U.S. FANCY.
This is the bee product straight from the hive. This is the most unprocessed form in which honey comes, being found as large pieces of waxy comb floating in raw honey. The comb itself will contain many unopened honey cells. Raw
This is unheated honey that has been removed from the comb. It may contain bits of wax, insect parts and other small detritus. Filtered
This is raw honey that has been warmed slightly to make it more easy to filter out small particles and impurities. Other than being somewhat cleaner than raw honey it is essentially the same. Most of the trace amounts of nutrients remain intact. Liquid
This is honey that has been heated to higher temperatures to allow for easier filtering and to kill any microorganisms. Usually lighter in color, this form is milder in flavor, resists crystallization and generally clearer. It stores the best of the various forms of honey. Much of the trace amounts of vitamins, however, are lost. Crystallized or Spun
This honey has had some of its moisture content removed to make a creamy, spread. It is the most processed form of honey
Honey comes in a number of flavors. Some examples:
[bullet] Alfalfa: mild flavor and aroma, excellent table honey
[bullet] Avocado: amber-colored with caramelized molasses flavor and flowery aftertaste.
[bullet] Basswood: light colored honey with distinctive bite
[bullet] Blueberry: Amber-colored, moderate fruity flavor with a delicate aftertaste
[bullet] Buckwheat: very dark amber color, pungent flavor with sharp, medicinal taste
[bullet] Clover: light colored, sweet, flowery taste, very mild with spicy cinnamon aroma
[bullet] Eucalyptus: Light Amber color, sweet aroma and flavor, with herbal undertones
[bullet] Fireweed: Almost clear colored, mild, spicy flavor with subtle tea-like notes
[bullet] Orange Blossom: light orange-amber color, sweet, fruity taste reminiscent of orange blossoms.
[bullet] Sage: very light amber color, thick and viscous with a clover nectar flavor. Slow to crystallize so has long shelf life.
[bullet] Sourwood: light amber color, sweet, spicy anise aroma and flavor
[bullet] Tupelo: Amber colored, smooth honey with complex bouquet, and rich herbal, fruity flavor. Like sage is slow to crystallize so has long shelf life.
Honey is easy to store. Pure honey won’t mold, but may crystallize over time. Exposure to air and moisture can cause color to darken and flavor to intensify and may speed crystallization as well. Comb honey doesn’t store as well liquid honey so you should not expect it to last as long. If crystallization does occur, honey can be reliquified by placing the container in a larger container of hot water until it has melted.
Storage temperature is not as important for honey, but it should be kept from freezing and not near heat sources. Either extreme can cause crystallization and heat may cause flavor to strengthen undesirably.
Filtered liquid honey will last the longest in storage. Storage containers should be opaque, airtight, moisture- and odor-proof.
INVERT: Invert sugar is used when interfere with sugar crystallization and are used in candy-making. Examples of invert sugars are honey, glucose, corn syrup, and trimoline (for commercial use). You can’t substitute on for the other, as they each have distinctive properties.
MAPLE SYRUP (PURE): Late winter and early spring is maple season in parts of northeastern North America. It is done by tapping trees, collecting sap, and processing it to produce maple syrup. Real maple syrup is a pure, natural product with a unique flavor. It is delicious just as it is, served as a topping over pancakes, waffles, ice cream, crushed ice (maple snowcone), or made into candy. Or, it can be used as a sugar substitute in cooking a variety of dishes.
Most pure maple syrup is grade A amber, which is delicious on its own, and can be best appreciated on pancakes and waffles. It is always pricey, as this natural food is subject to variations in annual harvesting conditions. There are two options for using maple syrup in baking: the first is to use grade B maple syrup, which imparts a deep flavor. It is available in some gourmet stores and by mail-order. Or, secondly add a few drops of natural maple flavoring extract to the Grade A syrup. Pure maple syrup has a much lighter flavor than supermarket pancake syrup, which is corn syrup with artificial maple flavors. Natural maple syrup works well as a sweetener, but really doesn’t impart a deep maple flavor in baked goods.
New unopened bottles of maple syrup may be kept on a cool, dark, shelf for up to two years. The sweetener may darken and the flavor get stronger, but it is still usable. Once the container is opened, it should be refrigerated where it will last about a year.
Be careful to look out for mold growth. If mold occurs, discard the syrup. Left standing uncovered at room temperature, however, maple syrup can be affected by spoilage microorganisms. While occasionally it’s contaminated by yeasts, of the species Saccharomyces (same as in starter breads), it’s usually mold on the surface that suggests some stray microorganisms have found a new home. These microorganisms all grow best at room temperature but fortunately they are also destroyed by boiling. If you find mold, however, don’t throw the syrup away. Strain it through cheesecloth to catch the mold, then bring the syrup to a boil and pour it into a clean container. It’s now safe to use again.
MOLASSES: imparts a dark color and strong flavor to baked foods. It is not as sweet as sugar. When using molasses in place of sugar, use 1-1/3 cups molasses for 1 cup sugar and reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 5 tablespoons. Because molasses is more acidic than sugar, it may be necessary to add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of molasses used in substitution for sugar. Replace no more than 1/2 the sugar called for in the recipe with molasses.
Its presence will keep sugars from crystallizing during candy-making.
Molasses isn’t just caramelized sugar and browned proteins. “There are a lot of minerals, mostly calcium and iron,” says food scientist and author Harold McGee. “They don’t participate in any aromatic compounds themselves, but they influence the direction of reactions and give a distinctive spectrum of flavors. And besides sucrose, there are larger sugars, 3- and 4-unit sugars, which don’t have much sweetness but react with each other and the smaller sugars, giving flavorful compounds.”
Finally, there are amino acids from protein breakdown, which give molasses its sharpness.
Because of the acids, molasses or even brown sugar will make milk curdle if you boil it with either of them. For this reason, many recipes for butterscotch sauce, and particularly for butterscotch pudding, begin by cooking the brown sugar with butter before adding cream or milk–especially milk.
The different molasses types: During the refining of sugar cane and sugar beets, the juice squeezed from these plants is boiled to a syrupy mixture from which sugar crystals are extracted. The remaining brownish-black liquid is molasses. It comes in mild (unsulphured), robust (processed with sulfites), and blackstrap versions. Don’t use blackstrap molasses, which is too strong and doesn’t work well in baking recipes.
Light molasses: When the syrup is boiled the first time, the lightest liquid is drained from the top – this is the light molasses. Light molasses is light in color and has a mild, sweet taste. It is often used as a pancake and waffle syrup.
Dark molasses: After the first boiling and removal of the light molasses, the syrup is boiled again, and the lightest liquid is drained from the top – this is the dark molasses. It is much darker and thicker than light molasses, and the taste is less sweet. Dark molasses is generally used as a flavoring in American classics such as gingerbread, shoofly pie, indian pudding and boston baked beans.
Blackstrap molasses: After the second boiling and removal of the dark molasses, the syrup is boiled a third time, and the thick liquid which remains is called bootstrap molasses, which are the dregs of the barrel. Bootstrap molasses is very dark, very thick, and almost bitter. Bootstrap molasses is rarely used in recipes.
Sulphur: Sulphured molasses is made from green (unripe) sugar cane and is treated with sulphur fumes during the sugar extraction process. Sulphured molasses tends to be heavier and sweeter, while unsulphured molasses is lighter and has more of the vegetation (plant) taste.
Unsulphured molasses is the whole juice of fully matured sugar cane that has been clarified and evaporated to a heavier consistency. I always use unsulphured molasses in baking. This product, which is produced in the West Indies, is characterized by a light clear color, delicate flavor, and is generally sweeter than other grades since none of the sugar has been removed. Because of the processing methods it is not necessary to bleach this molasses with sulfur dioxide to obtain a light color.
Sorghum molasses is the syrup produced from the cereal grain sorghum. Whether or not molasses is sulphured or unsulphured depends on whether sulphur was used in the processing. In general, unsulphured molasses is lighter and has a cleaner sugar-cane flavor.
To store: If unopened, keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year. Once opened, molasses will keep for 6 months, tightly closed in the pantry. Refrigerate to extend storage life.
RAW SUGAR = SUCANAT = UNREFINED NATURAL SUGAR = GRANULATED CANE JUICE (CRYSTALS) = DEHYDRATED CANE JUICE (CRYSTALS). Available in both granular (light brown sugar like) and liquid forms.
SORGHUM SYRUP: This is produced in the same manner as cane syrup, but sorghum cane, rather than sugar cane, is used. Sorghum tends to have a thinner, slightly sourer taste than cane syrup.
STEVIA: Produced from the Stevia plant, this syrup is also available in powdered form. It?s approximately double the sweetness of sucrose. It?s also tolerated by some diabetics. Available in health food stores.