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What is Dark Brown Sugar?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2014
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Dark brown sugar is sugar which contains at least six and a half percent molasses. It has a distinctive dark brown color and rich molasses flavor, and it is also very high in moisture. In cooking, dark brown sugar is used in recipes where a deeper sugar flavor is desired, and some people also enjoy the flavor in tea, coffee, and other drinks. Many markets sell dark brown sugar, along with its closely related cousin, light brown sugar, which contains three and a half percent molasses.

There are two ways in which a sugar refinery can produce dark brown sugar. In the first case, the refinery adds molasses to processed white sugar until the correct percentage is reached. The sugar may also be amended with stabilizers to make it easier to pour, and to reduce clumping. The technique of adding molasses can also be used at home by cooks who need brown sugar, by adding one and a half tablespoons (22 milliliters) of molasses for every cup (190 grams) of white sugar.

Other refineries make dark brown sugar by simply minimally refining their sugar so that all of the molasses is not taken out. Natural brown sugar is made by saving the first pressing, producing a dark brown crumble which is high in molasses, while minimally refined forms may be rinsed so that they are encouraged to crystallize, making them easier to work with.

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When working with brown sugar, it is important to be aware of the higher moisture content. Swapping brown and white sugar in a recipe can have undesirable consequences, because the change in moisture content may throw the recipe off. Recipes which call for brown sugar may turn out dry if white sugar is used, while white sugar recipes can turn overly moist if brown sugar is used. It is also critical to store dark brown sugar in a cool dry place in an airtight container so that it does not meld into a solid mass.

Some recipes call for a mixture of brown and white sugar, tempering the intense flavor of the brown sugar with the more neutral white sugar. People who like a more intense brown sugar flavor can use dark brown sugar in these recipes, while light brown sugar can be used for a milder effect. Dark brown sugar will also cause baked goods to darken, as people who have experimented with different types of sugar may have already noted.

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ellaesans
Post 6

@leiliahrune - There is an ongoing argument about light brown sugar vs dark brown sugar, but it's really in one's discretion and personal tastes. Molasses is a very deep, rich, spicy flavoring that may not lend itself well in a batch of cookies. This is the reason why MOST cookie recipes don't call for DARK brown sugar, but LIGHT brown sugar. It's really a great ingredient to experiment with, however, and I encourage anyone to check out recipes for it online. Good luck!

leiliahrune
Post 5

@wecallherana - A lot of recipes in baking will most often call for either light brown sugar or white, granulated sugar. These are the two main types of sugars used in cookie recipes and they both contribute different attributes when it comes to the final product.

For one, brown sugar will provide a chewier cookie and white sugar will often help you achieve a "sturdier" cookie. This can also be because of the amount of butter and/or shortening in your recipes: butter creates chewiness and shortening provides stability. Secondly, the best mix is to have both brown and white sugar together because it keeps the cookie both solid and chewy.

abiane
Post 4

@wecallherana - I almost never bake with dark brown sugar because the molasses can sometimes "leak" out of the batter when it comes to cookies, causing a sticky mess beneath your goods as they bake. Aside from that, you can use light brown sugar as a substitute for dark brown sugar almost any time you want, it's really in your discretion.

wecallherana
Post 3

In baking, why do some recipes call for brown sugar or white sugar? What's the difference? What's the difference between light and dark brown sugars? Can I use one in place of the other?

BelugaWhale
Post 2

@anon32168 - There are two main reasons why you would ever see brown sugar turn white. The first being that if the brown sugar is stored in a very humid place, the molasses will literally seep out of the sugar, causing it to turn white. The second possibility is if the brown sugar is overly processed or has the molasses pulled out of it, which would also make the sugar turn white.

anon32168
Post 1

Why does brown sugar turn white?

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