Muscovado sugar is a type of minimally refined cane sugar that is popular in some baked goods and specialty recipes. It is especially popular in Great Britain, where it is often readily available at various markets. This product is also sometimes labeled as Barbados or moist sugar, for people who are having trouble finding it; if neither of these alternatives are available, shoppers may be able to order it from a specialty supplier.
This sugar has two distinctive traits that make it quite unique. The first is the coarse grain and large, rough crystals that are unevenly sized. The second is the high molasses content, which causes the sugar to be dark, strongly flavored, and very sticky. These two traits can make substitutions for Muscovado sugar quite difficult, as it is prized for its moisture, coarse grain, and flavor, and it is difficult to replicate.
This cane sugar is made by pressing sugarcane to release the naturally sweet juice and then cooking it slightly before allowing it to dry. During the cooking process, various ingredients are added to help remove impurities that may be present in the sugarcane juice; typically, these impurities rise to the top in the form of foam which is skimmed out. Both coconut milk and lime juice are used in traditional processing, and these refining ingredients do not usually leave flavors behind. After the sugar is dried, it is broken apart and sold.
Because Muscovado sugar is minimally refined, it keeps many of the essential dietary vitamins and minerals that are present in the sugarcane plant. While it may be odd to think of sugar as being health, this variety is high in potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron, among other useful compounds, which is why some cooks like to use it. Although it is certainly not a health food, it is more beneficial than pure white refined sugar.
When used in baked goods, this sugar may not behave as expected by cooks who are used to using refined white sugar. Bakers need to think about the increased moisture content, and until they become familiar with how this sugar changes the profile of baked goods, they may want to stick to recipes that are specifically designed for it. If a cook must replace Muscovado sugar in a recipe which calls for it, he should use the most dark, coarse brown sugar that he can find and add some molasses to it to make it sticky and to enhance the flavor.