Brown sugar is a versatile sweetener that is beloved by bakers. Most brown sugar these days consists simply of refined white sugar into which molasses has been re-incorporated. This production method ensures a consistent product. Brown sugar has a number of properties that make it a great benefit in certain recipes, along with other properties that can make it a drawback. Your success when using it will depend on your understanding of how it functions and what to expect from it. Below is a look at some of the dos and don’ts of cooking with brown sugar.
Do store it correctly. One of brown sugar’s most distinctive characteristics is its moisture. It is a moister sugar when compared to refined white sugar because of its molasses content, which is also what gives it a brown color. You will want to store brown sugar in a way that preserves its moisture; it may dry up and become rock hard if it is stored incorrectly. Correct storage means keeping it in an airtight container to prevent loss of moisture.
Do soften it correctly. If you failed to follow the tip above and your brown sugar has become rock hard, there are ways to solve this problem. The best way to do it is to place a slice of bread in the container with the sugar, The benefit is that the sugar will absorb the bread’s moisture and return to its original state of being soft and loose. The drawback of this method is that it takes time. If you need your sugar softened right away, you can try microwaving it. Place the sugar in a plastic bag with a moist paper towel and microwave for 20 seconds. In some cases, you may need to follow this up with additional 20-second bursts. Try not to overdo it as you may wind up melting the sugar into a sticky syrup.
Do keep brown sugar’s moisture in mind when using it. The additional moisture from the molasses in brown sugar means that you may have to reduce the liquid component of your recipes to compensate. That moisture also means that brown sugar is great for certain baked goods like oatmeal and chocolate chip recipes that are enhanced by it. Brown sugar can make cookies soft and chewy, whereas white sugar might make them hard and dry.
Do use brown sugar with baking soda in your cookie recipes. Brown sugar is somewhat acidic, which means that it reacts with baking soda to produce carbon dioxide. This is similar to the reaction between baking soda and cream of tartar in baked goods that include baking powder.
Do measure brown sugar properly. You will notice that many recipes that require brown sugar also state that it should be packed. Brown sugar’s moist, sticky texture makes it possible for air pockets to form when you scoop it up in a measuring cup. By packing it down in the cup you remove the air pockets and it becomes easier to measure out a precise amount.
Don’t use brown and white sugar interchangeably without careful planning. While you may be able to get away with a switch in certain recipes, brown sugar’s color and acidity can produce unpredictable results in others since it can react with baking powder to enhance its leaving effects.
Don’t use brown sugar for neutral sweetness. The molasses content can give brown sugar a caramel flavor that will stand out in some mild-flavored recipes. For example, light vanilla or lemon flavors may be completely overpowered with the addition of brown sugar.