Native Americans were the first to discover the means of making maple sugar. They boiled the sap of maple trees sap down to create a solid product that could last for long periods and that was easier to transport than sap or syrup. They passed that knowledge on to early European settlers and that knowledge is still used in the production of granulated maple sugar today. Maple sugar is a versatile sweetener that was once touted as a possible substitute for cane sugar. How similar is maple sugar to brown sugar? What are their differences? These and other questions will be answered below, in another SPICEography Showdown.
How do maple sugar and brown sugar differ in flavor?
Maple sugar has caramel notes along with the woodsy maple flavor that you might expect from a maple syrup product. Like maple syrup, maple sugar can have a complex flavor with notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and even hazelnut.
Brown sugar, made from sugar cane, has the caramel notes, but not the maple notes. It gets its flavor from its molasses content, which is what gives it its brown color. In addition to the caramel-heavy molasses flavor notes, it can have a mildly metallic aftertaste.
If your recipe calls for one, can you use the other?
Maple sugar crystals have a similar appearance to light brown sugar, so it can be used in its place if your recipe calls for light brown sugar rather than dark brown. Maple sugar will work as a dark brown sugar substitute as long as you keep in mind that it will give your recipe a lighter color.
Maple sugar is considerably sweeter than brown sugar, which means that you will need to use less of it when using it as a brown sugar alternative. While you can use as little as half of the amount required for brown sugar, it is recommended that you use more if you want the dish to have the maple flavor. Note also that brown sugar is moister due to the molasses it contains. Consider adding a tablespoon or two of maple syrup to your maple sugar to increase its moistness.
Brown sugar can be used as a substitute for maple sugar, but you will need to use more of it to get an equivalent level of sweetness. If the maple flavor is essential to the recipe, consider adding maple syrup or maple extract to the dish.
Maple sugar and brown sugar can be used interchangeably as long as you are mindful of the differences in sweetness, color, and the maple flavor.
Is one better for you than the other?
Maple sugar contains significant quantities of certain minerals like calcium and magnesium. It also contains antioxidants like gallic acid. Brown sugar does contain nutrients thanks to its molasses content, but these nutrients are in trace amounts and not nutritionally significant.
What are the best ways to use maple sugar and brown sugar?
Maple sugar can be used as a sweetener for desserts and in any beverages where the maple notes will serve as a flavor enhancement. For example, it can also be used to cure bacon and in barbecue rubs.
Brown sugar can be used in similar ways as maple sugar, but will provide a molasses flavor instead of maple. Use it in baked goods like chocolate chip cookies where the extra moisture from the molasses will provide a chewy texture. You can also use it in barbecue sauces where the molasses will provide depth and richness.