Brown Sugar, Made Simple

Did you know:

In the late 19th century, manufacturers of white sugar (brown sugar’s primary competitor) launched a negative advertising campaign to make brown sugar undesirable to consumers. The primary ads showed microscopic pictures of benign, but unappealing microbes living in brown sugar. The pictures were so effective that some best-selling cookbooks began warning consumers that brown sugar was inferior and susceptible to insect infestation. (Harvey Levenstein, Revolution at the Table, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. 32–33)

Brown sugar gets its color from molasses mixed in with the sugar. Natural brown sugar retains a quantity of residual molasses as the sugar cane juice evaporates from the sugar. The brown sugar most commonly available in stores is commercial brown sugar, and is produced by adding molasses to regular white sugar. The difference between dark brown sugar and light brown sugar is the quantity of molasses mixed with the sugar.


This leads us to a handy-dandy trick: you can make your own brown sugar! Just combine based on the ratios below in a food processor:

1 cup light brown sugar = 1 cup granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon molasses
1 cup dark brown sugar = 1 cup granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons molasses

How easy is that?

While this is helpful to know in a pinch, we’ll probably still end up buying brown sugar rather than making our own because frankly, it’s more convenient than dragging out the food processor and dirtying yet ANOTHER set of dishes while we’re baking. For those of you in the same boat, here are some additional quick tips and tricks to handle your brown sugar:

To keep brown sugar from getting hard:

  • Place a marshmallow in the bag with the sugar. The sugar will take the moisture from the marshmallow to stay soft and malleable.
  • Storing brown sugar in the freezer prevents moisture from escaping and the molasses from crystallizing.

If that tip came too late and you have a brown-sugar-brick on your hands:

  • Microwave the brown sugar in a baking dish covered with a wet paper towel for 20 seconds. This will reintroduce moisture to the sugar.
  • Heat the brown sugar in a 300 degree oven for 5 minutes to remelt the molasses.

Bone Appetit!


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