Brown Sugar vs. White Sugar

by Escali Scales on October 22, 2013

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If you’ve ever had a recipe call for both brown and white sugar in the same recipe, you may wonder why you have to use both. Couldn’t you simply use one or the other and come out with the same product? After all, they’re both sugar, right? While they are both sugar, they do have different properties that affect the way you bake, whether you’re doing a batch of cookies or a delicious loaf of banana bread. Here are all the things you should keep in mind next time you read a recipe calling for sugar–

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The Difference Between the Two

 

All sugars, both brown and white included, start as sap in tropical sugarcane plants. Those are crushed, and the juice is extracted. It is then heated– a process that yields molasses. That molasses contains very dark sugar crystals. Manufacturers spin that in a centrifuge and the molasses is removed. The final product is white sugar.

  • White sugar comes in a number of different granule sizes, most people go with granulated white sugar. It’s also called table sugar. The granules inside that package are medium-sized and almost every baked good recipe you’ll find, calls for this type of sugar. When you heat this type of sugar, it browns to almost a toffee-color and it has a similar flavor.
  • Brown sugar can be purchased in a variety of colors ranging from light to dark brown. The flavor here is very strong and it seems soft and moist right out of the package. Decades ago, brown sugar was simply white sugar before all of the molasses was taken out. These days, though, brown sugar is white sugar where the molasses has been added back into the mix. The darker the sugar, the more molasses in the package.

Are they Interchangeable in Baking?


In most cases, you can use brown and white sugar interchangeably, but you may notice a real difference in the texture of your baked goods. Remember that brown sugar is naturally moister, so you can bet that your baked goods with be a bit softer and moister as well. What’s more is that your baked goods may come out slightly darker than you’d expected if you use brown sugar instead of the more traditional white sugar. The level of sweetness in your baked goods, though, won’t change even if you use them interchangeably.

For years, many have believed the urban legend that brown sugar is healthier than white sugar, but that’s simply not the case. The amount of nutrients in the molasses added back to the sugar is miniscule, so you’re not actually getting a healthier product. Moreover, though, these days, the molasses is added back in to make brown sugar, so you’re actually getting a more refined product than you were initially.

If you do wish to substitute brown sugar for white sugar while you’re baking, there are several things you may want to do. First, remember, brown sugar contains more moisture, so you may need to decrease other wet ingredients in your recipe or increase some of your dry ingredients to compensate. Second, think carefully about texture. If you’re trying to bake a cake, you want it to be fairly dry, so stay with a white sugar. If you’re doing a fruit quick bread like a banana or a zucchini bread, you may want a moist, rich texture, so brown sugar can be the perfect way to go.

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