If you are living in Switzerland, and you like to bake, one of the first things that becomes apparent is that soft U.S.-style brown sugar is not sold in the regular supermarket. Not only is this type of sugar a baking staple in the U.S., being used in cookies, cakes, crumbles, pies, fudge, etc…. but it is also used in many dishes that are part of the wonderful food culture of the U.S. like Boston Baked Beans, Southern BBQ sauce, traditional glazed ham, and on and on! So when it becomes something that you need to visit a luxury store in the big city to get, or order online from a pricey import shop, it takes on a bit of a different status.
However, as someone who really loves to bake, and is from the South, I was becoming increasingly frustrated at my options here and once I went mostly organic – I was bringing back (or begging friends to) big boxes of organic brown sugar from the United States. What a waste of my baggage allowance! Sugar, for crying out loud!!
So I began Googling. What is brown sugar? How is it made? What can I use as a substitute? What is the difference between “Demerera” and “Turbinado” and “Sucanat” and “Muscovado”??
Well, I will get back to those in a minute. It turns out, that what we use in the United States and is called “Light Brown” and “Dark Brown” sugar, is simply white granulated sugar, mixed with molasses, until it takes on the soft sticky texture we know. It’s just as simple as that. My mind was blown. And then, I followed up by googling “how to make brown sugar” – OMG you guys, there were recipes galore. Like, how had I not realised this??
So after buying my sugar, and molasses, and following the instructions — I had brown sugar. And I could have light or dark, whatever I wanted! (You may recall, those with a good memory, that I posted the recipe for brown sugar waaaay back here)
I’m going to share it again, this time – with photos!
Step one: Buy your sugar — this can be regular granulated white sugar made from sugar beets (conventional), organic white sugar made from organic sugar beets, or sugar made from sugar cane (raw sugar/demerera). Whatever you like.
Step two: Buy molasses (Melasse). This can be found at most all Drogeries/Apothekes, Bio-laden or Reformhaus.
Step three: Mix 1/2 tablespoon room temperature or slightly warm (not hot!) molasses with 1 cup of sugar. (measurement s need not be exact). Mix with a fork until totally combined. Add more sugar or molasses until you get the lightness/darkness you like.
Voilà! (or as I once read on the Internet “waa la” – le sigh)
Now, are you curious about those other sugars? Turbinado? Muscovado? Demerera? Sucanat? (Do you remember when we talked about sugar beets??) Now it’s time to talk about sugar cane!
Turbinado and Demerera are very similar, with demerera being slightly lighter in colour. Both are made from cane sugar and have larger crystals. They contain small amounts of natural molasses. (In French “Sucre de Canne brut”, German “Vollrohrzucker/Rohzucker”)
Muscovado (or Barbados sugar) is the “OG” of brown sugar, in that it is made from sugar cane and minimally processed, retaining a lot of molasses. It has a sandy texture, a streong flavour, and can be used to replace ‘brown sugar’ in recipes.
And lastly – Sucanat is simply dried sugar cane juice. It is probably the most natural form of sugar. You may see this also labeled as “Panela” “Rapadura” or “Sucre de Canne complet”
Do you have a favourite use for brown sugar? Personally, I love it added to my oatmeal (porridge) and in soft cookies. It also helps cakes keep a moist texture. It’s one of my favourite baking items!