It’s brown sugar that gives chocolate chip cookies their defining “je ne sais quoi” and brings toffee-like sweetness holiday to sweet potatoes. Yet, we far too often look past the brown varieties when deciding on a starring flavor for our culinary creations.
Libbie Summers, author of the new Vol. 12 Short Stack Edition: Brown Sugar, rightly keeps brown sugar in the forefront. From Sticky Toffee Chicken Wings to Butter Lettuce with Brown Sugar and Bacon Dressing, Summers knows how to take brown-sugar-laden dishes beyond the expected.
To help you find your footing with brown sugar (there are more than light and dark, you know), Summers breaks down the six variations below and offers up two recipes you’re bound to adore.
The Six Brown Sugars
Demerara sugar is made by pressing sugarcane, then steaming the juice of the first pressing. This steaming forms a thick cane syrup. The syrup is allowed to dehydrate, which leaves behind large, pale amber sugar crystals that have a slight toffee flavor.
Turbinado sugar is a slightly refined sugar made by crushing freshly cut sugarcane to squeeze out the juice, which is then evaporated and spun in a turbine to produce the large, light- brown crystals. Turbinado sugar has a mild caramel flavor, with a texture that is finer and less sticky than demerara sugar.
Muscovado sugar is coarse, unrefined dark brown sugar. It’s moist and has a strong molasses flavor.
Piloncillo (pee-lon-SEE-yoh) Sugar
Piloncillo sugar is made by boiling cane juice down to a thick crystalline syrup. The syrup is then poured into cone-shaped molds to harden. It has a smoky, earthy flavor with a little acidic kick and can be used as a sweetener or a spice.
Light Brown Sugar
Light brown sugar is made by adding a small amount of molasses to refined white sugar, which results in a moist sugar with a rich caramel flavor. (To make your own, add 1 tablespoon of molasses to 1 cup of white sugar and mix with a fork or your hands until fully combined.)
Dark Brown Sugar
Dark brown sugar is made by adding a greater amount of molasses to refined white sugar than is required to make light brown sugar. The result is a dark brown, very moist sugar with a rich molasses flavor. (To make dark brown sugar, add 2 tablespoons of molasses to 1 cup of white sugar and mix with a fork or your hands until fully combined.)