White sugar is the most highly processed sugar. Sugars with liquid sugar cane or sugar beet syrup still in them are brown sugars. The more liquid remaining in the sugar, the darker it is.
But is there a difference between light brown and dark brown sugar other than molasses?
The liquid sugar syrup is known as molasses. In Great Britain, it's called treacle. Technically, treacle is any sugar syrup generated in the process of making crystallized sugar, and molasses is a variety of treacle.
While Americans don't commonly use the word "treacle," it may be familiar because it's used in Harry Potter's favorite dessert.
Per Willow Arlen of Will Cook for Friends, the generation of white sugar requires repeated boilings of cane syrup. With each boiling, the juice is spun through a centrifuge to separate the sugar crystals from the molasses or treacle.
With each boiling, the cane syrup becomes darker. The final boiling results in blackstrap molasses, which is extremely bitter and is not good for baking.
Is Brown Sugar Healthy?
The final boilings of cane sugar syrup result in blackstrap molasses, which is loaded with calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. These nutrients are also found at a higher level in brown sugar than in white sugar.
Is brown sugar good for you? When compared to white sugar, brown sugar is healthier. However, consumers should be aware that some molasses is processed with sulfur dioxide.
Sulfured vs. Un-Sulfured Molasses
Sulfur dioxide is used to preserve molasses to reduce the risk of fermentation. Per Rose Haney of Healthy Eating, this preservative changes the flavor by reducing the sweetness of molasses.
Per experts at Live Strong, some people are sensitive to sulfites, so it's best to purchase molasses and brown sugars made from un-sulfured molasses to reduce the risk of an adverse reaction to sulfur dioxide.
What's a Good Substitute for Brown Sugar?
There's nothing worse than being ready to bake a batch of cookies on a cold night and realizing you're out of brown sugar.
However, if you have molasses and white sugar, you can blend your own brown sugar.
Food scientist and chef Alton Brown offers a great recipe for whipping up brown sugar on the spot. This homemade sugar will keep for up to a month if stored in an airtight container.
What Can I Substitute For Brown Sugar?
If you're completely out of brown sugar and just need a cup, add one tablespoon of white sugar to one tablespoon of molasses per food authorities at Instructables.com.
If you don't have a food processor, mix it with a fork. If your recipe calls for water, you can warm up the water a bit and mix your molasses in with it. Then just blend in your white sugar in place of the brown and add the water per the recipe.
In a real pinch, maple syrup can be substituted for the molasses.
Any time you're handling brown sugar, be sure to store it in an airtight container. White sugar stays granular because all the liquid has been spun out of it. Brown sugars are clumpy because some of the liquid is left in it.
However, if brown sugar is allowed to dry and all the liquid sugar is allowed to evaporate, brown sugar becomes a useless brick.
When trying to cut out empty calories, the brown sugar benefits available thanks to the molasses content are a great bonus.
If you're trying to cut back on processed foods but miss the sweetness, add a teaspoon full of dark brown sugar to teas or smoothies. You'll get the benefit of nutrients available in brown sugar, a burst of sweet flavor, and carbohydrates to keep you going.