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Soft Brown Sugar – The Complete Guide

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Where would we be without sugar? And yes, we know we’re supposed to be cutting down on sugar, but some things just don’t taste right without it!

But with so many different types of sugar available, does it really matter which one you use?

The type of sugar you use in your recipe can make a huge difference, especially when using dark sugars such as soft brown sugar!

So, what is soft brown sugar? Soft brown sugar is made by adding small amounts of molasses to white sugar, to give a rich, earthy flavor and a soft texture. It is easy to make soft brown sugar at home in just a few simple steps.

We think that soft brown sugar is one of the most underrated cooking ingredients out there, and today we’re going to dive deep into this delightfully sweet ingredient!

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about soft brown sugar.

What Is Sugar?

Although sugar doesn’t always get the best of times when it comes to dietary advice, sugar is a natural ingredient and has always been part of the human diet!

The word sugar, or sucrose, is a generic term used to describe a form of carbohydrates with a sweet flavor.

These occur naturally in many foods, such as fruit, vegetables, and milk. The sugar which we buy from the store is extracted from plant material.

Carbohydrates are a major source of energy in our diets. The sugar component of carbohydrates is broken down into glucose.

A small amount of glucose is required for our brains, central nervous system, and red blood cells to function.

So how is the sugar that we buy in the grocery store made? This store cupboard staple is extracted from either sugar cane or sugar beet, both of which contain high levels of sugar.

Sugar cane is a tall, grass-like plant, which grows up to 5 meters high. It stores sugar in its long stalk. Sugar beet is a root vegetable, and stores sugar in its large, bulbous roots.

To extract the sugar from sugar cane, the stalks are crushed, and the juice extracted. This is then filtered and concentrated into a syrup. Sugar crystals then form in this highly-concentrated sweet syrup.

The process to extract sugar from sugar beet is slightly different. The beets are sliced into small chunks and place into hot water. This causes the sugars to leach out into the water, giving a syrup which can then be refined into sugar.

What Is Soft Brown Sugar?

So, all sugar starts the same, but we know that there are many different types available in the grocery store. Why is this and how are they made?

Once the sugar syrup and crystals have been extracted from the cane or beets, it is then refined. It is this process that determines how the final product will turn out.

Pure sugar is pure white in appearance. However, when raw sugar leaves the factory, the crystals have a golden color. This is because this is not pure sugar – it has other non-sugar materials attached to the sugar crystals.  

To reveal the natural white color of sugar, these crystals are purified to remove plant fibers and molasses. The end result is naturally white crystals of sugar.

If sugar is naturally white, what is soft brown sugar?

Remember that we mentioned that a substance called molasses was removed from the sugar during the refining process – this is a key byproduct of sugar manufacturing.

Molasses is a thick, dark brown liquid, with a rich and distinctive flavor. If you have ever tried black treacle then you will understand what molasses tastes like!

To make brown sugar, these molasses are added to the pure white sugar crystals. This coats the sugar, giving it a distinctive brown coloring. The amount added varies according to the depth of color and flavor required.

How Is Soft Brown Sugar Different From Other Sugars?

Soft brown sugar is a good mid-range sugar, suitable for many types of cooking. It has a subtle molasses flavor that is not too overpowering.

Adding molasses to sugar alters the texture of sugar. Pure white sugar is dry and does not stick together at all. Brown sugars are much softer and will form clumps. Brown sugars have an almost damp feel to them.

Other types of brown sugar, such as Muscovado sugar, are much darker than soft brown sugar.

This is because they have had larger amounts of molasses added. Muscovado is much denser and moister than soft brown sugar, with a very sticky texture.

You may also find types of brown sugar that are not soft, and do not have the clumping effect of soft brown sugar.

These include Demerara sugar and Turbinado sugar. These types of sugar have a grittier texture than soft brown sugar.

What Is The Difference Between Light And Dark Brown Soft Sugar?

Light and soft brown sugar are both sugars with a soft texture, similar to damp sand. The difference between them is the amount of molasses that has been added, which changes the overall texture and flavor.

Light soft brown sugar is a light tan color and has a delicate caramel flavor. It gives a richer and fuller flavor than white sugar and is popular in baking as well as savory dishes.

Dark soft brown sugar has higher levels of molasses, giving a darker color and denser texture. It is popular for recipes such as gingerbread, pickles, and chutneys, where a richer flavor is required.

If you only have one type of soft brown sugar on your shelf, don’t panic! The two are very similar and will work well if used interchangeably.

However, if you find the flavor of dark brown sugar too overpowering, just mix it with equal amounts of white sugar.

What Does Soft Brown Sugar Taste Like?

Soft brown sugar has a lovely, delicate flavor, and is the perfect mid-range sugar for baking. It goes without saying that soft brown sugar is sweet, but what does it actually taste like?

The best way to describe the flavor of soft brown toffee would be to compare it to toffee.

Light soft brown sugar has a flavor comparable to toffee of the same color. Dark soft brown sugar is richer in flavor, tasting more like cinder toffee.

This great flavor comes from the careful blend of molasses and sugar. On their own, molasses taste incredibly rich, with slightly bitter undertones. The addition of sugar creates the perfect balance of sweetness with an earthy and rich flavor.

What Is Soft Brown Sugar Used For?

The flavor and texture of soft brown sugar lend themselves well to many types of cooking. The soft granules dissolve easily, without any gritty or grainy residue. The light but rich flavor adds a great taste without being too overpowering.

A popular use for soft brown sugar is in beverages, such as hot drinks and cocktails. Dark soft brown sugar tastes great in a coffee, particularly with a hint of Irish cream too! 

Soft brown sugar is also the perfect complement to stronger flavors when used in savory cooking. It will make the perfect caramel glaze for hams and roasted meats and add a rich flavor to sauces and casseroles.

But it is when it comes to baking that soft brown sugar comes into its own! The delicate, spicy flavor blends perfectly with other ingredients to add richness to your home baking.

The soft and moist texture means it mixes well with other ingredients, without leaving a gritty feel to your cakes.

There are a couple of things to bear in mind when baking with soft brown sugar. The type you use will affect how much things rise, particularly if baking soda is used as the raising agent. 

It is also important to remember that soft brown sugar contains higher levels of moisture than white sugar. So if you are switching white for brown, you may need to reduce the amount of liquid that goes into your cake mix.

Brown sugar will also result in a softer and denser cake, and it is not suitable if you want a light and fluffy sponge.

How To Make Soft Brown Sugar

Haven’t got any soft brown sugar? Don’t panic, you can make this at home in just a few simple steps!

In fact, many people regularly make their own soft brown sugar, as it is easier than having several different types of sugar cluttering up the pantry shelves.

To make soft brown sugar, all you need to do is add molasses back into your white sugar. If you’ve never bought molasses before, it is a thick, dark, and incredibly sticky syrup.

Molasses can be bought at the grocery store, and it normally sold in a tin or plastic bottle. If you can find it, try to get unsulfured molasses – this has a better flavor than sulfured molasses.

You may see different types of molasses on sale at the store. These can be put into two different categories:

Light, Original, Regular, or Mild Molasses

These types come from the first boiling of the sugary syrup, giving molasses which is lighter in color. This type of molasses has a more subtle taste and would give you a flavor profile similar to light soft brown sugar.

Dark, Robust, Full, or Second Molasses

Dark and intense, these molasses come from a second boiling of the sugar syrup. It has a dominant and slightly bitter flavor but combines perfectly with ginger and other strong ingredients.

If you can track down some molasses from your store, this versatile product has a long shelf life and many uses. So as well as making your own soft brown sugar, a bottle of molasses may transform your baking in many other ways!

Let’s take a look at how to use molasses to make soft brown sugar.

How To Make Soft Brown Sugar

This recipe will give you 1 cup of soft brown sugar. If your recipes require more or less than this, adjust the amounts accordingly.

  1. Add 1 cup of granulated sugar to a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of the molasses of your choice.
  3. Mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thoroughly blended.
  4. When finished, the sugar should have soaked up all the molasses from the bowl.
  5. Store the soft brown sugar in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

To make darker soft brown sugar, you can either use dark molasses or increase the amount of molasses you use. Remember that this will increase the moisture content of your sugar, so adjust your recipe accordingly.

You can also add molasses to light brown sugar to create dark brown sugar.

Related Questions

Now that we’ve gone over what soft brown sugar is and the best way to make it, let’s take a look at a few related questions!

What is the best way to make flavored sugar?

Now we’ve got all excited about making soft brown sugar, we’re feeling inspired to make other types of flavored sugars!

Adding different sweet syrups to sugar can give some great flavor profiles, perfect for adding an extra dimension to your home baking.

Here are some of our favorite ideas for making flavored sugar:

  • Add a tablespoon of fragrant honey to a cup of granulated sugar. You will get light brown sugar with incredible floral flavors.
  • Maple syrup can be added to granulated sugar to give a rich, nutty flavor with tones of caramel.
  • Add vanilla extract to soft brown sugar to give a delightful flavor, similar to vanilla toffee ice cream!

How do you keep brown sugar from hardening?

Brown sugar is so soft and malleable because it contains high levels of moisture from molasses. However, when this moisture is allowed to evaporate, the sugar dries out and becomes hard.

Once a bag of brown sugar has been opened it will quickly start to become hard and difficult to use.

To prevent brown sugar from hardening, it should be stored in an airtight container. Make sure that this container is rust-proof. Reusable Tupperware-style boxes work well for storing brown sugar, as do food-safe Ziplock bags.

Store your brown sugar in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Many people tend to leave their sugar out on the worktop, handy for making hot drinks, but your sugar will not keep fresh for as long this way.

Mind you, it probably will be used long before it reaches the point of no return!

How can I soften hard sugar? 

If sugar has gone hard, can you rescue it? Yes, it is very easy to make hard sugar soft and malleable again. The sugar has gone hard in the first place because the moisture has evaporated, so all we need to do is add that moisture back in.

However, if we just popped water in with the sugar it would simply dissolve. Here are a few clever hacks to quickly soften hard sugar to help you out:

  • The first option is to put the hard sugar in a bowl, cover it with a moist paper towel, and microwave for 20 seconds. The water vapor will permeate the sugar, helping it to soften and become moist again.
  • Alternatively, you can pop something moist inside your sugar container. A few slices of apple or bread will work well, helping to put moisture back into the sugar.
  • Finally, hard brown sugar will soften if popped into the oven on medium-low heat. Use an oven-safe bowl and stir every few minutes until softened.

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