Perfect brown sugar, every time

making brown sugar

I've seen a lot of kitchen tips on how to soften brown sugar. The advice varies from using damp paper towels, using the microwave, putting an apple or piece of bread in the container, and using adorable terra cotta bears. But even if my brown sugar is soft, it always has small, hard lumps that never seem to go away, no matter how many tricks I try. These little lumps don't matter when using the brown sugar in liquid applications like a pudding, but they wreak havoc on cakes and cookies. The only recourse is to force the brown sugar through a mesh sieve, a tedious process.

But there is a way to have perfect brown sugar every time: make it yourself using molasses or dark treacle syrup and granulated sugar. This is how most brown sugar is made, after all. The ratio for homemade brown sugar is approximately 1½ teaspoons (.25 oz, 7.5g) molasses to 1 cup (7 oz, 200g) of granulated sugar for light brown sugar and 1 tablespoon (.5 oz, 15g) molasses per 1 cup sugar for dark brown sugar. Most online instructions tell you you to mix the molasses into the brown sugar and then proceed with your recipe. I don't bother with this step; I add the molasses to the liquid ingredients instead.

The beauty of this method goes beyond the perfectly soft, lump-free product obtained. First, it saves cupboard space. There is no for need separate containers for light and dark brown sugars. Also, you can adjust the strength of the brown sugar to suit your taste by adding or subtracting molasses. You can also experiment with other flavors, substituting sorghum syrup, golden syrup, agave nectar, barley malt syrup, or maple syrup.

Now that you have an endless supply of perfect brown sugar, here are some great recipes in which to use it:

Caramel chicken from Bon Appétit
Caramelised pork belly with chilli vinegar from MasterChef Australia: The Cookbook (Volume Two)
A variety of satays and peanut dipping sauces
Butterscotch pudding with bourbon whipped cream from Joy the Baker
Butterscotch layer cake from How To Be a Domestic Goddess
Nick's supernatural brownies from Saveur
Old-fashioned ginger biscuits from British & Irish Food

Now I've got a craving for butterscotch pudding. What is your favorite recipe using brown sugar?


  • Cubangirl  on  2/9/2014 at 4:56 AM

    Hi, great tip. A couple of questions. Do you use light or dark molasses? Other online recipes have higher proportions of molasses, i.e. 1½ TBS. Molasses for light and 3 TBS. for dark per 1 cup sugar. Does the light vs. dark account for the difference? Thanks.

  • darcie_b  on  2/9/2014 at 7:41 AM

    I use dark molasses (I can hardly find any other kind here). Yes, many online recipes use the higher ratio - and perhaps they were indeed using light molasses. In that case you may want to use more.

  • Cubangirl  on  2/9/2014 at 7:53 AM

    Thanks, I will use your measures.

  • MiChal.626  on  2/9/2014 at 9:39 AM

    My grandmother's blondies!

  • hillsboroks  on  2/10/2014 at 8:43 AM

    A few years ago the Local paper, the Portland Oregonian, published the recipe for a most amazing butterscotch pudding from a local restaurant called The Country Cat. After I ruined the first batch using the oven temp printed in the paper I tried again with a lower temp per other recipes from my cookbooks. It is heavenly and one of our favorite desserts now.

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