Whether you're baking for a birthday or a holiday party, you'll
need quite a bit of brown or white sugar on hand. The question then
becomes brown sugar vs. white sugar—which do you use? The most
notable difference is the color of the sugars, but do they actually
taste any different? Which pastries does each work best in? Are
they actually interchangeable?
Principal chef of Hello Fresh Claudia Sidoti answers all of your
Brown sugar vs. white sugar—how are they different?
"Brown sugar is simply sugar that has molasses, which is what gives
it that brown color and flavor," says Sidoti.
The chef also adds that brown sugar inherently retains moisture, so
it's best incorporated in baked goods that are soft such as cakes,
muffins, and soft chocolate chip cookies.
"Cookies made with brown sugar will be [more moist]," she says.
"Brown sugar can be great for glazes and sauces, like barbecue
There are also two different kinds of brown sugar, light and dark,
both of which are used in different recipes. Light brown sugar
contains about 3.5 percent molasses by weight, whereas dark
molasses contains about 6.5 percent. Light brown sugar is what
you'll typically find in most recipes, and dark brown sugar is what
you'd see in dishes and baked goods that have a more prominent
molasses flavor. Gingerbread and spice cakes and homemade baked
beans are all good examples of foods with dark brown sugar in them.
White sugar, on the other hand, is made with either beet sugar or
cane sugar and is often refined.
"White sugar is best for baked goods that need rising, like mousse
or souffl. It also gives a more neutral flavor, so it's great in
fruitier pastries," says Sidoti.
Which one is healthier?
Sugar is sugar, so there are no significant differences between
brown and white sugars. According to the USDA, one teaspoon of
brown sugar contains roughly 17.5 calories and the same amount of
white sugar has about 16.3 calories.
While the two are nearly equivalent in nutrition, there is a
marginal difference. Because brown sugar contains molasses, it's a
little bit richer in three minerals: calcium, iron, and potassium.
However, it's not a good source of either mineral because it
comprises such insignificant amounts of each.
RELATED: The easy guide to cutting back on sugar is finally here.
If a recipe doesn't specify, should you use brown sugar or white
"If a recipe doesn't specify which sugar to use, I think it's best
practice to use white sugar," says Sidoti. "However, when swapping
in white for brown, I also like increasing or adding a splash of
vanilla extract to give it a little more depth of flavor."
Hopefully this brings more clarity to the brown sugar vs. white
sugar debate and what really sets the two apart!
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