Light vs. Dark Brown Sugar: Does Your Pantry Need Both?

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Happy day after Valentine’s Day! I hope everyone enjoyed their box of chocolates on this Hallmark and candy holiday 🙂 I spent yesterday morning baking up a treat to share with my Valentine. What was on the sweets menu? Cinnamon Roll Donuts! I stumbled upon a genius recipe on the website Buns In My Oven (http://www.bunsinmyoven.com/2013/02/28/cinnamon-roll-donuts/) that combined two of the best breakfast pastries, donuts and cinnamon rolls. And once again, I had everything I need in my pantry. No trip to the store for this girl!

While reading through the ingredients, I noticed that the recipe called specifically for dark brown sugar. Even though I had this on hand since we had just finished gingerbread season, it got me thinking. What is the difference between light and dark brown sugar, and can they be used interchangeably?

First off, let’s address what brown sugar is. Brown sugar is white refined sugar that has had molasses added to it. What does this do to the sugar? Other than the obvious color change, you may notice that brown sugar has more moisture. This increased moisture means that when brown sugar is used in a recipe instead of white sugar, you will have a moister and chewier final product. That’s why brown sugar is great for helping achieve the perfect chocolate chip cookie!

There are several different variations of brown sugar and for today we are just going to look at the two most common options, light brown sugar and dark brown sugar. Can you guess the main difference between the two? Well, we just learned that brown sugar contains molasses so dark brown sugar has a higher ratio of molasses to sugar, giving it a darker color and deeper caramel flavor. The moisture content between the two is pretty similar so they can be used in place of one another in a recipe with having to compensate with additional or less dry ingredients. What you will notice when switching out one for the other is a change in color in the final product and flavor. Like I mentioned, dark brown sugar has a richer caramel flavor which is not necessarily a bad thing when used in cookies and cakes, just make a mental note of this when you are chomping down on that baked treat. You may need a little extra milk in your glass!

Dark brown sugar is great in gingerbread and cinnamon rolls, while light brown sugar is used more in your muffins, scones, cookies, and cakes. Often times, a recipe will not specify what type of brown sugar should be used and if that is the case they are probably assuming you are going to bake with the light brown sugar. If you are feeling experimental though, switch it out for the dark brown sugar and see what you come up with!

To answer the original question, yes they can be used interchangeably so don’t fret if you are halfway through a recipe and realize you don’t have the “right” brown sugar on hand. The world will not end and your baked treat will taste just as good if you use what you already have in the pantry!

Donut recipe found on http://www.bunsinmyoven.com/2013/02/28/cinnamon-roll-donuts/

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