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Jan 15, 2007 03:27 PM

Dark brown vs. light brown sugar?

I've never understood the difference and wondered if my fellow chowhounders had an opinion on this. I tend to substitute them freely but I wonder if there truly is a difference.

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    1. Both of them are basically just refined sugar with molasses added back in. Dark brown has more molasses than light. The only difference is flavour. Use whichever you prefer.

        1. In terms of structure and integrity of the finished product, there isn't much difference. But recipes will taste and often look very different if you use one versus the other--richer and more flavorful with the dark. If you don't like that taste or you simple want a lighter taste, use the light.

          By the way, you usually cannot easily add the molasses yourself without making allowance for extra liquid/stage of adding. The molasses they use is extracted and dried. You can get tough baked goods if you simply try to pour in a little extra molasses.

          1. If you would like to use a "brown" sugar as a healthful alternative to plain refined white sugar - try either turbanado (slightly less processed) or sucanat (1st dried pressing of sugar cane) both will have naturally occurring nutrients not found in highly processed products.

            8 Replies
            1. re: jbyoga

              But remember you cannot substitute them for regular dark/light brown sugar. They aren't as finely ground and won't cook the same.

              1. re: lintygmom

                if you're looking for nutrients in sugar, i think you're in trouble!

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  I would guess you're taling to jbyoga--and you're right, there's no difference in nutrition between refined white sugar or turbinado.

                  It wasn't nutrients I was talking about but the ability to have a recipe like a cake come out right. If you substitute turbinado for usual brown sugar in a recipe, the consistency and rise of the cake will be different. In fact, it might fall and be a mess. Also, you get a lot more sugar in a packed cup of dark brown than in a cup of turbinado, which tends to be crystalline and doesn't pack.

                  1. re: lintygmom

                    No doubt adjustment need to be made when substituting a product like sucanat - the point I want to make is that it is possible to use a healthy and natural sweetner - a win/win hopefully!

                    1. re: jbyoga

                      There is no difference in the health of sweeteners made from cane/corn/beet. Sorry. I'm a doctor, and it's true. There is a marginal benefit to honey but the rest? As long as you're not eating toxic chemicals like saccharine, it's the same diabetogenic stuff. Take in moderation as long as you're healthy.

                      1. re: lintygmom

                        They sure cook differently. No way beet sugar is coming into my home and especially not into my kitchen. That stuff is really nasty for baking and cooking. Mine is a 100% cane sugar kitchen.

                        1. re: Candy

                          Almost all the sugar used for baking in Ireland comes from sugar beets - as valid a crop as sugar cane. I just returned from there and the there's little discernible difference other than using a finer texture called caster sugar for baked goods and using granulated for sweetening tea etc. Sponge cakes, sticky toffee pudding, trifle, apple cakes all were delicious.

                          1. re: realslowfood

                            Well, people have found that the processing of the two different sugars seems to make beet sugar less reliable for certain things in the kitchen. There is a considerable amount of commentary out there between chemists who insist there is no discernable difference and cooks who have notwithstanding found some differences and thus stick to cane sugar even if it is more expensive.