How to Make Brown Sugar to Take Your Baking to the Next Level

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If you’ve ever thought about making your own brown sugar but thought it might be too hard, fear not! You can make your own brown sugar, ​and​ you can make it just like the pros do, because brown sugar is made in a rather peculiar way. Here's everything you need to know.

How is Brown Sugar Made Anyway?

You see, the process of removing the sugars from crops — either sugar cane or sugar beets — is not exactly easy. First, the crops are shredded into small pieces so they can be juiced, which is then clarified to remove impurities like dirt and fibers. Then, the resulting juice is boiled in an industrial evaporator until it reduces into a thick syrup, at which point it’s clarified a second time to remove any of the odd nasty bits that were too stubborn to get out of the pool the first time. The sugar is then put into a vacuum chamber where it continues to boil, further reducing the liquid into molasses. Sugar crystals are then introduced to the mixture as “seeds,” and the sucrose molecules begin to crystalize around them.

After a week or so, the now-crystalized sugar is put into a massive industrial centrifuge; the crystals, once separated from their liquid, are then dried and, in the case of some brown or raw sugars, packaged. ​However,​ most sugar continues on to a refinery, where it’s further processed into white sugar. Then, to make brown sugar, white sugar is mixed with molasses to recreate its original flavor and color. While the process sounds a bit ridiculous, when it comes to the sugar supply chain, it’s a system that works.

How to Make Brown Sugar at Home When You Have a Lot of Free Time

Cut the sugar cane into small, manageable pieces that can fit into a powerful juicer or blender, then process and strain the resulting juice through a fine cotton cloth. Simmer the sugar juice in an uncovered saucepan until it reduces by half, then stir in a spoonful of granulated sugar to accelerate the production of sugar crystals. Remove from the heat and let cool, then cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a cool, dark place for a week until you have a large mass of crystals. Drain off as much liquid as you can, spread the crystals out on a baking sheet, and set out in the sun to dry completely. Grind in a food processor, and voila! Brown sugar!

Since you’ve gone through all the trouble of making it from scratch, save this sugar for special purposes, like sprinkling on top of fresh fruit or vanilla ice cream, or maybe use it for a high-quality cocktail.

How to Make Brown Sugar at Home Quickly

If you’re looking to make a small amount of brown sugar for a recipe, mix one cup of sugar with two teaspoons of molasses to make light brown sugar, or one and a half tablespoons of molasses to make dark brown sugar. This is how the pros do things when they find themselves out of brown sugar, and are too tired to run to the store for a new box. 

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