Brown Sugar

This post is dedicated to brown sugar: both the opening track of the Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” album, and a key ingredient in a lot of American desserts. I get a lot of questions about this mystery product here in Italy, so I am going to answer them all in one place. Please let me know if any of you have found brown sugar in Italy, I would love to put together a list for our readers!

Q: What is brown sugar?
A: This unrefined (or partially refined) sugar is finely ground and gets its distinctive brown color from the addition of molasses, which also adds moisture to the product.

Q: Oh, so you mean cane sugar? Or raw sugar?
NO. It is not the same thing, raw sugar is not as finely ground as brown sugar and does not contain molasses, which is the key ingredient in brown sugar.

Q: Why should I use brown sugar? Won’t regular white sugar do the same job?
No, brown sugar adds both moisture and a more complex flavor to foods. It helps keep cookies soft and gives a deep caramel flavor to desserts and sauces.

Q: Uffa! I live in Italy and I can’t find brown sugar anywhere! Can’t I substitute it with something?
Never fear! You can make your own brown sugar at home. All you need is a can of molasses, which you can find at specialty-food stores (like NaturaSi, Superpolo, ecc) or in Erboristeria, and some white sugar. Either follow the recipe below to pre-mix your brown sugar, or simply add the correct amount of molasses to the recipe along with the correct amount of white sugar. The ratio is about 10 parts white sugar to 1 part molasses  (if a recipe calls for 250 g of brown sugar, use 225 g of white sugar and 25 g of molasses).

Brown sugar recipe:

  • 1 cup (200 g) white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (20 g) molasses, warm

Mix together the sugar and molasses with a whisk or in a food processor. Use as directed in recipe.

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