‘Tis the season for those with a sweet tooth to indulge and that’s easy to do. At every turn there’s a tin of goodies to explore, a party to attend or a gift that has arrived containing candy, cookies and all sorts of sweet confections.
It’s also the baking season, so many who don’t normally bake will venture into the kitchen to reproduce family favorite recipes. One of the easiest ways to enhance everything from those sweet treats to sweet potatoes to breads is to pull out the brown sugar.
At one time, the options were light and dark brown sugar. Both are familiar and good pantry staples. But if you stroll down the baking ingredient aisle, you’ll also find some other options that are equally fun and delicious to use such as Muscovado and Demerara.
Most however are going to go with what they know, which are the common light and dark brown sugars. These are not only the most popular but also the least expensive. Brown sugar is simply sugar crystals that have been coated with a molasses syrup.
Whether it becomes light or dark depends on the amount of the molasses used in the process. It is prepared by boiling until crystals form, then those crystals are dried by spinning them in a centrifuge.
It adds moisture to the sugar, which in turn adds moisture to whatever recipe you are using it in. For that reason, it has to be packed with a spoon in a cup when measured rather than simply pouring it as you would regular sugar. There are some pourable light brown sugars, but I am not a fan of those … I want it to be moist!
Because of the moisture, you have to store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. If you keep it in a plastic bag, squeeze out as much excess air as possible before sealing.
You asked for it
Coleen Johnson of Chicago asks: How do I soften brown sugar that is rock hard?
If you have time, place a cut apple wedge or a slice of loaf bread in the brown sugar container. Close it tightly and allow it to stand for a couple of days. It works like magic. If you are in a hurry, microwave it for 20 to 30 seconds on high power. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t begin to melt.
Tammy Algood is the author of five cookbooks and can be seen on “Volunteer Gardener” on PBS stations in Tennessee. Follow her at www.hauteflavor.com.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Market basket: So many family favorites enhanced with brown sugar