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I’ve written several posts about baking tips, including the difference between natural and Dutch cocoa and the difference between cane sugar and beet sugar. Now, I’ll tell you if it makes a difference whether you use white sugar or brown sugar in your baking!
What Is the Difference Between White Sugar and Brown Sugar?
White table sugar consists of midsized crystals of sucrose. Brown sugar is made of midsize sucrose crystals coated with a layer of dark syrup such as molasses.
Each type of sugar will have different effects on your baking. Here’s how:
- White sugar is better at producing a crisp crust, whether to add crispness to a cookie or a crackly crust on a brownie.
- White sugar’s flavor is pure and does not add any additional flavors.
- Brown sugar is better at producing softness. This effect is even more noticeable the day after baking. The reason for this effect is because the molasses that coats the sugar is hygroscopic (meaning that it attracts and holds on to moisture). According to Harold McGee, author of the classic On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen,
Brown sugar is soft and clingy because its molasses film- whose glucose and fructose are more hygroscopic than sucrose- contains a significant amount of water.
- Brown sugar provides a distinctive molasses flavor. The strength of the flavor will vary depending on the type and brand of the brown sugar, as different brown sugars use different amounts and strengths of molasses.
Which one is best, brown sugar or white sugar?
Either white sugar or brown sugar can be used successfully in baking. Follow the recipe if you can, but if you need to substitute one for the other, you can do so with equal amounts. Remember to pack the brown sugar into the measuring cup to produce an equal amount, and keep in mind that the flavor and texture might be a bit different when you make substitutions.