Why You Should Think Twice Before You Buy Brown Sugar

White sugar doesn't hold a lot of mystique. Sure, it's delicious, but it's run of the mill, ordinary. Its relative, brown sugar, however, is a real showstopper. When you put a bag of this golden-hued sweet stuff in your cart, you almost feel like you can hold your head a little higher. This, after all, is highbrow sugar.  

Part of brown sugar's superior image has to do with the fact that many believe it's the healthier option. Unfortunately, The New York Times warns not to believe this myth about brown sugar, clarifying that the white and brown varieties have about the same caloric content (brown has 17 kilocalories in each teaspoon, and white has 16). While the outlet confesses that the molasses in brown sugar does add some beneficial minerals, these are found in trace amounts that don't add up to any real nutritional pluses. 

Brown sugar's upscale reputation is likely also fueled by the fact that it's more expensive. And, of course, there are the results that can be created when brown sugar is used properly. The Washington Post, for instance, says that it can enhance the flavor of both fudge and butterscotch and create a desirable chewiness in some desserts. 

But before anyone puts a bag of brown sugar on top of any pedestal, there are a few things you should know. The truth is that brown sugar (light or dark) isn't that different from its paler counterpart at all. In fact, without white sugar, much of today's brown sugar wouldn't even exist.

You can just make your own brown sugar using white sugar and molasses

Indeed, haughty brown sugar owes much to its lowly cousin. As the Detroit Free Press explains, there once was a time when brown sugar was only partially refined, maintaining some of its own molasses. Back then, it would have been justified for brown sugar users to frown down upon those using its overly refined relative. Now, however, this isn't the case. Most bags of brown sugar in the grocery store are nothing more than plain white sugar with molasses mixed in. Yup. It actually goes through more processing than its less expensive cousin. Its degree of darkness is dependent upon how much molasses is added.

This is why, when faced with rock-hard, brown sugar clumps, YouTuber Adam Ragusea decided to abandon the stuff altogether. He now makes brown sugar from white sugar. Was that the sound of your mind being blown? Yes, he makes it himself and it's super easy. To make light brown sugar, simply mix a little bit of molasses with however much sugar you need in a food processor, increasing the amount of molasses if you want dark brown sugar instead of light. Exact recipes vary, but you can experiment with the quantities to discover your favorite proportions. And if you make your own brown sugar and fear that the leftovers will harden in the pantry over time, there's a solution.

Terra cotta can keep brown sugar soft

Yes, brown sugar does not have to be left to solidify. Domino Sugar says one trick to keeping brown sugar soft is storing it in something that is airtight and able to keep moisture out. And, never put it in the fridge. That's right. If yours is living there right now, pull it out. MyRecipes adds that the container you use should be on the smallish side, as you don't want the sugar to be exposed to a great deal of air. 

There are even things you can add to your brown sugar to keep it pliable. If you've ever seen a small terra cotta disc or teddy bear floating around a friend's kitchen and wondered what it's for, you may be surprised to learn that it is designed specifically to keep brown sugar soft. And, as Start Cooking observes, it works. All you have to do is soak your terra cotta object in water for about 15 minutes, dry it off, and add it to the airtight container that holds your sugar. This will not only keep your brand new bag of sugar super soft, but it will also significantly soften up a clump that has already hardened. Yes, that little bear isn't just a cute face. Food52 contends that a piece of fresh bread (apparently, any type will do) will also keep your brown sugar fluffy — although the bear looks better. 

Rock-hard brown sugar can be softened

When faced with an already hardened brick of amber sweetness, what options do you have? Well, you could go the Adam Ragusea direction and whip up a whole new batch. Or, you could simply find a way to soften brown sugar and save the day. Ree Drummond offers that a quick and simple method is to throw the sugar clump into a bowl (make sure it's microwavable), put a dampened paper towel on top, and microwave it for about 20 seconds. Use a fork to work the granules loose, then repeat the whole process until the brown sugar has returned to its ideal softness.

Bake or Break adds that you can also use your oven. Enshroud your sugar blob in aluminum foil, lay it on a baking sheet, and set your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. After five minutes, test it for squishiness. If it needs more time, keep an eye on it. Once it's just the way you want it, take it out and let it cool down. You can also opt for the previously mentioned dampened terra cotta method if you're not in a hurry — so, not when you have a hankering for some crispy brown sugar bacon.