The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > Cafe Society

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 02-09-2013, 03:32 PM
Canadjun Canadjun is offline
Non sum ergo non cogito
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Alberta Canada
Posts: 3,653
Difference between dark brown and light brown sugar in cooking

I have a culinary physics question. A Butterscotch recipe that I make a lot requires 1 cup of white sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup water, 1/4 cup corn syrup, and 1/3 cup butter. Heat all except the butter in a large pot, stirring until dissolved and then not stirring to 250 degrees. Add butter and cook to 280-300 degrees (hotter makes it more brittle). Pour out onto a greased tray.

Not bad - try it! However, my question is why does it want to boil over so much more easily if I use dark brown sugar vs. light brown sugar? Even with light brown sugar I have to keep an eye on it, but if I use dark brown the boiling mixture almost looks like it is "foaming" and I have to heat it VERY slowly to keep it from boiling over. At least I only need to fight with it until it's time to put the butter in; that stops the "foaming" and I can relax until it finishes cooking.

So, what is the likely reason dark brown sugar gives me so much more difficulty keeping the boiling under control than light brown sugar?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 02-09-2013, 03:51 PM
USCDiver USCDiver is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: NC
Posts: 4,039
The only difference between white sugar and brown sugar is the addition of molasses and the percentage of molasses determines whether it is light or dark brown. My guess is that the dark brown has more water (molasses being hygroscopic) and as the water boils out it is causing the foaming.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 02-09-2013, 05:05 PM
samclem samclem is offline
graphite is a great moderator
Moderator
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Akron, Ohio
Posts: 21,577
Moved from General Questions to Cafe Society, where youu can still get a factual answer.

samclem

Last edited by samclem; 02-09-2013 at 05:05 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 02-09-2013, 05:17 PM
terentii terentii is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Whether you're using real brown sugar or the brown sugar most people use, the difference is indeed in the molasses content. Both light and dark brown have a fairly high moisture content as well.

I'd recommend you use real (less refined) brown sugar, rather than white sugar that's been re-blended with the molasses originally extracted from it. I don't see the point to it, it isn't as healthy (unrefined sugar still contains some vitamins and minerals; white sucrose has none), and I think natural brown sugar tastes much better.

Less refined dark brown is sold as Muscovado sugar, light brown as Demerara. Be sure you read the packaging to make sure you're getting natural/raw/unrefined/less refined sugar (different manufacturers use different terms). Billington's is the brand I normally buy.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 02-09-2013, 06:01 PM
Canadjun Canadjun is offline
Non sum ergo non cogito
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Alberta Canada
Posts: 3,653
Quote:
Originally Posted by USCDiver View Post
The only difference between white sugar and brown sugar is the addition of molasses and the percentage of molasses determines whether it is light or dark brown. My guess is that the dark brown has more water (molasses being hygroscopic) and as the water boils out it is causing the foaming.
Still puzzled. It's already in water, and it is (more or less) dissolved by the time it starts boiling.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 02-09-2013, 06:02 PM
Canadjun Canadjun is offline
Non sum ergo non cogito
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Alberta Canada
Posts: 3,653
Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem View Post
Moved from General Questions to Cafe Society, where youu can still get a factual answer.

samclem
Cool. First time I've ended up in Cafe Society. Guess I know where to put my cooking questions (I'm pretty pitiful as a cook) from now on!
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 02-09-2013, 06:13 PM
terentii terentii is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
I would suggest the higher molasses content makes the mixture more viscous, and thus more likely to foam (since it traps bubbles more efficiently). Adding the butter not only cools it but lowers the viscosity.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 02-09-2013, 07:35 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
I've found dark brown sugar works better in glazes and generally won't char as readily as the lighter stuff. However, I'm sure by controlling the amount and other ingredients light brown sugar could work just as well.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 02-10-2013, 09:00 AM
Canadjun Canadjun is offline
Non sum ergo non cogito
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Alberta Canada
Posts: 3,653
Quote:
Originally Posted by terentii View Post
I would suggest the higher molasses content makes the mixture more viscous, and thus more likely to foam (since it traps bubbles more efficiently). Adding the butter not only cools it but lowers the viscosity.
Cool! Sounds reasonable to me! Thanks.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:17 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.