Differences with Sugar


Gandire Alea

[Wicked Awesome Translator], Female
Blog Posts:
White and brown sugars can be swapped without fuss in any recipe where the chemistry isn't important.
Sugar is an active participant in every recipe.

In recipes that involve baking soda, the primary role of acidic brown sugar is to react with sodium bicarbonate and produce carbon dioxide, making cookies thick, puffy, and soft (cakey at first, then crunchy if they continue to bake). Neutral white sugar can't participate in that reaction, so cookies are comparatively thin, dense, and crisp (chewy if kept from browning).

In recipes that call for creaming butter with sugar until light and fluffy, the primary role of sugar is to assist in mechanical leavening. In that role, white sugar aerates the dough when creamed with butter for thick and puffy cookies. Brown sugar, meanwhile, is dense and compacts easily, creating fewer air pockets during creaming—that means that there's less opportunity to entrap gas, creating cookies that rise less and spread more. With less moisture escaping via steam, they also stay moist and chewy.

In recipes that involve soft or melted butter, sugar can play a critical role in gluten development by acting as a tenderizer, but white and brown sugars aren't the same in that regard, either. White sugar, with its neutral pH, interferes with gluten development, allowing the dough to spread more before it sets. The result is cookies that are thin and tender/crisp. Acidic brown sugar, on the other hand, speeds gluten formation and egg protein coagulation, so the dough sets quickly, making cookies thick and tender/chewy.

Things get more complicated when sugar is playing multiple roles.

When recipes call for all white or all brown sugar, it's to achieve a specific effect.

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    1. Gandire Alea Jul 3, 2021
      I'll just keep that in mind for future reference
      OnceandFutureLurker likes this.
    2. Snowbun Jul 3, 2021
      @Gandire Alea Idk about the US but I believe sugarcane molasses is sorta common in households towards more countryside areas of my home state. But brown sugar should be easier to find. Sugarcane juice is pretty popular too, so one could have that and reduce it to molasses if they're bored enough. We also have something called rapadura, which is also known as panela in South America. But since it's sold in blocks, I dunno if someone would have enough patience to crack it and use it for baking. Most of the time, it's melted into stuff (afaik).
      OnceandFutureLurker likes this.
    3. Anra7777 Jul 3, 2021
      It used to be back when my mom was a kid. I’ve had it on my shelf a few times, for recipes that call for molasses. I can’t remember which recipe it was, though.
      OnceandFutureLurker likes this.
    4. Gandire Alea Jul 3, 2021
    5. Snowbun Jul 3, 2021
      @Anra7777 yup, you can just add molasses! Just 1tbsp to 1cup (around 15ml to 200gr) should do the trick!
    6. Gandire Alea Jul 3, 2021
      Sure, that can be done. But this is more an organization of my notes if I even need a reminder about something
    7. Anra7777 Jul 3, 2021
      Well, if you’re out of brown sugar, wouldn’t it be possible just to use white sugar and add molasses? (Assuming you have molasses.) Although I guess unless you knew the specific ratio of sugar to molasses, that might not work…
      OnceandFutureLurker and Snowbun like this.