Monday, December 28, 2009

Make your own brown sugar

Bleatings from EnviRambo.

Necessity is mother the of invention. Saturday I needed brown sugar - 2 cups of brown sugar. That does not look like 2 cups to me. With relatives on the way, a house to clean, and cookies to bake, there was no time to take a break and run to the store, only to grumble all the way home about my organic brown sugar packaged in a plastic bag. I have whined about it before - organic food in plastic packaging is a major pet peeve of mine! But I digress, I was well into a batch of Pumpkin Whoopie Pies and in need of brown sugar.

I have sugar and I have molasses, so essentially I have brown sugar. That's right, brown sugar is nothing more than white sugar and molasses. Who knew? Sometimes I am so naive that I do not take time to stop and think.

To make your own brown sugar combine one cup of white sugar with one tablespoon of molasses. We use a lot of brown sugar in this household, so I made a double batch right away and still wish I had made more. A whirl in the food processor, blender, stand mixer, hand mixer, fork and bowl, what have you is all it takes.

Voila! Brown sugar. Damn that was easy. Why have I not done this sooner? And, why have I spent so much time whining about buying brown sugar packaged in plastic when the solution was this easy? If I were flexible enough I would kick my own ass! Now I can buy my organic evaporated cane juice in bulk (using my own container!) and organic molasses in glass and have my brown sugar just the way I like it - plastic-free. Whoopie!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies - with my own brown sugar

Pumpkin Cakes:
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 15 ounces pumpkin puree
Vanilla Filling:
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners' (powdered) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
For Pumpkin Cakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place oven rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a larger bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (can also use a hand mixer), beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and pumpkin puree. Beat in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Drop heaping tablespoons (can also use a small ice cream scoop) of the batter onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. With moistened fingers or the back of a spoon, smooth the tops of the cakes.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the tops of the cookies when lightly pressed spring back. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Filling: Beat the shortening and butter until soft and creamy. With the mixer on its lowest speed, gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar. Increase the speed to high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Then, with the mixer on low speed, beat in the vanilla extract and slowly drizzle in the corn syrup. Continue to beat until the filling looks like soft mayonnaise.

To Assemble: Take one cake and spread a heaping tablespoon of the filling on the flat side of the cake. Top with another cake. The assembled cookies can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for several days. Bring to room temperature before serving.


Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I actually stopped buying brown sugar a couple years ago, but not for environmental reasons...We never seemed to go through brown sugar fast enough before it turned into a rock, so one day I just decided to stop dealing with it. I like how you can adjust the amount of molasses to fit your taste depending on if you like lighter or darker brown sugar.

Green Bean said...

It is SO wrong of you to post that recipe and that photo on a day like today - when I weighed myself to see the damage the last two weeks have done! I really may have to make those.

greeen sheeep said...

@Erin - Brown sugar never lasts long enough in this house to turn hard, but I do use a water-soaked clay disc in the container to keep it soft. I also like the options making my own offers. You can customize it exactly to your tastes depending on the type of sugar and molasses used - along with the quantities. I wonder what vanilla brown sugar would taste like? Bet that would be yummy in my oatmeal!

@GB - Come on, it's pumpkin! It's like eating your vegetables, right?

JessTrev said...

Wow. I will never have to buy brown sugar again! You rock - I had NO IDEA. And I totes hate the organic brown sugar plastic packaging too.

Anonymous said...

Add me to the "I had no idea!" list. I won't be buying brown sugar again either. Thanks for the great tip!!

Donna said...

That looks fantastic! I am wondering -- is it really the same stuff? I mean, is that how the manufactorers do it or does it taste so similar that you can't tell? My husband is so particular that he can tell when I've bought the generic brown sugar vs. the name brand.

Condo Blues said...

I came up with making my own brown sugar in much of the same way. Except I was making peanut butter cupcakes not whoopie pies.

My shocker was that we had molasses in the house so I could make brown sugar. My husband put either brown sugar or molasses in his coffee - that's why we go through it so much.

fullfreezer said...

I made the same discovery earlier this fall, making a pumpkin pie. But a word of warning- when all you have in the house is blackstrap molasses- it doesn't take as much unless you REALLY like the molasses flavor.

Daisy said...

Delicious! I had no idea making brown sugar was so easy. Thanks for sharing the tip!

greeen sheeep said...

@Donna - From Wikipedia: "Brown sugar is often produced by adding cane molasses to completely refined white sugar crystals in order to more carefully control the ratio of molasses to sugar crystals and to reduce manufacturing costs. This also allows the production of brown sugars to be based predominantly on beet sugar. Brown sugar prepared in this manner is often much coarser than its unrefined equivalent and its molasses may be easily separated from the crystals by simple washing to reveal the underlying white sugar crystals; with unrefined brown there is inclusion of molasses within the crystal which will appear off-white if washed. This is mainly done for inventory control and convenience."

Oh! The addition of dyes and/or other chemicals may be permitted in some areas or for industrial products. If you can find a molasses that your husband likes I would give it a try.

Green Me Alison said...


@Donna, I understand your husband. I can tell the difference between beet and cane sugar. It irks me to no end, because I prefer beet, but you can't buy it organic. And now it is almost guaranteed to be GMO.

While we are at it -- you can sub rice syrup for corn syrup, which I will be doing if I make this pumpkin woohpie pies, which is darn tempting!

Beany said...

I had no idea this was what brown sugar entailed. I too was whining about the plastic and the brown sugar purchases. But no more!

Donna said...

Thanks greeen sheep & green me. I'll have to play around with this and see what I can do. Will report back if it works. :)

debra said...

duh! i cannot believe i've been buying brown sugar all this time! the light bulb just went on just like when i discovered i didn't have to buy baking soda, baking powder and cream of tartar. mix 2parts cream of tartar with 1 part baking soda and magically... baking powder. to make any quantity worth storing, add the same amount of corn starch as baking soda.

Truffula said...

Excellent tip! In addition to the hard-as-a-rock problem of brown sugar, there's the added complication of having only light brown sugar when the recipe calls for dark (not that I'm known for following recipes to the letter, but still...), and who wants to have *two* boxes or bags sitting around in the cabinet?! You just helped me declutter a few cubic inches of precious kitchen space!

Pure Mothers said...

I had no idea either. Thank you for giving me another way out of purchasing disposable plastic! We don't use much brown sugar in our home, but when I do I hate that the organic one is in plastic! Can't wait to try this recipe.

kale for sale said...

I had no idea. Thank you. Check off another plastic bag at our house too.

Jen said...

I'lljust add my voice to the crowd: No way! I had no idea. I mean, I knew it was made with molasses, but I didn't consider making it at home. (though luckily I can get brown sugar in bulk at my local grocery.)

Tony R. said...

Wow, who knew it was this easy?! I'm excited to run out now so we can make our own

Illysa said...

Okay, but when they make brown sugar they do it by not removing the molasses, right? They don't process it down to white and then add back the molasses.

The only reason it matters is that perhaps in the bigger picture it's better for the earth if we buy brown sugar rather than encourage manufacturers to continue to strip the molasses out in the first place. If sales go down, production will decline. While production of white sugar -- using greater energy and other resources -- will go up.


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