By now we are all aware that most brand name brown sugar is actually white sugar with the molasses added back in. And dark brown sugar is the same thing, just with a little more molasses. But what about those extra dark, artisanal brown sugars? Are they worth the extra cash? And what exactly is muscovado sugar?
What is muscovado sugar? Simply put, this is an unrefined cane sugar in which the molasses is not removed. It usually comes labeled 'light' (with less molasses) or 'dark.' Most of the artisanal muscovado sugars come from the island of Mauritius, off the coast of Africa.
In the photo above, you can see how much darker and richer the sugar on the right is. The first bowl contains light brown sugar, the second is dark brown sugar, and the third is dark brown muscovado sugar. The sugar is dark due to the high molasses content which in the case of this brand (Billington's) is never removed. (Note: Billington's calls this sugar Dark Brown Molasses Sugar. Other brands, such as India Tree, refer to it as Dark Muscovado.)
This sugar is amazing. It's texture is like wet sand, moist and sticky. When you taste it, the first note is sweet which then quickly dissolves into a rich, floral bittersweet. There are hints of fruit and toffee, resulting in a much more complex profile than straight white sugar, or even other brown sugars. It leaves an intriguing, slight smoky aftertaste.
While you can use dark muscovado in barbeque sauce or other savory dishes with excellent results, I usually like to use it in recipes that highlight its complex, but subtle, flavors. Ginger cookies and ice cream are a good choice, as well as simple buttercakes. It's fantastic in gingerbread or even sprinkled over yogurt with fresh strawberries. It pairs well with chocolate and can be stirred into coffee, too.
Wholesome Sweeteners, distributor for the Billington's brand, has several recipes using Dark Muscavado Sugar on their website.
Both Billington's and India Tree brands are available in bulk packs at Amazon for a fairly good price:
Billington's Dark Molasses Sugar, 10-one pound boxes, $21.00 at Amazon
India Tree Dark Muscodavo, 4-one pound bags, $18.46 at Amazon
The spoon pictured above is from Herriott Grace and the leaf-shaped bowls are from Joanna Mendicino.
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(Images: Dana Velden)