Baking Booster: Dark Brown Sugar
Over the next couple of weeks as we head into High Baking Season, I'm giving shout outs to my go-to ingredients that instantly transform standard baking recipes into something infinitely more crave-worthy. It's not necessarily about spending more on exotic items (although Ina is right--sometimes the "good" vanilla really does make a difference!), it's about easy swaps that you might already have in your pantry, or simply handling ingredients in a different way to get the best out of them, leaving you with baked goods that will blow minds and take names. As the old saying goes, "Bake smarter, not harder"...or something like that.
To kick off this series of Baking Boosters, I can think of no better, easier baking ingredient upgrade than switching to dark brown sugar. Any recipe that calls for light brown sugar will be 50 times more flavorful (roughly--what do you think I am, a flavor scientist?) by simply swapping out light brown sugar for dark, and it won't cost you a penny more at the supermarket. These days, I typically only keep dark brown sugar in my pantry, and have raaarely run into a situation where light brown sugar would have been a better fit.
You might already know that conventional brown sugar isn't brown because it's insanely healthy or less refined than white granulated--standard issue brown sugar is actually just refined white sugar with molasses added back in for color, caramel flavor, and moisture. Dark brown has more molasses added to it than light brown. Most recipes that call for brown sugar do so because they benefit from that added color, flavor, and moisture (often leading to a softer/chewy texture), and having a little more of those things never seems like a bad thing to me. So I just go with dark brown sugar across the board. I've got enough crazy going on in my cabinets (and my life in general), so I really don't see the need to have two varieties of conventional brown sugar in there on the regular, especially if one does a better job of giving me the flavor and texture I crave than the other.
However! There is another dark brown sugar in my cabinet in addition to the one I buy at the supermarket. And that is dark muscovado sugar, which is simply magical and is indeed less refined and even more flavorful than conventional dark brown sugar. It's on another level altogether. We'll get to that next time.
In the meantime, why don't you try swapping out your light brown sugar for dark brown, or even make your own brown sugar, and see what you think? And for good measure, here's a few recipes that really celebrate the glory of dark brown sugar: