Saturday, February 5, 2011

Brown Sugar: Good or Bad?

Both!!! This is a trick question because I have answers to both:

What do you do when a recipe calls for brown sugar and you reach into the cabinet and yours is hard as a rock because you either a.) left it open and unsealed or b.) last used it in 2005 when you tried to bake once before ... The first thing you want to try is putting the brown sugar in the microwave. Try your best to measure out the amount you need so that you don't microwave more than you need. This should soften it right up because the only difference between white and brown sugar is that brown sugar has molasses mixed in - giving it the brown color. This also explains why dark brown sugar has a stronger molasses flavor to it - it has a higher concentration of molasses than the lighter version. So what you thought was bad brown sugar is now good again!

Brown sugar is a great ingredient that adds different flavor than white sugar, though you shouldn't be quick to substitute in every recipe. Brown sugar is a moister sugar, it will often make your baked goods more moist. Nutritionally, there isn't a big difference between the two. When you want to substitute, the amounts are equal - so 1 cup of white sugar = 1 cup of packed brown sugar. An important note - "packed" means that you use the back of a spoon to press the sugar down into the measuring cup until you have a completely packed down amount.

Today I decided to try making this Buttery Apple Torte and though the recipe called for white sugar I decided to try it out with brown sugar, because apples and that molasses flavor sound like they would go well together! It turned out delicious and completely moist!! We didn't even need to top it with ice cream or whipped cream - just the confectioners' sugar (for looks for than anything else).

Buttery Apple Torte
6 TB plus 3 TB butter (1 stick plus 1 TB)
4 Macintosh Apples - peeled, cored and sliced
3/4 cup wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
2 whole eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
One squeeze of lemon juice (probably just a TB)
Confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and get your 9-inch round cake pan ready. You'll want to butter it really good so that the cake doesn't stick and is easy to get out once you take it out of the oven. The easiest way I've found to butter a pan is to take some saran wrap and wrap it around your hand/fingers - then take some softened table butter with that hand and use it to spread all around the pan.
2. Get your apples ready - peel them, and cut them into slices (not too thick). Melt the butter in the microwave and pour 6 of the TB in a small bowl, setting it aside. Add the apple slices and the rest of the butter to a saute pan, cooking on low heat for just 5-7 minutes, until they're a bit tender.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
4. In a larger bowl, beat the whole eggs and the egg yolk together (or whisk). Add the 6 TB of melted butter, vanilla, brown sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix until blended together well.
5. Add in the flour mixture to the egg mixture, once a bit blended you can also add the apples (it's fine if they're still warm and right off the stove). Once blended together, pour into your buttered cake pan.
6. Bake for 30 minutes. Take out of the oven and put on a wire cookie rack to cool for 5-10 minutes, then you can take the cake out of the pan and continue to cool it on the rack. Hint: Put a large plate over the top of the cake pan, invert the pan so that the top of the cake is now on the bottom of the plate. Then put the cooling rack over the plate (and bottom of the cake) and invert again. Now you have the cake sitting right side up on the cooling rack!

7. Once it has cooled a bit longer, plate the cake by dusting confectioners' sugar over the top! It was nice served warm - but if you bake it in advance I'm sure you could pop it in the microwave for 8-10 seconds to warm it back up.

*Note: I thought this dessert might actually be a good brunch item as well - it was definitely sweet, but not over the top and a small slice with coffee and some fresh berries on top would be perfect!

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