Ever indulged in a freshly baked slice of warm gingerbread? Then you’ve experienced firsthand the delightfully rich, dark syrup called molasses. In the early 20th century, molasses was a popular sweetener in the United States. It provides an unmistakable flavor to traditional dishes such as Boston Brown Bread, Molasses Cookies, Shoofly Pie, Gingerbread, Gingersnap Cookies and Baked Beans.
Molasses is the byproduct of extracting sugar from sugarcane or sugar beets. Once extracted, the juice is boiled up to three times to concentrate it. The first boiling, called “Barbados,” is sweet and light. The second boiling, called “dark molasses” or “second molasses,” is darker, thicker and not as sweet. The third boiling, called “blackstrap,” is the heartiest molasses with that characteristic robust, mineral-rich flavor. At Whole Foods Market®, we sell unsulfured, preservative-free molasses. Sulfur dioxide fumes are commonly used as a preservative when making molasses from young green sugarcane, but mature sugarcane plants don’t require it.
Molasses is about two-thirds as sweet as sugar and its strong taste is suited to particular recipes. The flavor can be strong, but make no mistake, it’s a wonderful natural sweetener that can be used in countless ways. Remember, if you like a lighter flavor, purchase Barbados molasses. Here are some great ideas to get you cooking with molasses:
Add it to cookies, muffins and quick breads, or just about any baked goods that rely on either whole grain flours or aromatic spices. These Molasses Gingerbread Cookies are made with allspice and orange zest and this Spiced Gingerbread with Coffee and Molasses is made with ginger and applesauce.
Add to hot cereals or sweeten cold cereals.
Use some molasses in place of all or part of maple syrup in a recipe.
Use it when baking bread for a darker, richer color.
Make Indian Pudding with cornmeal, raisins and molasses.
Stir a spoonful into yogurt.
Drizzle over a sweet potato.
Make your own brown sugar: Stir two tablespoons of molasses into one cup of unbleached white sugar. Use in a recipe calling for brown or light brown sugar. For dark brown sugar, use four tablespoons.
Molasses can be used as a substitute for sugar in baking, though it will change the color and sweetness profile of the recipe. For every cup of sugar, use 1 1/3 cups molasses. Because molasses is acidic, you’ll need to add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the recipe if it’s not already used, and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/3 cup. Due to the strong taste of pure molasses, you may want to start by substituting for just part of the sugar. If you’re wondering about sweet sorghum, it’s a dark syrup made from the cereal grain of the same name. Similar to molasses, it can be used interchangeably in recipes.
Do you bake or cook with molasses? Got a favorite recipe or idea? Let me know.