A few terms you need to be familiar with in order to get a better understanding of what I’m going to be talking about in this post.
Molasses – Also known as treacle, is a dark brown liquid extracted from raw sugar during refining process.
Jaggery (also known as gur) – It is a raw sugar, often made from sugar canes or dates, from which the molasses and crystals has not been separated.
Brown sugar – a sugar from which molasses has not been extracted.
When I first started exploring the world of cooking and baking, I was baffled by how many different kinds of sugar there is. Growing up in a small country, I was only familiar with good old white granulated sugar. All these several new varieties confused me, and I didn’t even have access to most of them. So even after learning about all the different kinds of sugar I never really bothered about it too much. I mean, sugar is sugar right? How different could they be?
Apparently, a lot. After the first time I managed to get hold of a packet of brown sugar in my local grocery store, my perspective towards this matter changed completely. You could swap some of the white sugar called in a recipe for brown, and not only change the taste of the food, but texture and appearance as well.
So I decided to conduct a little fun home experiment to see how different sugar worked in baked goods. I used one cookie recipe, and made three different versions of it using three different kinds of sugars. I mainly worked with brown sugar, white sugar and jaggery (gur). I know a lot of you may not be that familiar with jaggery, but they are very much available where I live. And since I grew up eating it and loved it, I was curious to see if it can be incorporated into cakes and such.
I actually first decided to do this experiment in an attempt to find a good substitute for brown sugar (as it can be quite expensive and hard to find where I live), so if you too are always looking for a good substitute for brown sugar, this could help you as well.
By the way, I followed Gemma Stafford’s recipe for homemade brown sugar as a guide for this. I’ll provide a link to her video on the youtube video for this post. Anyway, Gemma uses 1 teaspoon of molasses to a cup of white granulated sugar and says that it can be used as a brown sugar substitute. Now here’s the thing, I always thought molasses and jaggery are the same thing, so I used jaggery instead of molasses.
For the first cookie (left) I used all plain granulated sugar and a little bit of jaggery syrup, and for the right one I used one part white sugar and three parts brown sugar (store brought).
I’m going to be honest, I was so excited when my cookies came out of the oven looking like that. I mean I used the exact same recipe (almost), but they were still so different in appearance. And it was obviously because of the sugar!
As you can see the left one spread a lot more than the right. It was thinner (obviously), lighter in colour and also crispier. I’m assuming since I used such little quantity of jaggery syrup in this, it barely made a difference and the white sugar kind of took over. In terms of taste, it was very sweet, like sugary sweet. But still kind of delicious. In fact, one of my cousins liked this version better.
The right one, which had a higher quantity of brown sugar, spread a lot less. It was thicker and had a rich caramel-y depth.
But since I was looking for a brown sugar substitute, and this obviously didn’t work out, I decided to try out something else. I went back to Gemma’s video. And that’s when it occured to me that molasses and gur (jaggery) might not be the same thing. So I did my research and turned out I was right. But below in the comments I saw Gemma mention that jaggery can be used as a brown sugar substitute as well.
So I did some further research, and follwing my instinct I decided to add some minced jaggery to the cookie recipe this time. I literally broke off a small of piece of my mom’s huge block of jaggery that was lying in our fridge and chopped it as finely as I could (was my chopping uneven? Yes it was. But we’ll let it slide for the sake of this experiment.)
Excuse the blinding glare, I suck at taking photos.
Don’t know if you guys can tell, but this version was somewhere in between the white and brown sugar versions in terms of size. It tasted kind of a mixture of the two as well. It was sweet, sweeter than the brown sugar version, but at the same time had a slight caramel, brown sugar-y note to it. And it looked closer to the brown sugar one in terms of appearance as well. But what I really found interesting about this was the texture. It was the most chewy among the three cookies.
For years I’ve been trying to find a recipe for the best, chewy chocolate chip cookies, which apparently can be achieved using a higher quantity of brown sugar. But the store brought brown sugar always made my cookies kind of cakey. So I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered how chewy it was. However, I did feel like chopped jaggery provided a bit more moisture to the cookie than the other two kinds.
I think in order to get better results, you should use grams instead of cups and tablespoons. The size of brown sugar granules and chopped jaggery granules are not the same, so if you were to measure it with measuring spoons or cups, you would not get the same amount. It would be far more accurate to use the same amount of product in terms of weight (for example, if a recipe asks for 10 grams of brown sugar, replace it by 10 grams of chopped jaggery). However, since I don’t own a kitchen scale, I used measuring cups.
To sum it up, in my personal and unprofessional opinion I think jaggery works quite well as a substitute for brown sugar. It’s not exactly the same, but it does the job some what. Plus, it’s cheaper (in some countries at least), your mom probably has it in her pantry already if you come from a desi household, and it’s a lot healthier! So hurry up and run to the kitchen and chop up some jaggery and store it in the fridge for later use whenever you need it.
By the way, I think for the sake of fairness I should mention that there was some unevenness in the baking of the cookies. I accidentally under baked the first batch. However, I have made this exact cookie several times using store brought brown sugar at various temperatures. Every time the cookie and the texture remained the same, what varied with temperature was how soft or hard the cookie turned out to be. So I’m assuming the ingredients is what gives cookies its texture, but the structure of it depends on how long it had been baked (say yes to learning curves)!
I could, however, be completely wrong.
Anyway, if you guys want me to do another experiment solely with jaggery syrup, let me know. And if you’re interested in the giant, single chocolate chip recipe, click here: Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie