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Taste Test: Light brown sugar

It's the first ingredient in many Thanksgiving treats or holiday cookie recipes, but brown sugar is one of the last items the Taster's Choice cooks worry about when it comes to quality. Most allowed they buy a brand out of habit. Surprisingly, our judges found big differences in the seven samples of light brown sugar purchased at local grocery stores. One brand received a near perfect score and a spot in our annual Taster's Hall of Fame for food.

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Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent

Product/Score (out of 100) Great Value/96 Market Pantry/58 Publix/ 47
How'd it look? Both chunky and smooth at the same time. Medium-brown color. Moist and soft. Lighter than the others, almost the color of sand on the beach.
Judges' comments This one had the most molasses flavor. Judges liked the deeper color of the sugar and the larger granules. "You can almost see the individual sugar crystals," said one panelist. "Now this is brown sugar." All four said they liked the way the sugar packed, saying it would be great in cookie recipes. Another described the sugar as crunchy. "It would be delicious as a coffee cake topping," she said. Judges found the Market Pantry sugar to be crunchy and moist. It was sweeter than some of the others and it had a slight hint of molasses. One panelist said he was a bit disappointed to detect a slight iodine aftertaste. The sugar would be great for baking, judges said, because of its light color and texture. It wouldn't turn the cookies too dark, they said. Yet, all of the judges tasted the most molasses in the Publix sugar. They agreed that it probably would melt easily because of its soft texture. "It already melts in your mouth," said one.
Would they buy? All four judges said yes. Two out of four judges said yes. Two out of four judges said yes.
Shopping information Widely available. $1.54 for a 2-pound bag at Wal-Mart. Widely available. $1.54 for a 2-pound bag at Target. Widely available. 79 cents for a 1-pound bag at Publix.
Also sampled: Domino (99 cents for a 1-pound box at Publix, 46 points); Dixie Crystals ($1.50 for a 2-pound bag from Publix, 38 points); Hannaford (79 cents for a 1-pound bag from Sweetbay, 41 points); and Winn-Dixie ($1.69 for a 2-pound bag, 40 points).

Panelists: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Anu You Institute; Rhonda Sanderford of Yes-Homes, Smith & Associates Real Estate; and Times food critic Laura Reiley. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to [email protected] Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to

Taste Test: Light brown sugar 11/04/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 8:44am]
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