What’s Molasses?

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Treacle is a sweet syrup produced as a byproduct of sugar refining, coming in a range of colors and used in desserts or as a condiment. It retains nutrients lost in sugar refining and has a similar calorie count but is rich in iron, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

“Treacle” is a British word used to describe the sweet syrup that is created when sugar is refined. The syrup is actually a byproduct of the process and is created from what’s left over when the sugar crystals are removed. It comes in a range of colors and can be anything from fairly light to extremely dark. Commonly used as an ingredient in desserts such as tarts, it can also be poured onto foods as a condiment.

Light molasses is produced during the first boil of the cane juice. The lightest variety of this syrup, this one is almost clear, with a honey-like golden tint and is often simply referred to as “golden syrup”. This form has the lightest taste and is typically what is called for in many different types of molasses recipes.

When the sugar cane syrup goes through a second boil, the resulting syrup is much darker and thicker. In some countries, such as the United States, this is called molasses; in England, however, it is simply called molasses or dark treacle. This is the variety most often used in baking desserts like gingerbread and often added to hot cereal or eaten on bread.

The last step in refining the sugar, when the last few crystals are removed, results in a very dark syrup. This syrup has little to no sweetness. Typically, this product is no longer referred to as molasses, but is instead called black treacle. It can be used in human food and is popular in some areas as a health food, but blackstrap molasses is most often added to feed as a feed supplement for livestock.

One reason molasses is so popular as a sweetener is that it retains many of the nutrients that refined sugar no longer contains. Refined sugar contains no vitamins or minerals. The refining process itself is largely responsible for removing nutrients from the sugar, which is why many of them end up in the syrup instead.

Treacle also has about the same number of calories per teaspoon, 16, as refined sugar; unlike sugar, however, it is rich in iron, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. The calcium it contains interferes with the absorption of iron, but the calcium itself is beneficial, as are the other minerals it contains. Those concerned about sugar’s empty calories may find this alternative sweetener suitable.

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