Molasses’ complex flavor brings new dimension to savories as well as sweets

chicago tribune

molasses 2

Honey’s yummy, but molasses’ rich, bittersweet essence has a darker, more potent allure. Although a far cry from molasses staples of baked beans and brown bread, today’s molasses-rich recipes rely on the same flavor- and moisture-enhancing qualities that have made the ingredient a mainstay for generations. Molasses puts the chew in cookies, the soul in shoofly pie, the fudgy moistness in gingerbread.

Molasses (and its kindred sweeteners such as sorghum syrup and pomegranate molasses) now is used in savory recipes: sauces and braises for meats, marinades for vegetable salads, cures for fish and glazes for poultry.

“Molasses not only adds a raw, earthy sweetness to dishes, but complexity, acid and intensity,” said Jordan Kahn, pastry chef at XIV, Michael Mina’s new Los Angeles outpost.

Chef Darren Carbone uses molasses to accentuate the deep caramel flavors of the rum he uses to create a cure for smoked marlin at Alma de Cuba restaurant in Philadelphia.

And Chef Heather Terhune’s apple cider and molasses braised pulled pork sandwich at Chicago’s Atwood Cafe oozes sweet, salty, tangy molasses sauce with every bite.

Unlike pure refined cane sugar, which tastes simply sweet, molasses is mildly acidic and includes vitamins, minerals and trace elements that convey a much broader variety of flavors.

This gives molasses the backbone to stand up to strong spices such as cloves, allspice, ginger and mustard, as well as complementary sauce and marinade ingredients including coffee and rum.

Figuring out what type of molasses to use in a recipe is a matter of taste. A byproduct of the sugarmaking process, true cane molasses is what drips out when boiled sugar cane juice is spun to separate the sugar crystals from the juice.

There are three grades. The highest grade, light molasses, is from the first boil and spin. Medium or dark molasses comes out of the second processing and is a bit less sweet. Blackstrap, the potent syrup from the third extraction, has the highest mineral and vitamin content of the three, but is the least sweet.

Sorghum syrup, which has a taste somewhere between maple syrup and molasses, also can be used in place of molasses for a somewhat lighter flavor.

Pomegranate molasses, however, should never be used as a direct substitute for “true” molasses. Made in Middle Eastern countries from various combinations of reduced pomegranate juice, sugar-beet molasses, sugar, lime juice and sometimes wood ash, the very tart and tarrish reduction is much more potently flavored than cane molasses and must be thinned with another liquid before use.

On the upside, the tart acidic quality of pomegranate molasses makes it a natural tenderizer.



~ by elevatedsouthern on 2009/10/30.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: