Homemade Brown Sugar for an Apple Crisp

by Katy on September 27, 2023 · 38 comments

My neighbor’s apple tree continues to drop apples that are somewhat okay. Mostly just a mater of bruising from falling onto the sidewalk. They ain’t pretty, but I’ve never been ruled by aesthetics. Plus, the price is right!


I brought home a bag of apples, carved out the icky bits and chopped them up for an apple crisp. Then I remembered that I was out of brown sugar. Luckily I knew that you can make brown sugar from scratch and looked up the recipe, which is a ratio of:

One cup of granulated sugar + one tablespoon of molasses.


I first attempted to mix it together using a fork, which was a fail as the molasses wouldn’t incorporate. I then tried an electric hand mixer, which spun out the sugar out of the bowl. I finally grabbed my pastry cutter which was just right!

I’m not sure how much of a savings hack this was, as a jar of molasses isn’t cheap. Luckily I had one on hand, which saved me a trip to the store.

Look how fluffy and pretty my brown sugar turned out!

I should have photographed the apple crisp when it was all steamy and fresh from the oven, but sometimes life gets in the way of blogging. Instead I present the very last serving, which was oh so very delicious!

I think that the homemade brown sugar gave the crisp an extra depth of flavor. Mmm . . . I think it’s time for the neighbor’s tree to drop a few more apples!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine September 27, 2023 at 3:40 pm

I recently read about the sugar + molasses hack but never knew anyone who had actually tried it. Now I see it mixes well (with a pastry cutter).
I had a customer on my old mail route who would give me apples from his tree in similar conditions as the ones you photographed except they were red. Like you, I made some tasty apple crisps and pies with them.


Katy September 27, 2023 at 3:42 pm

Apples have become so expensive over the past few years. They were 33¢/lb – 50¢/lb when my kids were little and that is so far from how much they currently cost.


Christine September 27, 2023 at 6:07 pm

Today I paid .89 lb. at Market Basket, a New England regional grocery store, and it felt like the bargain of the year!


Katy September 27, 2023 at 6:33 pm

That is a good price.


Jill A September 27, 2023 at 3:41 pm

It looks delicious. I love apple crisp. I also love that it was made with what otherwise would probably go to waste, with the rising food costs it’s nice to see a win.


Katy September 27, 2023 at 3:43 pm

I am willing to win this delicious fight over and over again!


Marie September 27, 2023 at 3:48 pm

Now, just waiting for the apple crisp recipe?
My neighbor has tons of apples falling on my side!


Katy September 27, 2023 at 3:54 pm

No real recipe. I just mix the apples with lemon juice, some sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cloves. The topping is oatmeal, (not the instant kind) butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. The amount are never the same twice.

My daughter has to eat gluten free, so I make it without any flour.


Katy September 27, 2023 at 4:03 pm

And by the way, this is a different apple crisp than the one I wrote about yesterday!


Marie September 27, 2023 at 5:36 pm

Thank you


Valee September 27, 2023 at 4:39 pm

That looks so good, Katy, and I love that you didn’t let the apples get wasted just because they aren’t aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
I’ve heard of the sugar/molasses hack for brown sugar, but I’ve never done it. Right now I can’t, since I don’t have molasses on hand. Your homemade brown sugar WAS fluffy and pretty!


Katy September 27, 2023 at 5:03 pm

Using a pastry cutter seemed to be the key.


Mary October 12, 2023 at 7:27 pm

If you don’t have a pastry cutter, kneading it in a plastic bag works.


A. Marie September 27, 2023 at 6:24 pm

I may need to use the pastry cutter trick on my existing bag of brown sugar, which is currently the consistency of a cinder block.

And there are two apple trees in my neighborhood that are producing big-time this fall–but the @#$!! deer are eating everything from the tree with good-tasting apples, and the other tree produces apples tasting so much like Golden Delicious (ugh) that even the deer won’t bother with them. Sigh.


Katy September 27, 2023 at 6:32 pm

A pastry cutter would work great for blocked up brown sugar.


Jean C September 27, 2023 at 6:49 pm

Just add a small piece of bread to the bag or container the brown sugar is in. It will soften it up within hours.
Cheap and easy.


Katy September 28, 2023 at 10:52 am

Keep in mind that this hack makes your brown sugar no longer gluten free, which is an issue for people with Celiac disease. Even that small amount of wheat can sicken a person.


isa October 1, 2023 at 8:45 am

you can use GF bread, works the same


Alexia September 27, 2023 at 11:39 pm

A few seconds in the microwave will soften that brown sugar right up.

Golden delicious are considered one of the best not-tart baking apples, and they are actually quite flavorful. Red delicious, on the other hand, are generally mealy and flavorless…aka, not delicious. So maybe what you got on that other tree is a hybrid with a red delicious.


A. Marie September 28, 2023 at 5:58 am

Well, Alexia, we’ll have to agree to disagree about Golden Delicious. (Me, I’m a tart-apple tart.) But I can safely say that the apples from tree #2 taste like kindergarten paste. And, having tasted some kindergarten paste as a kindergartener, I know whereof I speak.


Ruby September 27, 2023 at 6:35 pm

That trick does make beautifully fluffy, rich brown sugar. I use brown sugar in most baked goods because the molasses gives it such a lovely depth of flavor.

Molasses used to be so cheap, I’d grab a jar for less than $2 and be set for the winter. Now it’s closer to $5. Apples are awfully expensive already and I hope our local grocery store does the cool thing with store coupons for bags of apples like it did last winter.


Katy September 27, 2023 at 6:48 pm

Sending cheap apple luck your way!


Alexia September 27, 2023 at 11:42 pm

I stopped buying brown sugar years ago. It always gets hard and I use both white sugar and molasses for other things, so why buy an additional product?

When a recipe calls for brown sugar, I typically just use white sugar and add the molasses with the wet ingredients. Same effect without the work of mixing the two together. Obviously that wouldn’t work for the crisp topping but it works great in things like cakes, quick breads, and cookies.


Katy September 28, 2023 at 10:50 am

I’m going to keep this in mind for future recipes!


Ashley Bananas September 28, 2023 at 5:21 am

What a great reminder to look at what you have before running to the store.

Today we had a sign up for an office party in October. I signed up to bring in a chocolate cake which I have a great recipe for. Then I stopped myself and thought about things I have at home that we aren’t using. I have two bags of avocado chips unopened which I paid pennies for with couponings/sales. I will buy some humus and get those out of the house. Time to use what we have first. No one is the wiser and my generosity to the party will still exist.


Katy September 28, 2023 at 10:50 am

SO smart!


Julia September 28, 2023 at 5:33 am

I found two huge bruised apples on my walk the other day. Probably fell out of a neighbor’s grocery bag. They came home with me and got sliced up for Guinea pig treats!


Jan September 28, 2023 at 6:04 am

Mmm, I love apple crisp. And I never knew you could make brown sugar!! I thought it came from the cane that way somehow. Wow!


Katy September 28, 2023 at 10:49 am

Something to learn every day!


Amy September 28, 2023 at 6:31 am

I buy my baking staples from Sam’s most of the time and have used this hack a lot. I once figured it out roughly to be .32 homemade and .40 store bought. But every time I walk into a store I want it to be worth it and so find more items I just have to have so store bought really costs 20.40 for what I needed plus the extra 20 to walk through the door.
I feel like these thoughts also keep me NCA


Katy September 28, 2023 at 10:49 am

Thanks for doing the math!


K D September 28, 2023 at 8:25 am

Great hack Katy. The time savings of not going to the store is worth the potential extra cost of the molasses.


Sandra September 28, 2023 at 12:17 pm

Walking back from the store I passed an apple tree in a neighbor’s yard. The ground was covered with fallen fruit. I knocked on the neighbor’s door and asked if I could pick up some of the apples under the tree. I was told to take all I wanted that their family didn’t like them. I made a few trips back to pick up more fruit and made apple sauce.

Went to a community picnic with friends. The cost was $5.00 and included a lunch of pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, baked beans, fruit, and ice cream. There was also entertainment and merchant displays. Lunch was delicious and so large that I took half home and had it for dinner that night.

We stopped in the lobby of the community center to look at their free puzzles and books. My friend picked up three puzzles. She’ll return them to the community center when she finishes working them and keep the fun going.

Attended my book club and exchanged some books. It’s always fun to share a good book with someone else. This particular book club is very free form. We don’t have a particular genre that we stick to so that offers a lot of diversity which is so enriching. I get to read books that I would probably never have found otherwise.


Katy September 28, 2023 at 2:41 pm

That is an amazing deal for only $5!


Kara September 28, 2023 at 2:55 pm

I make brown sugar with white sugar (bought in bulk) and molasses. It turns out wonderfully. I use my kitchen aid mixer. Just dump the sugar in, start the paddle, drizzle in molasses, let it mix for a bit and add a bit more molasses if it isn’t the color I want yet. So easy. It’s been a long time since I paid the inflated price for brown sugar.


Selena September 28, 2023 at 6:36 pm

Being into aesthetics would preclude one from eating heirloom tomatoes, which are delicious. Aesthetics are the reason store bought tomatoes taste like nothing but look good in pictures and in the store bin.
As to drying those bay leaves – I presume the register was *not* on the floor given you have two felines in the house? Can’t speak for your felines but leaves on the floor qualify as a kitty toy at my house (we have a lot of trees!).


Katy September 28, 2023 at 7:01 pm

Ha, I have a floor register with kitchen cupboard above it.


Gretchen Joanna September 30, 2023 at 1:06 pm

Until I read your post, I had forgotten my plan to go to the nearby apple farm today, where they have 30+ varieties of apples for a good price. Your apple crisp was an evocative memory aid 😉


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