I'm from a "sugar country". My father had a few acres of sugarcane and I still have vivid memories of smelling cane burning during harvest season. (The sugarcane field is burned to get rid of all the leaves. The leaves are not processed for sugar and it is more cost effective to burn them than remove them another way.) I really loved that smell. We also had a few sugarcane plants at the house. There was no burning required - just a machete - to cut what we wanted to eat. In high school, our final history project was on the sugar industry. Just yesterday, my friends' father gave me a book he wrote on Jamaica's sugar industry. A few of my friends lived on sugar estates because their parents worked in the industry.
I say all of this to emphasise that I have a rich sugar background - a background that goes way beyond pouring sugar into my hand or into a cake. Decades ago, that bottle of white rum that I love to reach for when baking, may have had a tiny bit of cane grown by my own father. But with all of that sugar "experience", I am ashamed to admit that I first tasted molasses in February of this year. This is one of those times you just blame my mother and not look at me like that!
I honestly can't remember if we ever had molasses in the house. I have a vague memory of a gallon bottle of a dark substance being in the cupboard at one point. But that memory could be confabulated. Gingerbread cookies are not part of our culture so we certainly were not using it for that. Perhaps it went into cakes? I really do not know. I'll ask my mother later.
After using it in February, I vowed to use it more often, so it was an easy decision to use it for muffins for this Muffin Monday. I did not want traditional gingerbread - though I must admit that it was DIFFICULT to step away from the ginger. I have used ginger every day for the last two weeks. We are a ginger-loving people. I ditched all the other spices and stuck to just my second love - cinnamon. I fancied making a streusel that would emphasise the cinnamon but there have been murmurs about "Kelly trying to make us fat" so I had to hold back.
I had two bottles of molasses to choose from - one from a US brand and the other, a Jamaican molasses. I grabbed the Jamaican molasses and started pouring into my measuring cup. The little voice in my head said, "TASTE IT". And so I did. What in the world?!! Why is it bitter? I grabbed the American brand - yup definitely sweet. What is going on here? I quickly messaged a friend who quickly gave me the breakdown. The Jamaican molasses is akin to blackstrap molasses and there is very little sugar left so it's not as sweet. In fact, the process of making the molasses may be different in the two countries. There was also a quick lesson on how the process of making rum in French islands differed from in the British islands, leading to a very different taste.
That sugar experience that I mentioned above? Forget it. I clearly do not know my sugar. It's a good think I got that book yesterday. I'll be delving into it over the next few weeks. Maybe in another month or so, I can once again pretend that I know something. But first, I need to acquire "wet sugar". That's unrefined, "new" sugar - still wet from the minimal processing. I'd love to tell you more about it but the first time I saw it listed in a recipe for a popular Jamaican treat, I thought they just wanted me to wet my sugar. Don't laugh (too hard)! Wet sugar isn't popular anymore but only after obtaining some and learning more about it, can I start to claim some sugar experience again.
After all that babbling, here are my Cinnamon Molasses Muffins. Scroll down for more Muffin Monday goodness!
Divide among the muffin wells and bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
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