It’s starting to feel like soup weather around here. Last weekend when my family was visiting we stopped for lunch at La Madeleine, a french fast-casual restaurant. I was pretty disappointed with my cup of french onion soup which lead to me craving it and searching for a good recipe. I opted for this slow cooker recipe by food blogger Holly of Spend With Pennies.
The recipe is pretty simple, the only real prep you have to do is caramelizing the onions before you add them to the slow cooker. To caramelize them you need to cook them in butter and brown sugar. When I got to this step I remembered that I had run out of brown sugar… my car was in the shop, so I was debating walking to the store when a light bulb went off! I have a bunch of molasses left over from when I made those hermit cookies a few weeks ago. White sugar and molasses will make brown sugar when combined together so I decided to give it a whirl. I did a quick google search and figured out the proportions. You will need 1 tablespoon of molasses for every 1 cup of white sugar (double the molasses if you want to make dark brown sugar). Add it to the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on medium-high until fully combined. It takes a little while for the molasses to incorporate fully with the sugar because it is so sticky, but it will get there, have patience.
Voilà, brown sugar!
After caramelizing the onions you add them to the slow cooker with beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, thyme, a bay leaf and dry sherry… I also didn’t have sherry. I was contemplating just leaving it out, but since my brown sugar experiment had gone so well I thought why not see if there is an easy substitute. To my surprise there were many easy recipe hacks for when you don’t have sherry. The 3 main ones are using 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract for every tablespoon of sherry, using 1/2 part apple cider vinegar and 1/2 part water for every 1 part sherry or using apple cider in equivalent amounts to sherry.
Since I had apple cider on hand I went with that option because it seemed the most similar to dry sherry. It worked like a charm, sherry adds depth and richness to flavors and, in my opinion, the apple cider did the trick. I want to try this recipe again using dry sherry just to compare, but it is nice to know there are so many great substitutes!
The best part of french onion soup is the bread and cheese broiled on top right before serving! There is no substitute for that 🙂