Unless you are some sort of pantry wizard, you have at one point in time returned to your brown sugar only to find that it has hardened into some sort of petrified, unusable chunk. This is always a deeply frustrating feat, because when this happens, you’re not only without an ingredient you thought you had, but you’re also thinking that this catastrophe could have been completely avoided had you known the magic secret to keeping brown sugar soft.
The hard science of the matter is that each crystal of brown sugar is coated in a thin layer of molasses. When the sugar is fresh, the molasses keeps the sugar moist and soft to the touch. When brown sugar is exposed to air, the molasses dries out, resulting in a hard, unmalleable rock. The truth is, keeping brown sugar soft is so easy that you might be a little shocked–you’ve probably even got a few of the most effective softeners in your kitchen.
How to store brown sugar:
Perhaps the most important precaution to take, is making sure that your brown sugar is stored properly. The key here? Airtight. What you need to concern yourself with is moisture. You’re either adding more of it, or locking it in. By keeping your sugar in an airtight container with a tight fitting lid, or even a resealable plastic bag, you’re avoiding having moisture leak out.
Terra Cotta brown sugar discs
Terra Cotta discs can be found at most baking stores, and are typically inexpensive. These little pantry tools are able to keep brown sugar soft, as well as restore hardened brown sugar back into it’s soft and silky state. Just soak your disc in water for half an hour, then bury it in your brown sugar container. The disc should keep your brown sugar soft for up to six months. After that, just repeat the soaking process again!
This is a relatively newer discovery than the rest, but apparently marshmallows work quite well at retaining the moisture of brown sugar. Just throw a few full sized marshmallows into your brown sugar container, and they should be enough to lock in moisture for a few months!
Slice of bread
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Just place a slice of bread (the crustier the bread, the better), over top the brown the sugar within the container. Give the bread about 8 hours (overnight should suffice), and by morning, your brown sugar should be softened up.
Slice of apple
Using apple slices takes a tad longer than bread. Place a few apple slices in the sugar container, then leave it for a day or two. When you return, your sugar will be lightly apple scented, and be restored its natural smoothness.
If you need soft brown sugar STAT then you may have to resort to the ol’ zap it in the microwave method. Place your hard brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl and top it with a dampened paper towel. Microwave for 10-20 second intervals depending on the strength of your microwave. Remove and stir between each interval to check that the brown sugar doesn’t begin to caramelize.
Hardened brown sugar is a real bummer, but is so easily avoidable. As we rev up for the new year, setting new intentions for ourselves and resetting bad habits, let this sneak onto your list. Have you got any other methods for dealing with hardened brown sugar? Let us know in the comments!