Just about anyone who cooks with brown sugar has experienced reaching for the container of sugar only to find that it has hardened since the last use. While hard brown sugar can be irritating, especially when the problem is discovered in the middle of preparing a recipe, there are several different ways to deal with the issue quickly and effectively. If you need to soften brown sugar, here are some tips you can try.
Assuming you are not in the middle of cooking, there is a time-honored method that can help soften both light brown sugar and dark brown sugar. Place the hard sugar into an airtight container. Before sealing the container, place a slice of fresh white bread on top of the sugar. Seal the container and place it back into the cupboard. In a day or two, the bread will help to soften the sugar and make it easy to use once more.
If you do not want to use bread as a softening agent for the hard brown sugar, it is possible to employ a few apple slices. The moisture from the chunks of apples will interact with the molasses content of the sugar and cause it to soften overnight. As long as the container is sealed properly, the desired consistency should be restored in no more than a day or two.
Hard brown sugar can also be softened using a bowl and wet cloth. Simply place the sugar into the bowl. Wet the cloth thoroughly and wring out any excess water. Place the damp cloth over the top and allow the bowl to sit overnight. The sugar should be soft the next day.
When you need to use the hard brown sugar right now, make use of your microwave oven. Place the sugar into a microwave proof container. Make sure to leave the lid off the container. Set a small bowl of water alongside the hard brown sugar. Microwave on high for roughly a minute. The water will heat and create moisture that will help to re-hydrate the sugar and cause it to soften. If the sugar is still hard after a minute, continue to microwave the two containers for thirty second increments until the hard brown sugar is soft enough to use. Do not attempt to microwave hard brown sugar for longer periods of time, as it may cause the sugar to begin melting.
An alternative to using the microwave oven is to make use of your oven. Simply place the hard brown sugar in a baking pan and set the oven on a low temperature. Check the sugar every five minutes or so until the sugar is soft again. As with the microwave approach, take care to not leave the sugar in the oven for longer periods. Sugars of this type will melt if the temperature is too high for too long, leaving you with another problem.
One time honored trick to keeping brown sugar from hardening is to place a small piece of pottery into the airtight container where the sugar is kept. Even something as simple as a section of a broken terracotta pot will suffice. Wash and dry the pottery thoroughly, then place in the container with the sugar. This will allow you to store brown sugar for months with little or no worries about the sugar hardening.