Hard brown sugar can be a real pain, especially if you need some immediately for cooking or baking.
Brown sugar has a tendency to harden easily because each individual grain is coated with molasses. This is a very, very thin layer that causes the crystals of sugar to glide against each other easily, so they feel nice and soft.
But being exposed to open air can result in the moisture within those molasses evaporating, removing all of the films between the sugar grains until they start to stick to each other.
If this has happened to your sugar supply, here’s how to soften hard brown sugar!
1. With bread
Believe it or not, despite the sad state of a bunch of brown sugar that’s become a victim of evaporation, brown sugar is actually really good at absorbing moisture.
That’s why one of the best ways to soften brown sugar is to place the sugar and a slice of bread into a plastic bag or airtight container.
If you do this a day before you need the ingredient, you’ll find that the sugar absorbs all the moisture from the bread, leaving the bread stale and the crystals soft!
2. With a microwave
This is by far the simplest way to soften hard brown sugar. Just transfer the approximate amount you need into a microwavable bowl.
Then, grab a paper towel and gently dampen it with some water. Place the moist paper towel onto the bowl so it covers the sugar, then turn the microwave on and allow to run for between 20 and 25 seconds, and you’re done.
Make sure not to let the brown sugar microwave for too long, as it may melt into a thick syrup you can’t use!
Still not soft? Grab a fork and use it to break apart the crystals, and microwave some more in further bursts of 20 seconds.
3. With apples
This actually follows the exact same concept as the bread method, but make sure you really have a day or two to let it sit.
Put some apples into a container of brown sugar that you can seal airtight and leave it be.
Eventually, the sugar crystals will draw out the moisture from the apples, and you’ll even get a fresh, pleasant taste from them! (Psst… you can also do this with marshmallows!)
4. With paper towels or cloth
Place your brown sugar into a bowl, then dampen some clean cloth or even some paper towels and fold them over the top of the bowl, so the sugar is completely covered.
Allow this to sit overnight, and the next day you’ll have nice, softened brown crystals!
5. Store sugar the right way
With correct storage, hard brown sugar will never be a problem for you again.
All brown sugar should be kept in a nice and impenetrable airtight container, sealed away from pesky evaporation.
Try to use really small containers so the brown sugar takes up nearly all the space inside, reducing the amount of air present.
If you don’t have a trustworthy airtight container, transfer the sugar into a plastic bag you can seal – like a sandwich zip bag – before you place it into the container.
Make sure you’ve gotten all the air out beforehand!