We've all been there: You're ready to bake a delicious cookie recipe or Thanksgiving dessert, only to find your brown sugar couldn't be harder. Frustrating, we know — but no stress! There are a few quick and easy ways to get that hard-as-a-rock brown sugar to soft, workable and delicious. No need for substitutes or tossing that bag away because we are sharing how to soften brown sugar when in a pinch! These fast and simple hacks will have you whipping up your favorite pecan pie bars and fall desserts with that signature deep, molasses flavor in no time at all. Best of all? We even have tips on the best ways to store your brown sugar, so you never have to worry about it going hard again.
Why does brown sugar harden?
Brown sugar hardens when it's exposed to outside air. The molasses in brown sugar adds moisture, giving it that soft, sand-like texture and sweet, caramel flavor. When the bag is opened and exposed, the outside air will dry up the moisture, turning the molasses and sugar mixture into a hard brick. The simple key to reviving your stellar ingredient? Adding back in that necessary moisture! If you need to get your brown sugar back to its soft, sugary state, read on.
How to soften brown sugar in the microwave
Really in a pinch? The microwave is your best bet to soften up your brown sugar in just a few minutes:
Lay your hard block of sugar in a microwave-safe bowl and place a damp paper towel on top. Make sure any excess water has been squeezed out of the towel.
Then, microwave the sugar in 20-second intervals — occasionally loosening up any clumps with a fork as you go — until it returns to its soft texture.
Be careful not to microwave for too long, otherwise the sugar may begin to melt and will harden again once it cools.
How to soften brown sugar in the oven
Softening up brown sugar in the oven only takes a few minutes:
Preheat your oven to 250℉, then line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Avoid trying to speed along the process by raising your oven temperature! Too high a heat could melt the brown sugar, making it just as hard and stuck together as before.
Add your block of brown sugar and put it in the oven, checking in on it every few minutes and occasionally breaking it up with a fork until it's soft.
We recommend allowing it to cool fully before using it in any recipes.
How to soften brown sugar with bread
If you have enough time to soften your sugar overnight, consider using the magic of bread slices to soften your brown sugar:
Put your block of hard brown sugar in an air-tight food container or bag and cover it with a slice of bread.
Seal the bag (or container) and let it sit overnight (at least 12 hours), before checking the mixture.
Voila! The sliced bread gives moisture back to the brown sugar, turning it back into its soft, fluffy texture.
How to properly store brown sugar
To keep a fresh bag of brown sugar from hardening in the first place, make sure to store it properly. Store the ingredient in a tightly-sealed, air-tight container. For extra assurance, first put the brown sugar in a resealable plastic bag (with the air all squeezed out) before placing it in your air-tight container.
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