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Old 12-11-2010, 06:28 AM   #1
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Is Your Brown Sugar Hard?

I thought someone at one time wanted to know how to soften hard brown sugar. I found this in a article I was reading on different kitchen tips.
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What's the best way to keep brown sugar soft—or soften it once it's hard.

When brown sugar comes into contact with air, the moisture in the sugar evaporates. This eventually causes the sugar to lump together. You can prevent this by storing brown sugar in a zipper-lock plastic bag or in a tightly covered plastic container--the latter makes scooping and measuring easier. Storing brown sugar in the refrigerator will also help keep it fresh and soft.

If your brown sugar does harden, heat or moisture can be applied to soften it. For sugar not needed right away, place a slice of bread in a container with a tight lid, add the sugar, and close. By the next day, the sugar will have absorbed the moisture in the bread and softened. Some cookbooks recommend using an apple slice in the same fashion, but we found that the apple was so moisture-laden that some of the sugar began to melt, and the apple imparted an unwelcome flavor.

If you realize at the last minute that your brown sugar has hardened, heat must be applied to soften it. The microwave on low power does the job in a minute or two, but can be difficult to control. The sugar can melt in some spots and remain lumpy in others. We found a 250-degree oven to be more reliable. Placing a measuring cup full of water in the oven to add moisture, a step recommended on some brown sugar packages, was found to be unnecessary in our tests.

Spread the sugar in a pie plate or on a square of aluminum foil. After about three minutes in a preheated oven, poke the sugar with a fork to see if it crumbles; if not, leave it in the oven for a few more minutes. In our tests, brown sugar softened in three to seven minutes, depending on how hard it had become. Cool the softened sugar, and store in an airtight container any not being used immediately.

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Old 12-11-2010, 12:38 PM   #2
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Thanks for posting this! Very timely - as I have a cookie project to do and a brown sugar boulder in my pantry.
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Old 12-11-2010, 01:00 PM   #3
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Those are all good tips.
I use the microwave method. Microwave (high) for 20 seconds at a time, and crumble with your hands until smooth. Works well with white sugar and brown sugar.
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Old 12-11-2010, 01:14 PM   #4
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nuke the sugar, save the whales!

i nuke my lump o' dark brown sugar for maybe 15 seconds or so, just enough to crush a chunk off. it crumbles easily after that.

ya know, i recently bought demerara sugar, and it stays granulated. i'll have to look into why that happens. maybe the amount of molasses?
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Old 12-11-2010, 01:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buckytom View Post
nuke the sugar, save the whales!

i nuke my lump o' dark brown sugar for maybe 15 seconds or so, just enough to crush a chunk off. it crumbles easily after that.

ya know, i recently bought demerara sugar, and it stays granulated. i'll have to look into why that happens. maybe the amount of molasses?
Maybe it has something to do with the size of the sugar crystals. I seem to remember they are slightly larger in demerara sugar.

I usually grate off the amount I need if it is hard and I need it right away. I'll have to try the nuke it method.

Your nuke it method sounds like what I do when I'm defrosting ground beef
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Old 12-11-2010, 01:42 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by taxlady View Post
Maybe it has something to do with the size of the sugar crystals. I seem to remember they are slightly larger in demerara sugar.

I usually grate off the amount I need if it is hard and I need it right away. I'll have to try the nuke it method.

Your nuke it method sounds like what I do when I'm defrosting ground beef
I usually grate off what I need and toss the heel off a loaf of bread into the container for the next time. Most of the time, brown sugar is going into hot cereal in my house, not being used for baking.
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Old 12-11-2010, 01:45 PM   #7
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I'm surprised to see so many with this issue. I don't do anything special and never have a problem. I can't explain why...
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Old 12-11-2010, 01:49 PM   #8
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I'm surprised to see so many with this issue. I don't do anything special and never have a problem. I can't explain why...
Since I don't bake many sweets anymore, it's hard to use up a bag of brown sugar before it gets hard. I've actually been using Sucanat, desiccated brown suger, for my hot cereal, only buying small amounts of regular brown sugar when I need it. I also keep a bottle of blackstrap molasses to use as a replacement.
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Old 12-11-2010, 02:03 PM   #9
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I'm surprised to see so many with this issue. I don't do anything special and never have a problem. I can't explain why...
I can think of two possible reasons:
  1. Your air tight container is actually air tight and not just sort of air tight.
  2. You use up your brown sugar faster than those of us who have the problem.
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Old 12-11-2010, 02:05 PM   #10
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I usually put a piece of lettuce or some apple peel to soften brown sugar. I have also read to tape a piece of moist paper towel to the inside of the lid.
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Old 12-11-2010, 02:15 PM   #11
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I haven't had hard brown sugar in years. Perhaps that's because I keep several pieces of clay flowerpot shards in the container.

A number of years ago I broke up an already hopelessly cracked/broken clay flowerpot. I chunked it into pieces about the size of a vanilla wafer. Ran the whole lot through the dishwasher several times, then put a couple of chunks in my brown sugar. Never had a lump since then.

P.S. It's a whole lot cheaper than the little "brown sugar bears" they sell in catalogues or in cooking stores.
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Old 12-11-2010, 03:45 PM   #12
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That's very interesting! Do the broken pot pieces serve as a moisture sink - absorbing moisture from fresh sugar, releasing as needed or do the broken chunks break up the dried sugar lumps when you give it a good shake?
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Old 12-11-2010, 05:02 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taxlady View Post
I can think of two possible reasons:
  1. Your air tight container is actually air tight and not just sort of air tight.
  2. You use up your brown sugar faster than those of us who have the problem.

1. I just fold over the top of the plastic bag it came in and put a rubber band around it.

2. Nope. A pound of BS lasts almost a year depending on what's baked. I use it in brines and in an apple topping for waffles.
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Old 12-11-2010, 07:54 PM   #14
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mine does not get hard. after opening i put in a zip lock bag. just make sure to squeeze out as much air as you can.
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Old 12-11-2010, 08:10 PM   #15
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Talking Keep it in a glass jar in your cupboard!

You know I have a wide-mouth glass container about 2 qts in size that I keep my bulk brown sugar in, and I keep this awesome beautiful rainbow wooden scoop I was lucky enough to find on sale at an independent kitchen store here.

I keep it in the dark in my cupboard, and it's always super soft when I reach in to get some! (And while I use it fairly often, I certainly don't go through the whole jar in a year, and it's still soft.)

I recommend it!
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Old 12-11-2010, 08:16 PM   #16
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Quote:
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That's very interesting! Do the broken pot pieces serve as a moisture sink - absorbing moisture from fresh sugar, releasing as needed or do the broken chunks break up the dried sugar lumps when you give it a good shake?
Not sure. Except that I haven't had any hard lumps or any brown sugar chunks since I've been including my clay shards.

I suppose that they do act as a moisture sink and keep the moisture level equal in my container.
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