First of all, to get this out of the way, I want you to know that ANY sugar may be stored indefinitely, as it does not support microbial growth. So never throw it away. However, brown sugars tend to become hard as it contains 2 to 5 percent moisture and it may evaporate. Even when we think we properly stored them in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag, they tend to dry out. If you find it rock hard, I list below the five best ways to soften it.
Refer to a previous blog post titled What Is Brown Sugar? to learn more about them.
You should know that there are some brown sugars that do not clump, cake, or harden. They are super easy to measure. Look for terms such as "Brownulated", "easy pour", "pourable" or "free-flowing" brown sugar. You may also find it as "molasses granules". For a certified organic brown sugar that does not clump, I suggest "Sucanat". I discuss a little bit about them in this blog post.
Is It Rock Hard?
Hardened brown sugar can be softened by returning the moisture to it, or by simply heating it up and using it ASAP. Choose one of the following methods:
Quick Fix Method #1: Place sugar in an oven-safe container. Heat it to 200°F in a conventional oven for a few minutes. Observe as soon as the sugar becomes soft, fluff it with a fork, measure the amount you need right away as it will harden quickly. Use caution as sugar will be very hot.
Quick Fix Method #2: Place brown sugar in microwave-safe bowl. Add a wet paper towel on top. Tightly cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds to a minute or till you can fluff it with a fork. The sugar will be hot and soft but will harden quickly, so apply this method only if you need it immediately.
24-hour Method: Place brown sugar in a bowl. Cover it with a damp cloth for 24 hours. Remove the cloth, fluff the sugar with a fork and transfer it to an airtight container. Sugar should remain soft if properly stored. To keep brown sugars' moisture for an extended period, consider using a clay sugar softener - see image below - as described in the 'Clay Softener Method'.
48-hour Method: Take an airtight container. Place brown sugar inside and cover it either with a wet paper towel, a slice of bread, a wedge of apple, or a lettuce leaf. Close the container tightly. Remove the paper towel, bread, apple or lettuce after about two days. Stir the sugar with a fork. Suggestion: To keep brown sugars moist, use a clay sugar softener (see image below) as explained next.
Clay Softener Method: Use a clay (terracotta) sugar softener not only to soften brown sugar again but also to keep it moist for a longer period. Available in many shapes such as bears, disks, and squares, it should be soaked in water for 15 minutes and wiped with a paper towel before use. If your brown sugar is hard, place it with the moist clay softener in an airtight container. After about 2 days the sugar should be moist. The advantage of the clay softener is that it may be permanently kept inside the container to prevent the sugar to harden. Repeat the step of soaking the sugar softener in water as needed. Buy many as I know you are going to like them. I tried these: The Brown Sugar Saver and Brown Sugar Bear.
Pourable Brown Sugars
Brown sugars such as Sucanat and Pourable Brown Sugar do not clump, cake or harden, being easy-to-measure sugars. See how they look like on videos at the end of this post. Refer to a previous blog post titled What Is Brown Sugar? to learn more about them.
They contain less moisture, and so, weigh less than regular and traditional brown sugars. When substituting them, measure 'equal volume', not 'equal weight', because they are much lighter than regular brown sugars.
Sucanat, which stands for Sugar Cane Natural, is claimed to be an unrefined sugar but it is in fact a partially refined cane sugar. Sucanat is a registered trademark of Wholesome Sweeteners, Sugar Land, TX. Three brands are available: Wholesome, Now, and Frontier
Pourable brown sugar is a refined cane sugar, also known as free-flowing brown sugar or molasses granules. As the name implies, it pours easily, and is very convenient to measure. Two brands are available: Domino and C&H.
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