We all know the feeling: You're all set to bake, but you reach into the pantry to grab the mostly full bag of brown sugar you know you have in there from your last baking project... and it's hard as a rock. Such a bummer. This happens due to a prolonged exposure to air; when the moisture in the sugar has evaporated, the sugar hardens. And yes, sugar inherently contains quite a bit of moisture (dark even more than white) and contributes that moisture to your baked goods.
Now, I know this brick of despair may seem like a lost cause, but next time you find yourself in this scenario--don't toss that hard sad sugar rock out. Whether dark or light, just because your brown sugar has hardened does not mean it's gone bad. There are two very simple ways to soften it.
Here's what to do:
#1. If you need it immediately, simply place roughly the amount of sugar you need in a microwave-safe bowl with a slightly dampened paper towel on top. Microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute on medium-low, or until it's soft.
#2. If you don't need to use the sugar right away, empty the hardened bag of sugar into a large, zip-top bag with a few apple wedges, seal it, and let it set overnight, or until the sugar softens.
Now that we've solved that issue, let's talk about how to seal your brown sugar properly to prevent it from hardening in the first place.
Here are 2 foolproof ways to store brown sugar:
#1. Once you open the plastic bag, place a strip of orange skin in with the sugar, roll the bag closed and seal it with masking tape; place that bag inside a zip-top bag and store at room temperature.
#2. Many housewares stores and home goods sites sell terra cotta pieces—everything from simple discs to tiny teddy bears—that after being soaked in water, keep your sugar soft. Just drop it into your whatever you store brown sugar in. We found the above Brown Sugar Bear on Amazon for $3.99.
Now that your brown sugar is revived and ready to go (and you know how to avoid traveling down that sad road ever again), here are 5 of my favorite recipes using brown sugar that I highly recommend celebrating with: