Use the Bread Trick To Re-Soften Hardened Brown Sugar

Good as new.

Cup of Brown Sugar
Photo: Michelle Arnold/EyeEm/Getty Images

Brown sugar makes an appearance in many of our favorite recipes, from our reader-loved Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies to these oh-so caramelized Brown Sugar-Glazed Pineapples to our party-perfect Bacon-Wrapped Smokies. It adds a scrumptious level of sweetness that simply can't be mimicked, which is why it should be a mainstay in the pantry all year long. However, anyone who isn't going through bags of brown sugar every month—what a delicious life professional bakers must have!—has probably run into the same issue every so often: The brown sugar can rebel against lack of use by drying out and hardening into a sugary hockey puck.

Sadly, this problem is often discovered when you're already set on making a particular cookie recipe. Perfect timing. While our instinct can be to call it a day and grab a bag on the next grocery run, or to try salvaging any scraps left by chiseling off chunks with a knife, there's another solution to ensure you'll have soft, pillowy brown sugar in just hours. Let's call it the bread trick.

If you open up the pantry to find a hardened block of brown sugar, don't panic. Instead, grab an airtight container (if it's not already being stored in one), a slice of bread, and a hopeful attitude. Put the hard brown sugar in the container, cozy the slice of bread up against it, close the airtight container, and wait. After a couple hours, you'll start noticing the sugar softening. A few hours later, the brown sugar should be fresh, soft, pillowy, and ready to be sprinkled into your mixing bowl.

Basically, the brown sugar re-softens using the moisture in the bread, which is why you might notice afterwards that the slice of bread is dried out. It's recommended to take out the bread after a day or two, mainly to ensure that it does not start molding and ruin the brown sugar. By then, the brown sugar should be refreshed enough to use for a while. (Brown sugar typically has a shelf life of at least 18 months, if stored properly to reduce moisture evaporation and keep away from bugs.)

If you're in a pinch and need to use the brown sugar on the same day, start the process as soon as possible. After two hours, check the container. There might be enough softening to salvage what you need. Happy baking!

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