How To Soften Brown Sugar Quickly

Here’s what to do if your brown sugar has turned into a brick.

Has this ever happened to you? You find yourself in the mood for a delicious batch of chewy chocolate chip cookies, but when you reach into the cupboard, you discover your brown sugar has turned into a brick. Bricks obviously don't mix well into cookie batter—or any batter for that matter.

Luckily, it's easy to soften brown sugar and return it to its natural consistency so you can bake with it again. We chatted with Chef Felicia de Rose of Planta South Beach, who shared several methods to soften brown sugar. Here's what you should know.

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Why Does Brown Sugar Harden?

Brown sugar gets its delicious rich flavor from molasses. Molasses is moist, so as it evaporates and dries out, the sugar crystals start to cluster and stick together. Eventually, this will result in hard, rock-like clumps or even your entire bag of brown sugar turning into a brick.

Why Shouldn't You Bake with Hardened Brown Sugar?

There are several reasons why baking with hard brown sugar is a bad idea. First, it's hard to measure correctly since the brown sugar morphed into a rock-like shape. More importantly, even if you manage to break it into bits, hard brown sugar is, well, hard. This problem means it won't dissolve and mix evenly into your batter. When your baked goods come out of the oven, they're likely to have little brown sugar pellets. If you don't want this happening to your baked goods, it's important to soften your brown sugar before baking.

How To Prevent Brown Sugar From Hardening

If you want to prevent the moisture in brown sugar from evaporating, limiting its exposure to air is imperative. Once you've opened the bag or box, immediately transfer the brown sugar into an airtight container. When baking, seal the lid of the container as soon as you've finished using it.

How To Soften Hard Brown Sugar

So what do you do if, despite your efforts, your brown sugar has hardened anyway? Don't worry. Chef de Rose says you have several options:

Use a Slice of Bread

Add a slice of bread to approximately eight ounces of brown sugar in an airtight container. After eight hours, in most cases, the brown sugar will soften. Please note, however, that if the brown sugar is extremely hard, it may take up to 24 hours for this method to be effective.

Use Terracotta Pucks

Soak a terracotta puck in water for approximately half an hour. Dry the puck and place it in the airtight container with your brown sugar. Let it sit overnight and your brown sugar will be softened and ready for use in the morning.

Use Apple Slices

Add a quarter of an apple or three slices to eight ounces of brown sugar in an airtight container. The brown sugar will soften in as little as two hours.

Use the Microwave

Place the brown sugar into a microwave-safe bowl and cover it with a damp paper towel—heat on high for approximately 20 seconds. Stir and repeat as often as necessary until the brown sugar is completely soft.

Use the Oven

Similar to a microwave, heating brown sugar in an oven can help release the molasses and soften it. Try heating your oven to 250°F and baking for a few minutes at a time. When the brown sugar crumbles when raking it with a fork, it is ready—be careful and allow the brown sugar to cool completely before placing it back in its container.

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