Brown sugar can often be packed together tightly. This can make it next to impossible to use in recipes, especially if you need a large amount of it. It may leave you wondering whether it is best to just abandon the recipe or go and buy the freshest pack of brown sugar you can find.
However, we are here to tell you that there is no need for this. You do not need to abandon the recipe because your brown sugar is hard. In fact, there are ways you can soften it!
In this article, we will be showing you some of the best methods for softening brown sugar. All of these methods are super quick, easy, and can be used right now if you need your brown sugar fix immediately! What’s more, all you need is some everyday household products!
How do you soften brown sugar in the microwave?
Softening brown sugar in the microwave is by far the easiest method for softening. It is quick, uses items you will likely already have around your house, and works very well. All you need is a microwave safe bowl and a damp paper towel.
Place your brown sugar into your microwave safe bowl and on top, place your damp paper towel. As strange as that sounds, just trust us for now!
Ensure your microwave is set at half power. This is important since you do not want to heat the sugar entirely or start cooking it. When it has been set to half power you can turn the microwave, with the bowl and paper towel inside, on for 30 seconds.
When these 30 seconds are up, you should very carefully remove the damp paper towel and check the sugar for softness. We recommend that you use a spoon or other utensil for this, just to ensure you do not burn yourself.
If the brown sugar is still hard, you should replace the damp paper towel with a new damp paper towel and place the whole bowl in the microwave again, at half power, but this time for 15 seconds.
You can repeat this process in 15 second intervals until your brown sugar is soft enough but please take care not to overdo it as the sugar may start to melt!
When you are satisfied that the sugar has softened enough, you can then use a fork to ensure any lumps are smoothed out. If you find hard lumps that have not sifted you can simply dispose of them.
This is by far the quickest method and always yields the exact results needed. However, it is important that you take due care not to overdo it on the heat, and ensure your microwave is no more than half power, or else you risk liquifying your brown sugar.
How can you soften brown sugar in the oven?
Softening brown sugar in the oven takes a little longer than the microwave method. However, not everyone has a microwave, and so the oven method can be utilized in these cases. It works as well as the microwave method but takes much longer.
You should preheat your oven to around 250 degrees Fahrenheit. It needs to be relatively cool or else you risk burning the sugar to a crisp (anyone for toffee?). Wrap your solidified lump of brown sugar in aluminum foil and palace the wrapped lump onto a baking sheet.
Place the baking sheet into the preheated oven and let it heat for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes you should take it out carefully and check to see whether the sugar has softened by unwrapping it and touching it with a spoon or spatula. Be careful as it will be very hot.
Keep doing this at 5 minute intervals until it is soft enough. You can then remove it and put it into a mixing bowl. Fork through the brown sugar to smooth out any lumps and you will be good to go!
Other methods for softening brown sugar
There are also some other, less conventional methods that can be used for softening brown sugar. They may work for you, and certainly, before microwaves and ovens became widespread, these methods were used. However, it can be time consuming and is not as reliable as the microwave or oven method.
You can soften brown sugar by using a wedge of apple or even a slice of bread.
All you need to do is put your hardened, solidified lump of brown sugar into an airtight container and add in either a soft slice of bread or some freshly cut apple slices.
Cover the container very tightly and leave it overnight. The next day you should find that the brown sugar has softened, just be sure to remove the apple or bread too.
The moisture from the bread or apple works to soften up the sugar. However, with these methods, you run the risk of the apple or bread going bad and ruining the sugar.
Why does brown sugar harden?
Brown sugar, unlike other types of sugar, contains grains of sugar that are coated in molasses (yep, that dark brown-black sticky sweet stuff). This means that any exposure to air can wreak havoc on the sugar crystals.
The air can actually zap all of the moisture out of the sugar, evaporating the molasses from it and forcing the brown sugar crystals to stick together.
This means that, if your brown sugar has become hard and stuck together, then it is highly likely that it has been exposed to air.
This is why it is common to find solidified brown sugar in brown sugar packets that have been opened previously. You may not have wrapped the package back up enough, or you might have left a little gap for the air to get in.
As well as this, any dampness in the air can also get inside the brown sugar. This can make too much moisture, thus causing the sugar crystals to stick together and solidify.