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Soften a rock-hard box of brown sugar quickly by just putting it in the microwave for 15 second or so, then check it. If it isn't soft enough, increase by 10 second intervals. Don't overdo it or you will have syrup!
Using the micro or apple are both good ideas, but what I do is put my brown sugar in a ziplock plastic bag and store in my refrigerator. It last for months and has never hardened on me, and it's nice not to have to stop and soften it before using it in a recipe.
I use the lovely air-tight "cut-glass" jar that nuts came in as a gift one holiday. It's never hard. I use it down to the last granule. So there, brown-sugar fairy!
These jars, if they are from the same place, all have matching patterns. I collected a whole set. I use them for my kitchen jars. They are lovely.
We've all heard the maxim; to keep brown sugar soft, put (something or other) in the jar. And yes, it works. But what a mess. The sugar inevitably sticks to bread, or apple slices, and pretty much everything else one can think of to use.
If you've ever bought a 3-pack of fresh garlic, you're familiar with the small mesh bag. I've often wondered if it would be good for anything else.
Baking day at my house: I'd just finished eating a lovely orange, had just used the last head of garlic and was thinking about softening the brown sugar with a damp paper towel.
What could be more natural at that moment than to put the orange peel in the mesh bag and place the bag into the jar?
Be darned it if didn't work! After a few hours, I took the bag from the jar, shook it a bit and, voila! Softened brown sugar, with no muss, no fuss.
Add an apple to your brown sugar in a glass jar. Works every time.
By Gerry B. from Tuscon, AZ
If your brown sugar has hardened, place a small piece of apple in with the sugar to soften it.
Brown sugar frequently turns into a hard lump in the container. Here are some great tips for keeping it soft. This is a page about keeping brown sugar soft.
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How do you soften brown sugar that has hardened?
By Louise from Janesville, WI
I have an air tight container that I add 1 piece of bread to the package of opened brown sugar and in a day the sugar is softened. (06/28/2010)
Put brown sugar in plastic container (tupperware type)with tight fitting lid, add 1 or 2 pieces of bread (white or whole wheat) close lid, will soften in less than a day and will keep forever. Even if the bread dries out, your sugar will remain soft. (06/28/2010)
The other thing that works is a slice of apple. (06/29/2010)
Place a piece of bread in your bag or container of brown sugar and your sugar will get soft. I also found that keeping your brown sugar in the freezer keeps it from getting hard. (06/29/2010)
A quick way to soften brown sugar is to place in the microwave with a cup of water to the side; heat up for a few minutes on high and voila! Soft sugar:) (06/29/2010)
If you would go to tipnut.com, there are all ways to soften brown sugar. I usually use the old method of putting a slice of bread in an airtight container with brown sugar for a day or overnight. (06/29/2010)
Really have to thank everybody who mentioned using a slice of bread to soften brown sugar, couldn't believe it but it worked in about twelve hours!
That's what I love about this site, even a cranky old coot like me learns something new every day. :) (07/02/2010)
How do you soften brown sugar?
A piece of non-stale bread or a dried apple slice in the bag works wonders. Remember to replace it occasionally when dries out. If it has already gotten rock hard and all else fails, I have taken it to my kitchen grater and grated off enough to use for whatever I am making. (03/05/2009)
By Mary Lou
You can also re-soften or keep brown sugar soft by placing it in an air tight container and place one or two pieces of white bread in with it. It will soften overnight or you can just change the bread every other week. You must use white bread do not use wheat. Some people also use half an apple instead of white bread, but I don't like the after taste of the apple and you must change it more often. I put a reminder on my PDA or calendar and change the bread as I complete other tasks that I only do once or twice a month. (08/04/2004)
I always keep brown sugar in the freezer, then place in microwave on defrost for a few seconds, take what you need and place the rest back in the freezer. No waste at all also keeps bugs out. (08/05/2004)
Keep a clean piece of a broken clay pot in an airtight container with it. I've seen expensive versions in catalogs and stores. All it is is a piece of terracotta, so who needs a fancy design that costs a lot? (08/06/2004)
All this fuss about brown sugar. Just transfer it to a freezer bag as soon as you get home from the market. It has never hardened on me this way. Just be sure to re-close the bag! (08/09/2004)
All I do is wet a small wad of paper towel or paper napkin and put it in with the brown sugar. That moistens it and softens it for practically no cost at all. (08/10/2004)
By Katie A.
Place an opened box of hardened brown sugar into the microwave with one cup of water. Microwave at high for 1 1/2-2 minutes for 1/2 pound or 2 - 3 minutes for 1 pound. (11/13/2004)
I've tried many different tips for softening brown sugar, but this one works better than all the rest. It even works on an entire bag that is completely solid. All you do is put the brown sugar in an airtight container with a lid (you may have to break the sugar into pieces so it will fit). Cover the top with a layer of plastic wrap, then lay a wet paper towel over the top. Put on the lid. In a day or two, depending on the amount of brown sugar to be softened, the sugar will be as soft as sugar just purchased!
By klawrence34 (11/26/2004)
If you ever have a package of rock hard brown sugar just take it out of the box and/or plastic and wrap it in aluminum foil and place it in a preheated 300 degree oven for 5 minutes.