Opening your pantry to discover your brown sugar has turned into a brick can really throw a wrench in your baking plans. It's not too late to save it for that dessert recipe you want to make right now. We'll explain how to soften hard brown sugar with some easy tips and how to store it properly to keep brown sugar soft.
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Whether you're making a batch of chocolate chip cookies or glazing a juicy ham, brown sugar is the perfect ingredient for adding bold, sweet flavor, thanks to the molasses in it. But once you open that fresh bag, exposure to air causes the natural moisture from the cane molasses to dry out, turning the brown sugar to solid rock. It's not spoiled, so there's no need to let it go to waste or try to find a quick substitute. Here are some easy ways to soften brown sugar as well as steps you can take to keep your brown sugar softer longer.

Credit: Blaine Moats

How to Soften Brown Sugar 3 Ways

Each of these methods will turn that solid brown sugar back into its original soft texture.

How to Soften Brown Sugar in the Oven

Place the hard sugar on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat ($8, Target). Try to spread the clumps out if possible. Bake in a 250°F oven for about 5 minutes, checking after 2 to 3 minutes to break up pieces with a fork or wooden spoon. Remove from oven and let cool.

How to Soften Brown Sugar in the Microwave

If you're midway through a cobbler recipe and need to soften brown sugar quickly, use your microwave to get the job done. Place hardened brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl ($9.99, Bed Bath & Beyond) and cover it with a damp paper towel. Cook in 10- to 20-second bursts, breaking up the sugar with a fork or spoon until it's soft. Be careful not to microwave too long or you'll end up melting it.

How to Soften Brown Sugar with Apples, Bread, or Marshmallows

If you don't need to use the brown sugar immediately, try throwing in some apple slices, a slice of bread, or a few marshmallows with the sugar. The idea is that any of these ingredients will essentially "gift" its moisture to the brown sugar. It should work within a day or two. Just be sure to remove the now-stale food once the sugar returns to a soft state so you don't wind up with mold.

How to Keep Brown Sugar Soft

Once you open a bag, store brown sugar in an airtight container ($16.99, Bed Bath & Beyond) with a brown sugar saver. This could be an apple, marshmallow, or slice of bread like mentioned above, or a piece of terra-cotta. That's right; terra-cotta isn't just for displaying your plants and keeping soil moist. If you soak a piece of terra-cotta in water and add it to the container, it will keep your sugar soft up to 6 months. The ceramic pieces come in fun shapes ($5, Sur La Table) and can be found in many stores with other kitchen supplies. You might also find a brown sugar container ($12.99, Target) with a piece of terra-cotta included.

Out of Brown Sugar? Try These Brown Sugar Substitutes

Now that you've got soft brown sugar, add it to warmed citrus fruit or oatmeal for breakfast, stir it into baked beans for your next cookout, or make s'more cookies for dessert.

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