How To Soften Brown Sugar With Apple Slices

Every baker — amateur and professional alike — knows that brown sugar is a non-negotiable staple to always have on hand in the kitchen, right there alongside flour and eggs. Made of white sugar and molasses, brown sugar has the texture of damp sand and is supposed to maintain its texture for prime baking capabilities. Unfortunately, all too many of us know the frustration of opening up a container of brown sugar and finding it has turned into a rock solid mass that can't be fixed with a fork, a shake, or even the beating of a mallet.

What's happened is that the sugar has dried out. Somehow, air has reached the ingredient causing the moisture to evaporate and the sugar crystals and molasses to harden. The good news is that you don't have to toss it all out. Rather, place a few apple slices inside the container with the sugar and you'll see how it transforms back to its original texture. Essentially, the moisture of the apples will leave the fruit and enter into the sugar, making it usable again. This trick is particularly attractive for fall baking, as you'll get a soft apple flavor in your baked goods.

You'll need a few apple slices and about 24 hours

Whether you have your brown sugar stored in a bag or a container, either way you'll want to transfer the whole, solid mass to an airtight contraption for this trick. Then, place three slices of freshly-cut apple inside and place the lid on top. After a day or two, the brown sugar should be back to normal: damp and malleable. You can discard the apple slices, which will probably be pretty dry at this point.  

Every time you open up the container of brown sugar, it will be exposed to air again, so try to keep it covered as much as possible in between uses and it should stay for a good amount of time.

Even non-bakers probably use more brown sugar than they realize. Not only is it great for making cookies, but it's also used in things like oatmeal, homemade granola, and barbecue sauce, and you can sprinkle it on oven-cooked candied bacon. It's also often an ingredient in marinades and dry rubs, and you can even put it in your coffee to sweeten it up. In all of these cases, if your brown sugar has turned hard, you're going to have a very hard time scraping it out and measuring it for use, but you can try this handy hack to salvage it.

Other ways to soften hardened brown sugar

So, what should you do if you find yourself in this situation and you've just sent the kids off to school with your last apples in their lunch bags? Just grab a slice of bread. Similar to the apple trick, when you place a slice of sandwich bread in with your hardened brown sugar, the moisture leaves the slice and enters the sugar. If you check the container the next day, the bread should be about the texture of a crouton. 

Another method that is great if you need the brown sugar in a pinch involves the microwave. Place the hard brown sugar in a safe bowl and place a damp paper towel on top. Microwave in increments of 20 seconds and break up the sugar with a fork in between the sessions. Keep this up just until the sugar is back to its normal texture — or else it could melt, and there's really no fixing that.

Finally, you could try blitzing the dried-out sugar in a food processor. Start on low speed to make sure it's just breaking up the sugar and not damaging your appliance. This method will, no doubt, be noisey, but it should quickly loosen the sugar up so you can scoop or measure out what you need. Be sure to transfer it to a proper airtight container afterwards.