How To Soften Brown Sugar With A Single Slice Of Bread

The most annoying thing about brown sugar becoming hard as a rock is that you typically don't see it coming. Dried out brown sugar looks the same as it did when it was brought home fresh from the grocery store. So, by the time you discover your bag in the pantry has turned into a brick, it's probably when you're reaching for it to make a batch of cookies. But, instead of throwing it away and grabbing your keys to run to the market, know that it is salvageable, and all you need to do so is a slice of bread.

Simply transfer the hardened brown sugar into an airtight container and, before you tightly secure the lid, drop a slice of sandwich bread inside. In 24 hours, the sugar will have transformed into soft, light, scoopable granules while the bread slice will be super stale and hard instead, having transferred all its moisture into the sugar. After you toss the stale bread, either keep the brown sugar in the airtight container to keep it from drying out again, or put it in a super tight resealable plastic bag, which will also help contain the newfound moisture.

Air exposure is brown sugar's biggest enemy

So, why is brown sugar is so temperamental and prone to major dry-outs in the first place? After all, its granulated and powdered cousins aren't nearly as touchy. The culprit is the molasses contained within the granules — to make brown sugar, white sugar is combined with rich molasses, which results in a delicious sweetener that gives recipes lots of depth and a texture similar to damp sand. It's apparent in the way the sugar holds the shape of the cup or spoon you scoop it with.

However, when the damp sugar is exposed to too much air, whether that's because of an improperly sealed bag or a container that is not airtight, the moisture basically evaporates, causing the crystals to stick together in one hard mass. Unless additional moisture is imparted into the sugar, it will stay in that state, and while you can certainly rely on brown sugar substitutes, they'll never take away the pure annoyance that comes with a solidified batch of the real stuff you were planning to use. Thankfully, the single slice of bread trick is a great hack that gets to the heart of the problem — its rich moistness gets imparted into the sugar when the two are contained together for a bit.

The many ways to soften brown sugar

Fortunately, there's more than one way to salvage compacted crystals of brown sugar. Dropping a few slices of apple into the sugar will accomplish the same task as some bread. After about a day, you can throw the apples away and the sugar should be soft again. You can also microwave the hardened clumps in brief increments with a damp paper towel covering it until the sugar reaches its original state. Of course, if you need to use it immediately, you can give it a whirl in a blender or food processor until the solid lumps are back to normal.

Believe it or not, using your oven will do the job as well. Place your hard brown sugar on a sheet pan in a low-heat oven and check the consistency occasionally. It's ready when you can fluff it with a fork. 

Now that you can soften up even the firmest disk of sugar, the best thing you can do is prevent it from happening again. Give the brown sugar as little air exposure as possible and keep it in a cool (but not cold) location.