How to prevent your brown sugar from hardening
Brown sugar should be stored in a cool, moist area in a rustproof container with a tight-fitting lid. Brown sugar can also be stored in any type of re-sealable, moisture-proof plastic bag. The quality of brown sugar is best when consumed within six months of purchase and opening. Don’t store brown sugar in the refrigerator. However, if you are in a very dry area or are going to keep it for a long time, you may want to freeze it. Thaw frozen sugar and use a fork to separate clumps before using. If ice crystals form after long freezer storage, frequently stir the sugar as it thaws to prevent the sugar from being affected by pockets of moisture.
How to soften harden brown sugar
Brown sugar becomes hard when moisture in the sugar evaporates. Therefore, various methods for softening brown sugar are intended to return moisture to the sugar. We recommend the following methods for softening brown sugar that has hardened.
Quick softening method
If you need to use hard brown sugar immediately, preheat oven to 250˚ F. Transfer the sugar from the package onto an oven-safe pan and heat until it softens, watching it carefully. As soon as the sugar is soft, remove the pan from the oven and measure or weigh the amount you need right away. Caution: the sugar will be hot and will harden again as it cools.
Microwave softening method
Place the desired amount of hardened brown sugar in microwave safe bowl. Cover sugar with two pieces of wet, but not dripping, paper towels. Tightly cover a bowl with plastic wrap. Microwave on HIGH for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes. Work the sugar with a fork to separate the clumps, then use immediately. Caution: Sugar will be hot. Microwave-softened sugar also hardens as it cools so microwave only the amount of sugar needed. Microwave ovens vary in power; cooking time may need adjusting.
Time-permitting softening method
Place hardened brown sugar in a tightly- sealed container. Add any of the following into the container with the sugar:
1. A piece of plastic wrap or foil covered with two pieces of dampened – not dripping, paper towels.
2. A dampened terra cotta disk (available in many kitchen supply stores).
3. One or two slices of bread.
4. One or two large marshmallows.
Place lid on container and seal tightly. Remove whatever has been added to the sugar after about 2 days or whenever the sugar has absorbed the moisture and has softened. Work the sugar with a fork to separate the clumps; then tightly reseal the container. Sugar should remain soft.
What about softening white granulated sugar?
Granulated sugar can harden when exposed to moist or humid conditions in storage. Here is an easy way to make hard granulated sugar soft. Preheat oven to the lowest temperature, 150-200 degrees. When the oven is warmed – shut it off. Remove sugar from the package and put in an oven-proof container that will hold the sugar. Place in warmed oven for approximately 15 minutes. Tap sugar with a spoon. If it does not break apart, leave sugar in the oven for an hour to completely dry out. Always store granulated sugar in an air tight container.