Q. How should I store my granulated sugar and confectioners sugar?
A. Granulated sugar will harden when exposed to any type of moisture. Here is an easy way to make hardened granulated sugar soft again -- Preheat oven to lowest temperature, 150-200 degrees. Remove sugar from the package and put in an ovenproof container that will hold the sugar. Place in the warm oven for approximately 15 minutes. Tap sugar with a spoon. If it starts to fall apart, turn oven off and leave sugar in the oven for an hour or two to completely dry out. Always store granulated sugar in an airtight container.
Store confectioners sugar in a cool, dry location (not the refrigerator). When it gets moist, it develops lumps. And because of its physical properties, it may absorb strong odors if left unsealed. Confectioners sugar however cannot adequately be restored if it forms lumps because of the cornstarch used in the sugar.
Q. How should I store brown sugar?
A. Brown sugar should be stored in a cool, moist area in a covered container. If that’s not possible, store the entire container in a second canister with a tight-fitting lid. You can also empty the sugar into a rustproof container (or a heavy, moisture-proof plastic bag) and keep it tightly closed. Even though the shelf life of brown sugar is indefinite, it’s best to use it within two years of purchase for maximum flavor. 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. To use frozen sugar, thaw it for two or three hours. If ice crystals form after long freezer storage, gently stir the sugar as soon as it thaws to prevent pockets of moisture from causing damage.
Q. Why does brown sugar harden and how can it be softened?
A. Brown sugar becomes hard when moisture in the sugar evaporates. Therefore, the various methods used for softening brown sugar are intended to return moisture to the sugar. We recommend you try the following methods for softening brown sugar that has hardened:
Quick softening method: If you need to use hard brown sugar immediately, remove it from the package into an oven-safe container and heat it at 250-degrees. Watch it carefully. As soon as it’s soft, measure the amount you need right away because it will again harden as it cools. Please use caution. Oven heated sugar is very hot!
Microwave softening method: Place about 1/2 lb. of hardened brown sugar in microwave safe bowl. Cover sugar with two pieces of wet (but not dripping) white paper towels. Tightly cover bowl with plastic wrap. Heat in microwave at HIGH for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes. Divide sugar with fork (sugar will be hot); stir. Again, microwave-softened sugar hardens as it cools so microwave only the amount of sugar you need. Use immediately and use caution as it will be hot. Microwave ovens vary in power; cooking time may need adjustment.
Time-permitting softening method: Place hardened brown sugar in a tight sealing container. Cover sugar with two pieces of dampened – not dripping, wet paper towels placed over a small piece of plastic wrap or foil on top of the sugar. Or you can also use a slice of bread to add the bowl of sugar. Place lid on container and seal tightly. Remove the paper towel or bread after the sugar absorbs the moisture and softens (about two days) and tightly reseal the container. Divide sugar with fork; stir. Sugar should remain soft.