The time for Christmas baking has arrived. You have scoured recipes for weeks to find the perfect way to show your love and appreciation.
You have picked up festive gift boxes for your fresh baked goodies. The Christmas music is on, and you are channeling your inner Mary Bailey as your cookie dough comes together.
The time has come to add the brown sugar. But where there was once a pile of rich deliciousness, you now find a stale, impenetrable rock— cue holiday angst.
So Why Does Brown Sugar Get Hard?
Brown sugar is just regular white sugar with molasses added to make it brown, smooth, and rich.
When it’s exposed to air, the molasses evaporates, leaving crystallized white sugar that can withstand a nuclear blast.
How to Keep Brown Sugar From Getting Hard
Storing your brown sugar in an airtight container will slow the evaporation process, giving you fresh and malleable brown sugar longer.
Knowing how to avoid rock-hard sugar in the future is helpful, but not a timely way to salvage your baking fest.
If you haven’t been storing your brown sugar in an airtight container and are now facing a rock of dread, here are some great options to save your brown sugar (and you a trip to the store.)
How to Soften Brown Sugar
Here are the best ways to soften brown sugar:
1. Microwave Until Soft
For the quickest fix, stick your brown sugar in a bowl with a moist paper towel or a few drops of water, zap it for 20 seconds and stir.
You may need to add more time depending on the amount of moisture, the power of the microwave, and the staleness of the sugar.
Add times in 15-20 second increments, stirring in between. You will notice it softens after about 40-60 seconds.
2. Add Some Bread
If you can spare a few days, throwing a piece of bread in a container with your brown sugar will increase the moisture, leaving with you with beautiful sugar once again.
You can also use an apple or a marshmallow too to soften up your sugar!
This tip also works with over-baked, hard cookies. A piece of bread will help them soften up to a light, fluffy cookie.
3. Throw In Some Pottery
Keeping a terracotta stone in with your brown sugar will also add moisture and keep things smooth.
This Brown Sugar Bear is both cute and functional. Just throw it in with your brown sugar container and never worry about hard sugar again.
4. Make Your Own
My personal favorite option is to throw out your impermeable sugar rock and make your own brown sugar.
For every cup of white sugar, simply mix in 1-2 TBSP of molasses.
Aside from saving you the money and room of keeping another ingredient on hand, this option also allows you to customize the flavoring.
For dark brown sugar, simply add a little more molasses.
Brown Sugar Alternatives
While we are talking about holiday baking, here are four brown sugar alternatives that are better for you and less of a hassle.
Harvested from coconut palm sap, coconut sugar is a lower glycemic, a more nutrient-rich alternative to traditional white sugar.
This is naturally a moderately dark sugar, mimicking the taste of brown sugar pretty well. And because there is no added syrup, you won’t have to worry about it drying out.
Often nicknamed the candy of the earth, dates have a slew of health benefits. And unlike other sugars, date sugar undergoes minimal processing, maintaining most of the integrity of the fruit.
Date sugar also has quite a few health benefits, such as antioxidants, fiber, and minerals. On the scale of darkness, this sugar ranks higher than its coconut sugar counterpart. And like coconut, date sugar will not experience the same hardening effect as brown sugar.
Maple syrup can do much more than sweeten the top of your pancakes. If your recipe can accommodate the additional liquid, 100% maple syrup is a great way to add some depth to your baking.
This syrup, harvested from maple tree sap, is higher in nutrients than white sugar. And because it is already in liquid form, mixing it into your recipe is a breeze. To retain the flavor and health benefits, opt for pure maple syrup without any additives.
You will also want to pay attention to the grade. Grade A will give you a lighter flavor, while grade B is a richer syrup.
Swerve has quickly become a favorite thanks to its keto-friendly properties. This sweetener is engineered by combining erythritol, natural flavors, and oligosaccharides.
The result? A zero-calorie sweetener that neither spikes blood sugars nor crystallizes into rock form. Hallelujah!
This option does come with a few drawbacks, though. In addition to having no real nutritional benefits, high doses of erythritol have been known to cause digestive discomfort in some.
There are a ton of ways to sweeten your food, each with its own unique properties.
So have fun exploring other sweeteners. You may be surprised at how quickly you get acclimated to each flavor and find yourself easily making substitutions in your favorite recipes.
So crank up that Christmas music once more and finish those cookies. And may your holiday be as sweet as your baking.