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Brown sugar too dry to use?

I'm making chocolate chip cookies and just discovered that the brown sugar is very, very dry.
Can I add some extra moisture (what kind & how much)? Dump it and run to the store?

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  1. Nuke it slightly. It will soften right up.

    1. You won't be able to salvage the brown sugar tonight, but you don't have to toss it. I dampen a paper towel and loosely wrap it in foil. Put it into a sealed container with the brown sugar, and let the dampness of the paper towel re-humidify the brown sugar...it'll take a day or two.

      1. I recently convinced my sister to use the microwave method instead of running out to the store (she didn't believe me until I showed her the destructions on the side of the box and even then I had to actually soften the sugar in the micro before she was convinced!) And, I just put the whole box of brick-hard brown sugar into the mirco without wet/dampened paper towel and it worked just fine.

        Also, here's the info from/link to C&H Sugar FAQ:

        How do I soften C&H Brown Sugar?

        When brown sugar hardens, it loses its natural moisture. Here are some suggestions to restore the moisture and soften the sugar:

        * If you need to use hard brown sugar immediately, remove it from the package and heat it in a 250-degree oven. 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!

        * To soften brown sugar in a microwave, place it in a microwave-safe container, cover loosely with a wet (but not dripping) white paper towel, set the microwave on high, and check the sugar every 30 seconds. Again, microwave-softened sugar hardens as it cools so microwave only the amount of sugar you need. And it’s very hot. Please use caution.

        * Time permitting, place the hardened brown sugar in a rustproof container with a dampened – not dripping wet – white paper towel or napkin placed over a small piece of plastic wrap or foil on top of the sugar. Cover tightly. Remove the paper towel after the sugar absorbs the moisture and softens (about two days) and tightly reseal the container.

        1. If you mean the sugar is hard and tough to break apart, there's an easy solution nest time. Just buy the kind in a plastic bag, which an easily be massaged to break up the granultes.

          1. For the future, if you keep your brown sugar in the refrigerator you won't have a drying problem. Well, unless you use the boxed kind, then you need to take it out of the box and put it in a zip lock bag, then put it in the refrigerator.

            Probably not a problem for a chocolate chip cookie recipe, but in some recipes you need to replace the lost moisture when your brown sugar has dried out.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Caroline1

              I close the original bag that is closed with a twist tie and place it inside a larger zip bag. it will keep perfectly that way in my pantry for 6 months.

              It also helps if you can remove as much of the air in the large zip bag before you seal it

              I agree with candy about how to salvage this sugar,. zonking it in the microwave helps, but you can mist it with a bit of water. I use my lowest setting for 2-3 minutes.

            2. I've always nuked both light and dark brown sugar to soften it up. But I recently took Carole Walter's "Great Cookies" out of the library and have been reading and baking from it. She says ". . . sugar must be very fresh and soft for successful results. If it is not, use it for another purpose and start with a fresh box (which also must be soft)." There's a clear implication here that once hardened, it cannot be effectively softened. I wonder about that. Harold McGee says that the hardening of brown sugar is due to the loss of water. But microwaving sugar wouldn't add water, it just begins to melt the sugar, right? So I guess that if there's less water in the sugar it would change the chemistry of the recipe. But I've never had any problems with nuked brown sugar. At least not that I was aware of. And Carole Walter doesn't explain what those unsuccessful results might be. Anyone have any idea what she might be talking about?

              2 Replies
              1. re: JoanN

                JoanN, you're absolutely right. She doesn't mean the dried out brown sugar can't be effectively softened. Just that when you soften it, as with a microwave or in the oven, that does NOT replace the lost moisture content. And that small amount of moisture may be critical to what Carole Walters considers acceptable cookies. I have a Japanese recipe that assumes brown sugar will be dried out and compensates for that with some water, then adds a footnote that if you have "soft" brown sugar, never mind the added water.

                1. re: JoanN

                  For sake of an easy explanation, let's assume you have a standard US brown sugar from the supermarket, like Domino's Dark Brown Sugar. To keep that product standard from batch to batch, it's made from pure white cane sugar to which a standard amount of molasses is added. That way your cookies or whatever will be the same batch after batch.
                  Plain white cane sugar doesn't vary that much with humidity - it is pure sucrose. Brown sugar does because of the moisture content of the molasses which will dry out as the water in it evaporates. That's why all of the methods in the CH Sugar link above will work to get some moisture back into the molasses.
                  Chances are that the small amount of moisture in or not in the brown sugar won't make that much difference in most of the recipes that a home baker uses brown sugar for because they include other liquids (eggs, moisture in butter, etc.) Carole Walters would be technically correct but it's probably nothing to make you run through the snow to buy new brown sugar.
                  Sugar doesn't melt at the temperature that the microwave heats it to in so short a time. The molasses and the water vapor are just getting hot enough to burn you.

                2. Put hard brown sugar in a container with a tight-fitting lid. In with it put a chunk of apple---maybe 1/4 apple---overnight. The sugar will soften like magic.

                    1. I ended up getting new sugar. The strange bit was - it wasn't hard or lumpy, just dry.
                      I had trouble getting it to pack together. And, hey, if the weather forecast is accurate, I can use the old stuff for traction on my walk.
                      Thanks for the replies, I learn something from this site every time I log on.

                      1. Placing a slice of bread in your container also works wonders.

                        1. The easiest way to "replace" the moisture in brown sugar is to remove 1 or 2 teaspoons per cup of white sugar and replace them with molasses. For dark brown sugar, replace 3 tsp of white sugar with molasses. In most recipes, such as batters, you can just add the white sugar and molasses without mixing them in a food processor. For recipes where actual brown sugar is required such as streusel toppings and such, use the food processor to combine the white sugar and molasses..

                          1. depending on what you're using it for....a bag of brown sugar that has gone into one big lump....can be used by "grating" it against a stand up cheese grater.