Claire Walter observed in a recent comment:
Keeping brown sugar moist is a challenge for me. I read that slice of bread in the sugar bag or container keeps it moist and usable. I tried that and it helped — a little. Suggestions?
Ahhh . . . brown sugar sedimentary rock prevention — a chore familiar to all of us in the West. Brown Sugar is the culinary bane of dry climates (and forgetful people in humid climates). Though we westerners may be able to make divinity on a whim, and our crackers, cereals, and chips stay fresh until their oils go rancid, brown sugar tends to mineralize no mater what we do.
It is true that a slice of bread will work — for a while (coincidentally, I have also heard that apple slices work). After the bread slice is completely dry the brown sugar will start drying out once again. It seems there are few plastic bags that don’t have microcracks, and the water vapor that keeps brown sugar soft will find these cracks and escape. I’ve tried double bagging my brown sugar — and that also doesn’t work. I’ve even had unopened bags of brown sugar with no visible cracks get hard after they sat around long enough.
In my experience, there are two ways to get around this.
- Continually supply moisture. That’s why bread works, but also why you have to keep replacing the bread after a few weeks. There are a few downsides — the brown sugar will adhere to and crystalize on parts of the bread. Plus I like to save those odd bread slices for French toast, bread pudding, etc. in the freezer (although, as my friend Ben P. points out, dried-out bread with some brown sugar adhered is by no means no longer a candidate for bread pudding). A similar method is to buy a terra cotta brown sugar bear (see top of post), or for those more economically inclined, find a piece of a broken terra cotta flower pot and file down the sharp edges. You simply soak them in water for 20 minutes, wipe them off, and toss them in with your sugar. You have the same problem (as with bread) with some of the sugar adhering and crystalizing on the bear, but all in all the method works well for a few weeks or months. But eventually those microcracks will get you and you’ll have to recharge the bear. Still kind of annoying.
- Find some sort of NASA-grade hermetically sealed containers. Those glass jars with the rubber-gasketed clamped-on lids seem like they would do the trick. Or some really kick-ass tupperware. In this case, you are preventing any moisture from leaving whatsoever. The down side is that you are limited to storing however much brown sugar will fit in your container. So I’d recommend buying a big one.
Whatever you do, don’t microwave the sugar unless you will be using it right away. Microwaving brown sugar will soften it temporarily, but in the end only removes more water from the sugar, and once it cools it will become even harder than before.
Anyone else care to chime in?