How to Soften Brown Sugar


When I reorganized my baking pantry, I made a vital mistake: I stored my brown sugar in a container with a broken latch. It wasn’t airtight, and brown sugar loses moisture quickly, so I was soon left with a dry, hard, packed mass of brown sugar. This isn’t exactly conducive to baking, but I didn’t want to toss the entire container out.  Luckily, hardened brown sugar is easy to remedy!

Here’s the best way to soften brown sugar:

Transfer the brown sugar to an airtight container.  Cover it with a layer of plastic wrap, pressing it down against the top surface of the sugar, and top the plastic wrap with a damp paper towel.  Seal the container and allow the brown sugar to sit for a day or two.  At the end, the brown sugar will be soft again, and it will stay that way.  Seal it up…airtight this time! It should stay soft.

But if you are in a pinch and need soft brown sugar ASAP, try this:

Microwave the brown sugar in a bowl covered with a damp paper towel for 15 second intervals until soft. As the brown sugar cools, it will harden again, but this will make it soft enough to measure out and work with.

To avoid hardened brown sugar altogether:

Store it in an airtight (truly airtight– no cracks in the lid like I accidentally did!) container. Store in a cool, dark place.

Have any food storage questions for me?

Brain Food 101: The Different Types of Flour

Orange Cake

Recently, I’ve felt like I need to revisit my earliest blog posts. The first few recipes, the first few Brain Food 101 posts: they have good content, but the quality of the writing leaves something to be desired. So here we go: the types of wheat flour, revisited.

Gluten is made up of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin. When combined with liquid, gluten forms a strong network of protein strands that traps air bubbles and creates an elastic support structure for baked goods. Doughs and batters with more gluten proteins absorb more liquid, forming a stronger gluten network. Different types of wheat flours have different levels of gluten, so you’ll want to choose wisely in your baking adventures.

Bread Flour:

Bread flour has a high gluten content, typically between 12-14%. The extra gluten helps trap air in the bread dough, making the final loaf light, springy and chewy. Bread flour is best for yeast breads, as you’d expect, but is also a good choice when making pastries that have lots of layers of fat and air, like cream puffs.

Don’t use bread flour for lighter pastries or cakes, though; it will absorb too much moisture and leave the final product tough and dry.

Cake and Pastry Flour:

Cake and pastry flour have the lowest protein content, and are usually only around 8 or 9% gluten. Cake flour is different largely because it is bleached to make it whiter in color and to help thicken the batter a bit. Both are best for more delicate pastries and cakes, like angel food cake.

If you choose to use cake or pastry flour for cookies, your cookies will likely spread more than they would if you used all-purpose four. Because there is less gluten, it will absorb less moisture than all-purpose flour would, leading to the spread. To counteract this, use a little less liquid in your cookie dough.

Do not use these flours for bread dough, though. Because they have less protein, they won’t trap as much air, and your bread will be dense and tough.


Read More »