Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: Take charge of your ingredients; store your brown sugar without the mess and without the clumps.
There are kitchen messes we know we bring upon ourselves: oil splatters in every corner of the stove, drips of batter on the counter. In these cases, the mess, though frustrating, is our own fault.
But there is one ingredient that never fails to make things difficult, entirely of its own accord: brown sugar. No matter how carefully you pour or spoon it from the cardboard box, it spills. Tiny granules sprinkle everywhere, wasted and a pain to clean up.
The packaging is downright irresponsible, nonsensical, just plain stupid—that’s the only way to put it. White sugar flows out of its packaging neatly and without a problem. But not brown sugar. It sticks together, and the mouth of the box isn’t big enough to allow you to stick in your hand and break up the clumps. (Some brands of brown sugar come in sealable plastic bags, but they don’t work much better—ever get a granule of sugar stuck in the lip of the bag, rendering it impossible to close?) Worst yet, it’s difficult to close cardboard boxes effectively, causing the sugar to harden. You definitely don't want that kind of inconvenient surprise when you're craving your favorite chocolate chip cookies.
The solution: First, move your brown sugar to a different and better location where it can be more easily transferred, whether that’s a canister on your counter (along with the more usual suspects of flour, white sugar, and coffee/tea), or in a Tupperware in your pantry. It doesn’t matter. Just make sure the container is airtight.
Next, put a marshmallow in the container. This will keep the brown sugar soft, owing to the moisture in the marshmallow. You can also use a slice of white bread, or a couple cut-up wedges of apple, both of which have enough moisture to do the job, too. If you go through a lot of brown sugar (or have the extra foresight), you can also pick up a terra-cotta brown sugar saver to stash alongside. The earthenware disc absorbs water wonderfully and will release moisture back into the sugar as it sits.
Finally, if you happen to find yourself in a situation where you haven’t followed the above advice (or, if a friend hasn’t and calls you in a panic wanting to know what to do), there’s an easy trick to making your hardened brown sugar soft once again. It’s not ideal, but it most certainly works in a pinch: Put the mass of sugar into a microwave-safe bowl. Top it with a damp paper towel and zap it for about 30 seconds, then break it up with a fork. Voilà! This trick works best if you're using up the rest of your brown sugar right away; if you microwave it, bake with only some of it, and then store it again as above, the sugar will become as hard as a rock and won't be nearly as easy to salvage.
So go ahead and get messy. Bust out all the brown sugar you need for your baked goods. But do it on your own terms.
Photos by James Ransom
Do you have any other tricks to store brown sugar? Tell us in the comments!