What to do when your brown sugar is hard as a rock

soft brown sugar with a sugar saver

soft brown sugar with a sugar saver

Occasionally I will replace the type of sugar used in a recipe with something else I have on hand. The choice may be because the alternate sugar is healthier, but sometimes it is because brown sugar is required but I have none that is useable. The sugar I have often turns into a hard clump (thank you, dry climate). If you are plagued by this same problem, then this post is here to save the day.

For the issue of brown sugar resembling a door stop, I looked to The Spruce Eats. First off, they explained that “(t)he moisture in brown sugar evaporates much faster than in other similar products and causes the sugar to harden. To remedy this problem, you … can either restore the moisture content or prevent it from evaporating in the first place.”

One of their tricks confronts the problem when you need soft brown sugar right now. They recommend that you “place the brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl and cover it with a damp paper towel. Microwave the sugar in 20-second increments until it is soft. You can use your fingers or a fork to soften any clumps that remain.” I cannot do this fix because I do not have a microwave. (I see you nodding as you realize why my recipes never talk about using a microwave to heat things up.)

Another suggestion from The Spruce Eats is for when you have thought ahead and do not need soft brown sugar this second. I have never tried this technique either because thinking ahead is not my strong suit when it comes to food. But, here goes: “place a few apple slices (or a slice of bread) in an air-tight container with the brown sugar. Then remove the apple slices or bread when the sugar has softened. You can also place the brown sugar in a bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it sit overnight.”

My solution to this circumstance is to include a brown sugar saver with my sugar. I tried various methods of doing this, including sticking one of the damp terra cotta stones in the zipper bag of sugar, but had no success until a helpful Sur La Table salesman told me I was using the saver incorrectly. The new instructions involved thoroughly soaking the stone for a whole 10 minutes in a bowl of water, then lightly patting it off before inserting it into the sugar. I took it a step further and poured the sugar out of the bag into a (recycled) jar before I put the brown sugar saver in.

I approached the situation by bringing moisture back to the sugar while also attempting to stave off moisture loss. Now I always have soft brown sugar.

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Caramel Brownies

Caramel Brownies

Caramel Brownies

Since I moved to high altitude, I have had a love-hate relationship with brownies. I love to eat them, but I hate to bake them because vegan brownies up higher are difficult to get right. I decided to take a different approach to succeeding at this task. Generally, I had been looking at non-vegan, low altitude recipes and then making a few guesses at how to adjust them. This time I looked at a non-traditional vegan blondie recipe, and when I made my changes it worked. No soggy center and lack of any evidence that they had risen! Now I can go back to loving brownies.

First off, to get them from a blondie to a brownie I added cacao powder. I also added chocolate chips because you can never get too much chocolate. I deleted the almonds to help the chocolate and caramel tastes come to the forefront. Then, for altitude, I added liquids. I also added baking powder which is unusual at altitude, but it helped the wetter brownies to rise.

Caramel Brownies inspired by Caramel-Almond Blondies

3.5 TBS warm water
1/2 tsp Navitas Organics chia seeds
6 TBS almond butter
1/4 cup organic light brown sugar, lightly packed
1.5 TBS agave nectar
1.5 tsp almond milk
2.5 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup Navitas Organics cacao powder
2 tsp Navitas Organics maca powder
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1-2 TBS vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8 x 4 x 2” loaf pan with two pieces of parchment paper, overlapping the pieces to create a sling that hangs over the sides of the pan slightly. Put 1.5 TBS water in a small bowl with the chia seeds and stir to combine. Set aside for 15 minutes to thicken.

Add the remaining 2 TBS water to a large bowl along with the almond butter, brown sugar, agave nectar, milk, and vanilla extract. Add in the chia gel. Stir until the mixture is well combined. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cacao powder, maca powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.

Navitas Organics maca, chia, cacao

Navitas Organics maca, chia, cacao

Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and push it out to the edges. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the top feels dry. Take the pan out of the oven and scatter the chocolate chips over the hot brownies. When slightly melted, run a fork through the chocolate to spread it over the top. Let them cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then use the paper sling to remove to a wire rack to cool. Cut into 6 pieces when fully cooled.

Until next time, happy baking!