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Darn! The brown sugar is as hard as a rock again. The chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for brown sugar and you just know it won’t taste the same if you use white sugar instead. What do you do now?

Brown sugar is white sugar combined with molasses. The more molasses is added, the darker the color and the stronger the taste of the sugar.

Brown sugar has a full-bodied, caramel-like flavor and a soft moist texture. While generally white and brown sugar can be substituted for each other, the resulting baked goods will have a slightly different flavor and texture depending on the sugar used. Brown sugar gives baked goods a creamy, nutty flavor. It also holds more moisture than granulated white sugar, which helps produce moist, chewy baked goods.

If you are going to substitute brown sugar for white or vice versa, remember that the same weight of brown and white sugars has the same sweetness, but because white sugar is denser than brown sugar, to get equal sweetness you need to firmly pack the brown sugar when measuring. In other words, a cup of white sugar equals a packed cup of brown sugar.

As most of us learned the hard way, brown sugar tends to lump and become hard. The best way to avoid this is to take the brown sugar out of the package as soon as you bring it home from the store and place it in an airtight glass or plastic container, or in a tightly sealed plastic bag, in a cool, dry place.

If the sugar becomes hard despite your efforts, soften it by adding moisture: place a few apple slices, or a slice of fresh bread, in the brown sugar container and seal tightly. This will soften the sugar over the course of a few days. Alternatively, sprinkle a few drops of water on the brown sugar, seal, and wait a couple of days.

But what if you need to soften the brown sugar NOW? To speed up the process, use a microwave. Again, the idea is to add back lost moisture to the sugar. Put the brown sugar in a microwave-safe container and place it in the microwave next to a small bowl of water. Microwave in 30-second intervals until the sugar is soft. Keep checking every 30 seconds, to avoid melting the sugar.

Another quick option is to place chunks of the hardened brown sugar in a food processor or a blender and pulse until it becomes useable.

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