I recall a baking project I did with my then-5-year-old assistant chef. We discovered we were a little short on sugar, so I went to my storage area in the basement to retrieve some. I found a 5-pound bag that felt a little firm.
When I opened the bag of sugar in the kitchen, we discovered that if we’d had some mortar and more bags of sugar, we could have built a brick house.
My daughter thought it was quite comical seeing me pound the bag on the counter, and she giggled heartily at my efforts.
Could this sugar be saved?
Fortunately, I had just answered the “hard sugar” question at work, so I applied the technique at home. Pounding wasn’t the right answer. It wasn’t good for my countertop, either.
White sugar becomes hard when it absorbs moisture, so “reviving” it involves removing the extra moisture. To remove moisture, heat the oven to 200 degrees and place the big sugar lump in a pan. Break the sugar into smaller pieces with a fork every 15 minutes or so.
If the problem had been hard brown sugar, the opposite is true. Brown sugar that loses moisture becomes bricklike. It, too, can be revived. Just place a cut apple in the container and place it in the refrigerator until the sugar softens, then remove the apple.
Brown sugar can be revived quickly in a microwave oven, according to Cornell Cooperative Extension. Just place a microwave-safe cup of water in the microwave oven and run the oven at full power for three to five minutes until a steamy environment is created. Leave the cup of water in the microwave and place the hardened unwrapped brown sugar in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave the two items for one minute. Break up sugar and repeat until the sugar is soft. Repackage the sugar in an airtight container after it cools.
Sugar and other staples such as flour have a long shelf life. In fact, white sugar keeps indefinitely in airtight containers. Flour also has a long shelf life, but many experts recommend using it within 12 months for best quality. Whole-wheat flour keeps about three months at room temperature because of its higher fat content. To increase its shelf life, refrigerate or freeze it.
As you survey your cupboards, keep these tips in mind:
- Always label foods with the date of purchase before putting them on your shelf. Monitor the expiration date, too. Products such as yeast won’t work as well if they’re used past their expiration date. Some products past their expiration date are not safe to eat.
- Practice the rule used by foodservice establishments: FIFO or “first in, first out.”
- If you’re tossing lots of foods with expired dates, buy smaller containers next time.
Check out these two publications on the NDSU Extension Service website:
Ingredient Substitutions (www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/landing-pages/food-and-nutrition/ingredient-substitutions-fn198)
Here’s a recipe adapted from a Kellogg’s Inc. recipe.
Low-fat Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. softened butter
1/4 c. nonfat cream cheese, softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg (or 1/4 c. egg substitute)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. crispy rice cereal
4 oz. chocolate chips, reduced fat
In small mixing bowl, combine flour, soda and salt. Set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat together butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg substitute and vanilla. Beat well. Add flour mixture, mixing until combined. Stir in cereal and chocolate morsels. Drop by level measuring-tablespoon onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove immediately from baking sheets and cool on wire racks. Store in airtight container.
Makes 42 servings (one cookie per serving). Each serving has 70 calories, 2 grams (g) fat, 1 g protein, 11 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber and 50 milligrams sodium.