When I first heard about The Bake Fest, the baking geek in me got so excited. Never having been to or even heard of a baking conference, I couldn’t wait to attend virtual lectures and hang out in chat rooms. It’s only been one day of The Bake Fest and already my head is filled with blog ideas for new creations, decorations, and scientific explanations.
The first half of the day I got warmed up by attending classes on cake and cookie decorating. It was inspiring to watch creative designers in their element, but then came the presentations most near and dear to my blog – Fundamentals of Baking Science by Kristin “Baker Bettie” Hoffman, and Introduction to Vegan Baking by Anthea Cheng. It’s impossible to quickly sum up Baker Bettie’s slides as she offered so much that my brain is still processing it. One quick bit to share concerns the differences between light and dark brown sugar. She says, “Light brown sugar has a small amount of molasses while dark brown sugar has larger amounts of molasses added. Molasses adds caramel notes to baked goods and also keeps baked goods very moist and chewy. Molasses is also acidic in nature which means that brown sugar can be used in recipes with baking soda in order to activate its chemical reaction.” However, she mentions that they can be used interchangeably, so I may stick with buying whichever is in sale.
Anthea Cheng’s segment started with a recipe for Vegan Brioche. Vegan brioche? And she made it look easy? I am not a bread baker, but I look forward to trying this out. We were also treated to a cake decorating demo that wowed me when she made frosting tinted with real food, not chemicals. The colorants included beet powder and blue spirulina. I must search online for these ingredients to add to my toolbox. (Literally … I keep my decorating items in a large toolbox).
Now, you may be disappointed that you missed out in this educational event. But, don’t worry! There is more going on today. You can register for The Bake Fest here and view tomorrow’s schedule here. If you see me in the Lounge, be sure to say hello.
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.