There’s nothing worse than hardened brown sugar, which is impossible to measure and can’t be incorporated into batters. To bring back its original texture, place a cup or so of brown sugar in a glass pie plate or bowl, cover with a small piece of waxed paper, and then top with a slice of bread to provide a bit of moisture. Loosely cover the pie plate or bowl with plastic wrap and microwave until softened, about 30 seconds.
Store a small piece of terra cotta from a broken pot with your brown sugar to keep it from drying out and clumping. 1. Find a shard of terra cotta about the size of a small saucer, with no sharp edges. Scrub it free of dirt and soak it in water for 15 minutes. 2. Blot the piece with a towel before placing it at the bottom of your brown sugar container. It will absorb and release moisture, keeping the sugar soft.
Almond paste is expensive and seldom used, which means that leftovers often sit around and harden. When faced with hard-as-a-rock almond paste, place a slice of fresh bread in a bag with the almond paste and seal. The moisture from the bread will restore the almond paste to its original pliable state.
Individual slices of stale bread can be freshened on a splatter screen held over a pan of simmering water. The rising steam will soften the bread in a minute or two.
Place a stale loaf of bread inside a brown paper bag, seal the bag, and lightly moisten the outside of the bag with some water. Place the bag on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes. When you remove the loaf, you will find that it is warm and soft.