The bakers of King Arthur are here to solve the kitchen conundrums you share with us, whether it’s on the phone, computer, or by the good old postal service. In Ask the Baker’s Hotline, Annabelle will pick the brains of the talented King Arthur Baker’s Hotline team to tackle some of your most-asked questions. Today’s query: How to keep cookies soft.
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Picture this: You reach into the cookie jar for a soft, chewy peanut butter cookie that you’ve been looking forward to all day. You take a bite, and what’s this? It’s hard as a rock!
If you find your once-soft cookies quickly becoming dry and hard, Amanda Schlarbaum from the Baker’s Hotline has some tips for how to keep them softer, longer.
Set yourself up for success
First things first, avoid overbaking your cookies. “Overbaking will remove moisture before you even take them out of the oven,” Amanda warns. “Look for your cookies to be just set in the middle with golden brown edges.”
If you’re unsure what “set” looks like, keep an eye on their shine. If the dough is shiny as it bakes (thanks to the butter or other fat in it), that shine will significantly reduce or go away once the cookies are set. As soon as they reach that stage, remove them from the oven. Even if they don’t feel firm yet, they’ll continue to set and harden as they cool.
Storage tips to keep cookies soft
Keeping your cookies soft and fresh all comes down to the way they’re stored — here are Amanda’s tips for success:
“To keep cookies soft, store them in an airtight container and not in a cookie jar,” Amanda recommends. “While cookie jars are cute, they usually don’t have airtight lids. Loose lids allow too much air into the container, causing the cookies to dry out faster.” Save your cookie jars for pre-packaged snacks or biscotti and keep your cookies in something with a good seal.
The bread/apple trick
Here’s a baker’s trick you’ll find in our new Monster Cookies recipe: Adding a piece of fresh white bread to the storage container will keep cookies from becoming hard or stale. But why does bread keep cookies soft? “Fresh white bread has a lot of moisture. When stored with cookies, it creates a humid environment, and the cookies absorb that excess moisture,” explains Amanda. She adds that “white bread is best for this, as whole wheat or flavored breads may not have enough moisture and could transfer their flavor to the cookies.” If you don’t have any bread lying around, “Apple slices have been known to work as well, but also have the potential to impart flavor.”
Keep 'em separated
Store different types of cookies separately. “Storing a soft peanut butter cookie with a snappy gingersnap will have the same result as adding a piece of bread: The gingersnap will become soft because of the moisture from the peanut butter cookie, and the peanut butter cookies will lose a lot of their softness. Plus, the flavors can be affected as well; those gingersnaps could take on the flavor of peanut butter, and vice versa.”
Stick with room temp
Storage to avoid: the refrigerator. “If you store cookies in the fridge, they will dry out,” Amanda says. The dry, cold air sucks the moisture right out of them. Instead, keep your cookies at room temperature, or freeze them for later.
Still find yourself with hard cookies? Here’s how to make them soft again.
All hope is not lost! You can make your hard cookies soft again with these simple tricks.
A sustainable swap
“A brown sugar saver is another option that can both keep cookies soft and soften hard cookies,” says Amanda. “The clay — which you give a quick soak in water before putting in the container — acts like bread, creating a humid environment that will be absorbed by the cookies.” Soak the terra cotta disk in water for 15 minutes and you will have softer cookies in a couple of hours.
A quick fix
Can’t wait that long? (Relatable.) “You can microwave the cookies wrapped in a damp paper towel or with a warm glass of water next to them for 20 to 30 seconds,” suggests Amanda. “The steam created will be absorbed into the cookie, softening it.” And bonus: “Not only will this soften the cookie — it’ll also warm it up. And who doesn’t love a warm cookie?” Amanda to the rescue!
Craving cookies? Look through our full archive of recipes to find your next bake.
Cover photo by Danielle Sykes; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne.