Unintentionally soft cookies are one of the most frustrating things to happen in a baker’s kitchen. You’ve spent an afternoon doing your best baking work and are ready to start decorating, dipping, or dunking your cookies but alas, they are soft and crumble in your hand.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a soft cookie. But it needs to have the perfect balance of soft, chewy and crispy. The best cookie, for me anyway, is one with a soft and gooey center and a crispy exterior. Yum.
You might have noticed your cookies are soft before you started baking your dough, in which case you can adjust your recipe, but if it’s after the fact, your remedy options are a bit more limited.
Fortunately for you, I have made an infinite amount of cookies of different types and flavors, and I am ready to pass on my soft cookie knowledge to you. So, if you have found yourself wondering ‘’why are my cookies soft after baking’ then keep reading to find out why this happens and how to fix soft cookies.
What Makes Cookies Soft?
First things first, what makes cookies soft in the first place? There are many reasons why your cookies are soft, and these can crop up at any time throughout the baking process. Everything from the ingredients, the recipe, the baking time, and how you store them has the ability to turn cookies soft.
Consider the Ingredients Used
If you are using lots of brown sugar, butter, eggs, and some types of chips (eg chocolate chips), you could be on the road to a soft cookie. Brown sugar contains molasses, which increases its moisture content. White sugar does not contain any molasses and therefore, has a lower moisture content.
Butter has a higher water content than vegetable shortening, thus adding more moisture to your mixture. The consistency of the butter also has an impact. If you use melted butter in your cookie dough, your cookies might end up spreading in the oven, making them crisp and toffee-like. If you use cold butter, the cookies will retain their shape more in the oven, making them softer.
Your choice of filling will also have an impact on the texture of your cookie. If you use fresh or frozen fruit, such as blueberries, you run the risk of introducing too much liquid to your cookie dough.
The Type of Cookie
Some cookies are soft by nature and are designed to be that way. As above, recipes with a high amount of brown sugar and butter will yield softer, chewier cookies.
For example, New York-style cookies (my favorite!) are soft by nature. They are chunky, gooey, and soft with crispy edges.
If you compare these to recipes for shortbread or sugar cookies, you will see that the latter only uses white sugar. This will keep the dough firm and the end result will be hard and crunchy. If you want dough you can cut or shape, stick to these types of dough.
Incorrect Baking and Cooling Time
Generally, cookies have a relatively short baking time due to their small size and low density. Underestimate this and you won’t bake your cookies for long enough, resulting in a soft cookie that is underbaked.
That said, cookies should only be baked until they are slightly golden around the edges and still a bit soft in the middle. The residual heat in the cookies and on the baking sheet will continue the cooking process when they are out of the oven. Be sure to leave enough time for them to finish baking and set before you tuck in.
Cookies that are stored incorrectly will attract moisture and turn soft. While a little softening in the days after baking is normal, too much is not. Storing the cookies incorrectly, in a way that permits moisture to enter the environment will mean you’ll have soft cookies in no time. Keep reading to find out how to avoid this and the other common pitfalls mentioned above.
How To Fix Soft Cookies Before Baking
Reduce the Moisture in the Mixture
Butter, eggs, and sugar all add an element of moisture to your cookie mixture. Reducing the amount of these ingredients will help to reduce the moisture in the final dough product. If you are looking for a soft and chewy cookie, keep these amounts high. If you’re aiming for a hard cookie, find a recipe that has more white sugar instead of brown.
Increase the Dry Ingredients in the Dough
Flour is the main dry ingredient used in making cookies. Add too much and you’ll end up with a dry dough. Add too little and the mixture will be too wet. Add just enough, and you’ll make a malleable, firm dough.
Is your mixture too wet? Carefully add more flour, a spoonful at a time to balance out the wet ingredients with the dry. Do this bit by bit though, as you can easily add too much!
How to Make Soft Cookies Crispy Again
Bake Them a Little Longer
If you’ve just taken your cookies out of the oven and they are still too soft around the edges, put them back in for a few minutes. Ensure your oven is at the same temperature as it was when you first put them in to bake. Watch them carefully so they don’t overcook.
Leave Them To Cool and Set After Baking
As I said above, cookies continue to cook once removed from the oven. If they are golden and starting to harden around the edges, take them out and leave them to sit on the baking tray for a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool. This will finish the cooking process and ensure the perfect bake.
Keep Them Crisp
Once you’ve achieved the perfect crispy cookie, the next step is to keep them that way. Store your crispy cookies in an airtight glass or plastic container to keep the moisture out. This will keep your cookies hard and fresh for the longest possible time. It’s also a great excuse to get a cute cookie jar for your counter.
Put Them in a Hot Oven For a Few Minutes to Crisp Up
If you’ve baked and stored your cookies correctly, and they’re still soft, the next best thing to do is to bake them again. Preheat your oven and set it to the same temperature as in the original recipe. Place your cookies on a baking sheet and when the oven is hot enough, put them back in. Bake them for a couple of minutes and once they are starting to harden, take them out to cool.
Freeze Your Cookies
Freezing cookies is a great way to keep them fresh. This is an especially good method if you make a large batch and want to keep some for a later date. Once your cookies are fully cooled, transfer them to an airtight container or freezer bag and put them in your freezer. They will keep well for up to 12 months.
When defrosting cooked cookies, a short stint in a hot oven will bring them back to life.
You can also freeze the uncooked dough using the same method. When you want to bake them, just defrost the dough and cook as per your recipe.
Depending on the type of cookie dough you have made, you can also cook your cookie dough straight from frozen.
Take a look at how to do this following this cookie recipe.
Thankfully, there is a reason for every type of soft cookie, and when we have a reason, we can find a solution. Whether it’s before baking, after baking, or because of the storage method, I’ve now equipped you with the best ways to avoid a soft cookie and to fix cookies if they’ve softened after baking or storage.
Remember, doing things accurately is key to the success of cookies. Check your recipe, look at the sugar content and adjust if necessary. Give baked cookies the right time to cool and set (this is hard, I know!), and don’t be afraid to put them back in to give them a new lease on life.
Infinite cookie happiness awaits you with these top tips!