Plus, can you make hard cookies soft again?

By Corey Williams
Updated October 05, 2020
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Sure, there’s a time and a place for a crispy cookie (gingersnaps, duh!). But, most of the time, we’re all about those that err on the side of warm, soft, chewy, and gooey. Here’s what you need to know about making perfectly soft cookies every time:

What Makes Cookies Soft?

Credit: Esther Chou/Getty Images

Esther Chou/Getty Images

A cookie’s texture depends on a number of factors (ingredients, ratios, bake time, etc.) and how those factors work together. For instance, white sugar generally produces crispier results than brown sugar—but many cookies that are made with white sugar are soft and fluffy. Still, there are some basic guidelines that can help you on your quest to bake the softest cookies around.

Credit: Wanwisa Hernandez / EyeEm/Getty Images

Wanwisa Hernandez / EyeEm/Getty Images

For soft cookies, use:

  • Brown sugar, as it has a high moisture content and retains moisture better than white sugar. Also, when combined with eggs, brown sugar can prevent spreading (taller cookies tend to be softer and fluffier).
  • Shortening instead of butter or in addition to butter. Butter has a low melting temperature, which promotes quick and even spreading. Shortening, meanwhile, takes longer to melt during the baking process.
  • Baking powder instead of baking soda. Baking soda, which reacts with an acid, causes cookies to spread. Baking powder, meanwhile, uses the dough’s moisture to react with itself. It also reacts at room temperature and again in the oven. All this reacting gives it extra lifting power, making your cookies light, airy, and cake-like.
  • Eggs, particularly egg yolks. Eggs work to make your cookies soft in two ways: They add a ton of moisture, and the proteins add structure that prevents spreading.
  • Cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. Low in protein and high in moisture, cake flour is used to leaven all sorts of baked goods.

Bake time can also affect the texture of your cookies. As anyone who’s accidentally over-baked cookies knows, they get dryer and crunchier the longer they’re in the oven. Closely monitor your cookies while they’re baking to make sure they don’t dry out.

Related:

Can You Make Hard Cookies Soft?

Credit: Photo: Beth Branch

Yes! You can absolutely soften hard or stale cookies. Simply place the cookies in an airtight container, throw a slice of white bread in there with them, and then close the lid overnight. The cookies will absorb the moisture from the bread and you’ll wake up to a deliciously soft dessert.

Need to soften your cookies faster? Wrap the cookies individually in damp paper towels (damp, not wet). Zap them in the microwave—paper towels and all—for about 10-15 seconds.