Oops! Your cookies came out as dry and as hard as miniature boulders. When you break them in half, they crumble into dust. You can scream, “Oh no! My cookies came out dry!” and throw them out, or... you can do something to save them. And maybe you can prevent this minor disaster from ever happening again.
How to Make Stale, Hard Cookies Soft Again
Your mom probably made a batch or two of dry cookies herself, but she probably used an old-fashioned trick to save them. Put the cookies in a sealed bag or cookie jar and add a half-slice of bread. Let it sit there on the counter overnight, and by tomorrow, the cookies should be almost as good as new.
Another method sanctioned by moms everywhere is using a slice of apple instead of bread. Otherwise, it’s the same trick. So whichever you need less of – apples or bread – use that.
With the advent of microwave cooking back in the 20th century, people found all sorts of ways to use this new device. They even came up with a way to re-hydrate cookies. Place dry cookies on a microwaveable plate with water in a microwaveable cup. Microwave on low at 30-second intervals until they are tenderized.
When using a microwave to add moisture to your cookies, keep your eye on them. Leaving them in the microwave for too long can result in a real tough cookie.
How to Keep Your Cookies Moist
If you want to prevent moist cookies from drying out, store them in an airtight container. To double-down on this effort, put the cookies in a zippered plastic bag and then put the bag in your cookie jar and replace the lid.
If, despite all your efforts, you still wind up with cookies as hard as rocks, it’s time to take out the bread or the apple or the microwave.
Next time, if you have too many cookies to eat at once, put the airtight bag of cookies in the freezer for future treats.
What Went Wrong in the First Place?
There are a few factors that might contribute to a dry batch of cookies. First, keep in mind that not all ovens heat the same. With an oven thermometer, check the actual temperature inside the oven against the setting. If there’s a discrepancy, adjust the cooking time accordingly.
- You may have added too much flour, or
- Baked them too long, or
- Didn’t add enough shortening or sugar, or
- Used a cooking sheet that was too dark.
Dipping a measuring cup directly into a bag or canister of flour can result in compression so that too much flour ends up in the batter. Instead, use a tablespoon to scoop the flour out of the container and into the measuring cup. Shake the spoon over the cup a bit so that the flour falls lightly, and don’t over-fill the cup.
If you think the culprit was lack of sugar or butter, add 1/4 cup of either (or both) to your next batch. However, not enough sugar can be a problem, too, because it can lead to over-browning.
It may seem odd, but use an aluminum cookie sheet instead of a dark sheet to prevent sticking. Use parchment paper to line the sheet to also help keep your cookies from sticking.
If you're not exactly sure just what went wrong, divide the batter for your next batch of cookies into halves or thirds and experiment with ingredients and/or baking techniques.
Judith Tingley is a writer, editor and multi-media artist based in Louisville, Kentucky. The many articles she has written for online publications reflect a broad range of interests, including international travel, cultural history and cookery. She loves finding adventures along the back roads of America. Judith was educated at the University of Chicago. Visit her website at heyjudetheobscure.com.