You thought you did everything right, from measuring ingredients, sifting flour, mixing, and shaping perfect cookies. A delightful aroma is spreading all over your home and you can’t wait for the moment to bring your cookies out of the oven. It makes your mouth water and you’re shivering in anticipation. And then – disappointment. Cookies are tough and hard. Why is that happening?
Why are my cookies tough?
There are numerous reasons your cookies are not turning the way you expect. One of the most common is that you mixed cookie dough too much. Let us explain – when you mix or knead the dough, protein strings in flour allow the gluten to develop. Gluten is that elastic thingie that keeps the dough from falling apart.
Over mixing is problematic even when you’re making less delicate baked goods, but with cookies, it really makes a difference. When you add flour to the cookie mixture, mix until you see no strings of flour. If you’re adding extra ingredients, such as nuts or chocolate chips, you can stop mixing even if flour streaks are visible. The flour will combine with other ingredients when you mix in nuts or chocolate.
Another thing that will prevent your cookies from being hard is leaving the dough to chill for a little bit before baking. This way you’re allowing the gluten to relax. Also, cookies tend to be tough when they are overbaked.
Is there a way to soften hard cookies?
In the previous section, we saw the main reason why cookies tend to be tough and dense. If you got yourself a tray of hard cookies there are few ways to fix them, so don’t throw them away.
There is a perfectly simple way how to make hard cookies soft. You’ll need a jar or airtight container and a piece of fresh white bread. Put a piece of bread (the fresher the better) on the bottom of the jar and all over it put tough cookies. Close the jar and leave for 24 hours. Moisture from the bread will soften your cookies and they’ll become soft and mellow, as you want them to be. For quicker results, after 12 hours replace bread with a new, fresh piece.
Another way how to make dense and tough cookies soft is to reheat them, but not in the oven – that would dry them out even more. Wrap hard cookies in a damp paper towel, each piece individually. Put them on a plastic tray and reheat in the microwave for about 20 seconds. That’ll be enough for cookies to absorb moisture from the paper. Make sure paper towels are just damp wet, not soaked in water. If cookies stay hard, repeat the process.
There is a way to soften tough cookies even if you overbake them, but you should react instantly. Take hard cookies and put them in plastic wrap, each cookie for itself. You could also use an airtight container that closes perfectly. It’s important to put hot (or at least warm) cookies, so the steam they release softens them. Leave cookies in a covered container of plastic wrap for few hours. They should be perfectly soft when you bring them out.
Tip: How to know did you overbake your cookies? When you take them out of the oven, check their structure. Yes, freshly baked cookies are a bit hard, they get softer while cooling down, but the middle of the cookie should be soft immediately. If the whole surface of the cookie is tough – it’s overbaked.