Don’t Give Up, You Can Re-soften Stale Cookies

Don’t Give Up, You Can Re-soften Stale Cookies

Freshly baked cookies are comfort food at its finest, and when stored properly, they should keep their integrity for close to a week. But occasionally, accidents happen. Soft cookies get left out on the table, or forgotten about on the counter, and they go prematurely stale. No one is more disappointed than me by a soft or chewy cookie that’s gone crunchy. I don’t stand for it, and neither should you. Make hard cookies soft again by storing them with some bread.

How to make dry cookies soft again

In my world, it’s always cookie season. I hope you live there too, but this trick is especially valuable for the upcoming winter holidays when cookies are in the house full-time. If you realize a batch of cookies has lost its moisture, don’t chuck them—just add it back in. Gently. Put all of the dry cookies in a container with a tight fitting lid. You could also use a large zip top bag, or a bowl that you can fit plastic wrap over tightly. The point is to keep the air locked in. Before you close the container, add a slice of soft bread.

Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Keep the cookies and bread closed in the container unopened overnight, or for at least four hours, to give the cookies adequate time to soften. Moisture will naturally evaporate out of the hydrated bread into the surrounding area, whether that’s an open room, a plastic bag full of more bread, or a container of cookies. The cookies, sitting in the enclosed space will absorb some of that available humidity and become flexible again. Dry cookies will always soften when more hydrated goodies are packed with them. This is one of the reasons why cookies should be packed “like with like” when you’re storing or shipping them.

I find that the average quality, store-bought, squishy sliced bread in a bag is excellent for this purpose, but you could use similarly hydrated baked goods, like a slice of cake, a soft flour tortilla, a muffin, or a different (soft) cookie—something that is not going to leak or stick to your cookies and is still soft. Make sure you’re at peace with altering the soft object though. The dry cookies are essentially sucking the moisture out of that other one, so it will become noticeably drier.

What you should not do to your stale cookies

Do not re-bake or microwave your stale cookies to try and make them softer. The cookies have lost their moisture already, and heating them up will only cause more of the water to exit. Putting your cookies in the microwave or in the oven will warm up the fats and melt the sugars again, leading to temporary flexibility. This might make you think you softened your cookies. Sadly, after about five or ten minutes, the sugars will recrystalize, the fats will resolidify, and any remaining moisture will have been driven out. You’ll end up with an even crunchier cookie than you started with.

Stick with bread and patience. If you have a large batch of cookies that could use some hydration, go ahead and add two or three slices of soft bread to the container. When you open up the container the next day, discard the now stale bread (or make some toast with it), and your cookies will be soft and chewy once again.

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