So you just spent much time and effort preparing sugar cookies. But when you pull the batch out of the oven and bite into one, you immediately feel disappointed.
Instead of being soft and chewy, the cookies are hard as rocks!
Well, you’re not alone. Every beginner and seasoned baker has experienced this incident before.
Cookies can be tricky little devils, and keeping them soft and chewy demands following a few tricks.
Fortunately, with the right recipe and baking techniques, you can make soft sugar cookies in no time. In this post, we’ll explain how to make sugar cookies soft.
Let’s start with the basic question: why are my sugar cookies hard? There’s no definite answer to this question because several mistakes result in hard cookies.
If your sugar cookies end up hard as rocks, it’s crucial to understand your mistakes so you don’t repeat them.
Here are a few common reasons you might have ended up with hard sugar cookies:
We know it’s easy to get carried away when your kitchen smells like freshly baked cookies. But trust me, even an extra minute or two can make your cookies way too tough and crunchy.
You might have read in cookie recipes that you should bake them until golden brown. However, that’s not the case for sugar cookies.
You should bake sugar cookies only until the edges develop a golden hue. That should take around 8 to 10 minutes.
So once you place the cookies in the oven, keep an eye on them and take them out when the edges are light brown.
The centers should look slightly cracked. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack.
Some bakers have this strange habit of being too generous when mixing ingredients. While you should mix the dry and wet ingredients properly, you should never overdo it when making cookies.
Overmixing the dough often leads to the accumulation of gluten, which has a tough texture, and cookies should be soft and tender. So next time you’re mixing the dough, do it only until the ingredients are combined.
As in most recipes, wet ingredients play a significant role in determining the texture of your product.
Sugar cookies are no different. They need moisture to stay soft, which comes from ingredients such as eggs, milk, and butter.
If you’re not using the right amount of wet ingredients, your cookies will likely be too rough. So, depending on your recipe, try to be accurate as much as you can to prevent ending up with hard cookies.
As we mentioned, gluten develops when you over-mix the dough, creating a tougher dough. The same issue occurs when you don’t add sufficient sugar to your recipe.
That’s because sugar absorbs moisture, slowing down the development of gluten and starch, which makes the cookies soft and chewy.
Traditionally, sugar cookies are supposed to be soft and chewy. That’s because most sugar cookie recipes add a high proportion of butter, sugar, and wet ingredients, which help keep the cookies light and tender.
Additionally, sugar cookies are rolled out and cut into small pieces before baking, creating an airy and light texture.
Apart from the wet ingredients, baking time plays a huge role in the texture of the cookies. Normally, you should bake sugar cookies until the edges develop a golden hue, which takes around 7 to 10 minutes.
Use fewer wet ingredients if you want your sugar cookies a bit crispier. You can also bake the dough in the oven to dry it and make it tougher.
All you have to do is set your oven to 180C and bake for around 13 minutes. If you want your cookies thoroughly baked, leave them for up to 30 minutes at 140C.
While most people prefer their sugar cookies to be soft and tender, it’s still a matter of personal preference as some people enjoy crisp sugar cookies.
Like other types of cookies, sugar cookies normally harden after you take them out of the oven. That’s because the baking process continues for a few more minutes after they’re out of the oven.
As cookies cool, the residual heat keeps cooking them slightly, causing them to firm up.
That’s why it’s crucial not to overbake cookies. If they’re already hard after you remove them from the oven, they’ll only get harder as they cool, resulting in too-hard or brittle cookies.
Generally, you should bake sugar cookies for around 5 to 10 minutes. That’s when the edges start to develop a golden color.
After that, you need to remove them immediately from the oven and let them dry for 5-10 minutes before you serve them.
To maintain the soft texture of sugar cookies, here are a few tips you must follow during baking and storing.
Regarding sugar cookies, brown sugar can be a game changer in achieving softness. It holds more moisture than white sugar, resulting in chewy cookies.
So, if you want soft and tender cookies, consider replacing the white sugar in your recipe with brown sugar.
As we mentioned, overbaking is one of the most common reasons cookies lose their soft texture. Consider taking your cookies out of the oven a minute or two early, so they’re undercooked.
Don’t worry; they’ll cook outside the oven for a few minutes until the edges become slightly golden, yielding soft and tender cookies.
Incorporate wet ingredients into your cookie recipe to boost moisture and yield softer cookies.
Opt for a few teaspoons of corn syrup or honey to increase moisture and minimize the risk of having hard cookies. Some yogurt, milk, or sour cream might also do the trick, making cookies more tender.
After your cookies cool, you shouldn’t let them out for too long. Store them immediately in an airtight container, be it a plastic jar or a zippy bag; just ensure the container is completely airtight to prevent moisture from escaping.
You can also place a piece of bread inside the container to create more humidity and help keep the cookies soft and chewy.
So you’ve made hardened sugar cookies and are now wondering if it’s possible to soften them? Luckily, there are a few ways to make cookies soft and damp again without starting over from scratch.
If you’re in a hurry, the best way to soften hard cookies is to heat them in the microwave for a few seconds. Grab a microwave-safe plate and place one or two cookies simultaneously for a few seconds.
Make sure to wrap your cookies in a damp paper towel so that they absorb moisture and become damp. Note that you should serve the cookies right after they’re out of the microwave because they’ll get even harder when they cool down.
Like the bread method mentioned earlier, you can use apple slices to make your cookies softer. Place an apple slice in a tight container with your cookies and leave them for 24 hours.
The cookies will absorb the moisture from the apple and become soft. Moreover, the cookies might take on a bit of flavor from the apple, making them even tastier!
Put some sugar cubes at the bottom of an airtight container, and then add your cookies. Leave them for around 12 hours, and the cookies will absorb moisture from sugar cubes, becoming much softer.
If you notice you overbaked your cookies, wrap every cookie in plastic wrap immediately while they’re still warm. This should help soften the cookies a bit.
You can also try holding the cookies over steam to introduce moisture for a minute or two. Be careful not to overdo it, as the cookies may become soggy.
If your cookies are rock hard, you probably made some mistakes that led to hardening the dough. Here are a few tips on how to soften sugar cookie dough to prevent that from happening again:
- Ensure you add the right amount of wet ingredients according to your recipe. If the dough is still hard, add more milk or butter to soften it up.
- Add a single egg yolk; it makes wonders in terms of softening.
- If you’re using frozen dough, leave it thaw properly overnight.
- Place your hard dough near a heat source, such as a warm stove or an oven, to make it warmer and softer.
- If you think your dough is hard because of overmixing, let it relax so the gluten loosens and the dough gets softer.
- Place your dough in the microwave and heat it in 10-second intervals. Check how soft it is after each interval, and be careful, as you may easily end up cooking the dough.
Now you have it: the secrets of how to make sugar cookies soft. By following our guide, you’ll be making melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies in no time.
Remember, practicing and determining what you’ve been doing wrong takes some time. So grab your recipes and try baking some sugar cookies while following our tips.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.