What's the secret to baking cookies that stay soft?
December 14, 2005 9:51 PM   Subscribe

What's the secret to baking cookies that stay soft?

I've been told to add lecitihin, trade 1/2 butter for shortening, use egg yolks, etc. "C is for Cookie, and H is for Help" includes good suggestions for preventing flat, runny cookies, but I'm trying to bake cookies that don't go crunchy 30 minutes out of the oven.
posted by macadamia to Food & Drink (44 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Cool them on the counter instead of a cooling rack.
posted by undertone at 10:01 PM on December 14, 2005

Underbaking them slightly should do the trick.
posted by cali at 10:06 PM on December 14, 2005

Try reducing the amount of flour in the recipe, and/or adding more fat.
posted by anarcation at 10:12 PM on December 14, 2005

Making Your Cookies Soft and Chewy
Tips for soft, chewy cookies:
Do not over mix the dough or use too much flour.
Bake cookies the minimum amount of time, even though the center may look slightly underbaked. Let cookies stand on baking sheet for one to three minutes to continue to bake, then remove to cooling rack.
Store soft cookies in an airtight container.
Do not store soft chewy cookies with crisp type cookies.
Use shiny aluminum cookie sheets, not dark colored ones.

In my experience the second tip helps the most, as does refrigerating the dough for a little bit before baking. Eschewing the whole "storage" thing by channeling your inner glutton helps, too.
posted by neda at 10:13 PM on December 14, 2005

Underbaking by a minute or two (and/or using a teensy bit less flour than called for) does the trick for me as well.
posted by scody at 10:22 PM on December 14, 2005

I have a vote for underbaking. I've also heard voodoo about pan temperature and cookie temperature from quite a few sources.

I've always had best cookie performance from cold dough on a cold pan. I understand the pan heats in the oven, and rotate pans for the next batch. I also immediately move the cookies from the pan to a brown paper bag. Not doing this results in overcooked crunchy bottoms.
posted by adamwolf at 10:23 PM on December 14, 2005

Use dark sugars and/or molasses. They're hydroscopic, and will absorb moisture from the air, keeping the cookies soft.

I found this out when I ran out of white sugar while trying to make ginger snaps one day. Of course, it changes the flavour slightly, but I like that ;)
posted by 5MeoCMP at 10:25 PM on December 14, 2005

oh oh oh! I totally know this one.


Seriously, this is a good recipe. The biggest problem is it makes 6 dozen cookies, but, eh, what're ya gonna do?
posted by aubilenon at 10:34 PM on December 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

Ms. Fields uses milk.
posted by Infernarl at 10:47 PM on December 14, 2005

Cooling on something that does not allow air flow underneath helps tremendously, as does storing the cookies in a container with-- yes, trust me on this one-- a slice of plain white bread (use the end-piece).
posted by NYCnosh at 10:56 PM on December 14, 2005

Underbaking by 2-3 min. is the way to go. Let them cool for 5 min on the tray before moving to the rack, to keep them from breaking. Cream the butter and sugers until light and fluffy is also key.
posted by arruns at 11:07 PM on December 14, 2005

Adding applesauce will help keep cookies soft.
posted by Triode at 11:09 PM on December 14, 2005

another vote for slightly undercooking.
posted by ancamp at 11:36 PM on December 14, 2005

alternatively, eat them all before they've been out of the oven for 30 minutes...

posted by ancamp at 11:37 PM on December 14, 2005

Increase the brown sugar to white sugar ratio.
posted by sanko at 12:06 AM on December 15, 2005

Both underbaking and using more brown sugar should do the trick.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:11 AM on December 15, 2005

One of the things that commercial, large-batch bakers do (think Keebler, etc.) is include coconut in the recipe. It gives the feeling of moistness, often without much additional taste.
posted by klangklangston at 12:25 AM on December 15, 2005

From my experience:

More brown sugar.
More butter.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:33 AM on December 15, 2005

My grandmother always kept the cookies in a tightly sealed tin with a wedge of fresh apple. That kept them soft.
posted by jaruwaan at 1:09 AM on December 15, 2005

1. Use Bread Flour not AP (extra protein, protein is stretchy)
2. More Brown Sugar, Less White (moisture)
3. Add and egg yolk (Protein again)

Alton Brown did an episode about this, in which he made three cookies: Thin and Crispy, Puffy and Chewy. Those three tips are the big differences. The recipe for the chewy is the link above.
posted by muddylemon at 1:42 AM on December 15, 2005

aubilenon writes "oh oh oh! I totally know this one.


"Seriously, this is a good recipe. The biggest problem is it makes 6 dozen cookies, but, eh, what're ya gonna do?"

Oh Hell Yeah!!!

I was gonna answer this, but aubilenon beat me to it.....
posted by hatsix at 2:17 AM on December 15, 2005

muddylemon got it. Underbaking ends up in a slightly moister cookie, but IMHO they also end up tasting underbaked. High-protein flour, dark brown sugar, and an egg yolk (more protein) make a huge, huge difference. Also, melting the butter before creaming liberates the water in it, which helps. And if you chill your dough before putting it in the oven, it'll "deflate" less, resulting in a cookie that is both chewy and nice and thick.
posted by Plutor at 4:25 AM on December 15, 2005

I vote for what people are calling underbaking but that is really properly to be called "stop overbaking them." And there are a few ways to do that.

First, get an oven thermometer and a real kitchen timer (ahem, all of you out there, stop using the minute hand on the kitchen wall clock) and run some tests. What temperature is your oven inside when the knob says it should be 350? Don't be surprisedif it's 400. Once you get your oven to read properly on the inside, bake the cookies exactly as the recipe tells you. If your cookies are still not to your taste, lop off a minute of two of the cooking time in your next round.

Now, you might see why people say all this stuff about butter and changing baking racks, the best way is pretty time consuming!

Good luck
posted by bilabial at 4:28 AM on December 15, 2005

My mother always exchanged half of the butter for shortening. It made a fuller, chewier, softer cookie.
posted by Alison at 4:49 AM on December 15, 2005

Looks like I joined the chorus late, but I, too, underbake my cookies to keep them soft.

Ditto the oven thermometer to check the exact temp of your oven. When I first started baking, I followed the directions exactly and no matter what I baked, it would come out too hard or worse, singed. I finally invested in an oven thermometer and it was only then that I discovered that 350F in my oven was actually 450F!
posted by phoenixc at 5:42 AM on December 15, 2005

"Seriously, this is a good recipe. The biggest problem is it makes 6 dozen cookies, but, eh, what're ya gonna do?"

aubilenon, scroll down past the recipe and you can customize it by entering the number of servings desired.
posted by necessitas at 6:20 AM on December 15, 2005

My grandmother would place her cookies in a huge ziploc bag with a piece of bread to keep them soft.
posted by jasondigitized at 6:21 AM on December 15, 2005

I find low-fat cookies are always soft - too soft for my taste. Try finding some low or no-fat recipes. Typically theu use ingredients like applesauce or prune baby food/dessert to replace the fat.
posted by GuyZero at 6:33 AM on December 15, 2005

US Patent No. 4,455,333 for Keebler's Soft Batch Cookies was the subject of infamous litigation and an outrageously high settlement. In it you will find how to make cookies which are crisp on the outside and soft in the center. The secret lies in using invert sugar (such as molasses) in one part of the dough placed into the center of the cookie and regular sugar in the other part of the dough on the outside of the cookie. (if the link doesn't work go here and type in the patent number)
posted by caddis at 7:12 AM on December 15, 2005

I too would be wary of the underbaking tactic. Gooey is not the same as moist.

My technique is to put a piece of stale bread in the storage container with the cookies. It creates the perfect level of humidity. Of course, you have to start with good cookies, though this trick will even moisten up the ones that come out of the oven a little hard. (This takes some forethought. Leaving a slice of bread out overnight works well. Toasting a piece of bread at the last minute does not.)
posted by booth at 7:46 AM on December 15, 2005

I agree with undertone, except with one difference: Put the cookies on a piece of wax paper to cool. That tactic transformed my mom's rock-hard chocolate chip cookies into tasty soft cookies.
posted by Scooter at 8:01 AM on December 15, 2005

Damn, jasondigitized beat me to it, but I will second his grandmothers tip. Put a piece of bread inside the cookie bag will definitely keep them soft. Ive been doing this for years and it works. Just use something that is plain (like white) or it may taste a little like the bread if you keep it too long. The bread acts as a transplant for moisture and "donates" it to the dry cookies.
posted by _zed_ at 8:32 AM on December 15, 2005

Thirding aubilenon's recipe link. Seriously, best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever. I don't make toll house cookies anymore.
posted by peep at 8:59 AM on December 15, 2005

Pudding mix is just cornstarch, sugar and some artificial ingredients like flavoring and preservatives. If you want a pudding cookie with out the extra fillers you could just substitute cornstarch for some of the flour. Adding cornstarch to baked goods is an age old trick to give them a finer, more delicate texture.
posted by caddis at 9:19 AM on December 15, 2005

One more thing, as pointed out by 5MeoCMP, sanko, and the patent I linked, invert sugar is the key to softness and moisture in a cookie while avoiding a doughy texture. if you want to add invert sugar but do not want the flavor of molasses, use some corn syrup. It is also an invert sugar. It substitutes for sugar at a ratio of 2:1, and you have to compensate for its moisture as well. Obviously, you do not need to get as fancy as the patented cookies I posted above; just adding some corn syrup will change the texture. Honey is also an invert sugar. If you do not care for the taste of honey or corn syrup in your recipe invert cane sugar can be had from specialty baking supply houses. I would suggest adding just a small percentage, such as 15%, otherwise it will have too big an effect on the cookies and make them gooey.
posted by caddis at 9:51 AM on December 15, 2005

I could swear my mom used to put the cookies in a sealed storage container before they fully cooled, and they seemed to stay soft. Now, I don't know if this ever caused any health issues, but I'm still alive, so I'm guessing not.
posted by Todd Lokken at 10:14 AM on December 15, 2005

Good God I don't think I have ever wanted cookies as much as I do right now...
posted by BobFrapples at 11:16 AM on December 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

One key to keeping the cookies soft for more than a day or two, I've found, is to cut the butter in half, and replace with shortening.
posted by nomisxid at 11:52 AM on December 15, 2005

(If your newly-baked chewy cookies get too hard because you forgot to put them in an airtight container, put them in a plastic container or a cookie jar with a slice of bread. They should go back to being soft.)
posted by cass at 12:37 PM on December 15, 2005

Too funny... I just made the recipe with pudding that aubilenon linked about an hour ago (without reading this thread first). So far so good, soft and delicious!
posted by jheiz at 5:36 PM on December 15, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I'll try the ideas on aubilenon's suggested recipe. 6 dozen cookies should make a good pilot study -- assuming I have enough stale bread to keep them moist!
posted by macadamia at 6:57 PM on December 15, 2005

A point of clarification, corn syrup is twice as sweet as sugar so use half as much.
posted by caddis at 8:48 PM on December 15, 2005

I've been making a universally loved chocolate chip cookie very similar to aubilenon's link and I can vouch for them.

For me, the problem has been that my girlfriend is seriously allergic to MSG and there is always MSG in gelatin - which is part of the instant pudding mix. I've been trying to reverse engineer the mix for a while. I'm going to try Caddis' idea of the corn starch and see what happens. Oh, PLEASE let that be the answer and I can get my cookies back!
posted by aaronh at 6:51 AM on December 16, 2005

The more like a cake your combination of ingredients, the more the cookies will stay soft. I know this because I have the opposite problem! I like crunchy cookies and the more my ingredients list includes eggs, the softer the cookies are. :-(
posted by SharonC at 9:58 AM on January 8, 2006

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