How to soften hard cookies

Has this ever happened to you? You reach for the brown sugar in your pantry only to find it's turned into a rock-hard lump. Don't panic. Here are 5 simple ways to soften it up so it's as good as new. I'll also share tips for storing brown sugar so it's always fluffy and ready to use.

Why Does Brown Sugar Go Hard?

Brown sugar hardens as its natural moisture evaporates. Unless you store it properly, what was a soft, fluffy package of brown sugar granules will hardened into a dense brown lump you could break windows with. It's still safe to eat, but there's no way you can measure it accurately for a recipe until it's soft and grainy again.

How to Soften Hard Brown Sugar

One of these 5 easy methods should do the trick, depending on how fast you need the fix.

1. How to soften brown sugar in the microwave.

Here's how to soften brown sugar quickly. Put the brown sugar lump in a microwave-safe bowl. Wet a paper towel and wring it out so it's lightly damp. Cover the bowl and microwave in 10-second bursts until the sugar is crumbly again. Poke the sugar with a fork between bursts to help break up the lump. Be sure not to microwave it for too long, otherwise the sugar will melt. Handle carefully because the sugar might be very hot.

2. How to soften brown sugar in the oven.

Heat the oven to 250° F. Place the hard sugar in an oven-safe bowl and warm it in the oven, checking every couple of minutes and crumbling with a fork until the sugar is soft. Caution: The sugar will be hot.

3. How to soften brown sugar with bread.

Put a slice of fresh bread in an airtight container with the lumpy brown sugar. After about a day, the sugar will have absorbed enough moisture from the bread to become its soft and crumbly self again. Remove the bread so it doesn't mold.

4. How to soften brown sugar with an apple slice.

Exactly like the bread method, but gluten-free. (Just kidding.) No, really. It works. Just remember to remove the apple afterwards.

5. How to soften brown sugar with terra cotta.

Hardened brown sugar is such a common problem, that some clever people have come up with a very clever solution. You simply soak a piece of terra cotta in water for about 20 minutes, then place it in an air-tight container with the dried out sugar lump. In about a day, the terra cotta revives the sugar and prevents it from lumping up again by maintaining an ideal moisture level. You can find terra cotta sugar savers that look like adorable bears (see picture below), leaves, or other small shapes.

Due to the molasses and sugar in brown sugar, it often becomes hard rather easily. As a result, it can be hard to break up when you need to use it. Most of us use brown sugar in baking recipes, thus it needs to be softened so it can fit into a measuring cup. You can’t do that when you have a hard clump or brick of sugar! Here are a few ways that explain how to soften brown sugar. It isn’t difficult to soften the sugar; when you re-soften the sugar, you also won’t have to replace a perfectly good ingredient.

How to Soften Brown Sugar In a Microwave

You can use the microwave as a quick way to soften the brown sugar. Just follow these tips:

  1. Place the brown sugar in a microwavable bowl.
  2. Put a couple of damp paper towels on top of the brown sugar.
  3. Tightly cover the bowl.
  4. Heat the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. If not yet softened, continue to heat for 10- second intervals. Fluff the sugar with a fork and use it immediately.

How to Soften Brown Sugar Overnight

If you need to use the brown sugar the next day, try this method:

  1. Follow the first three steps listed above, putting the hardened sugar in a microwave bowl, covering it with damp paper towels and then sealing the bowl.
  2. Leave the sealed bowl on the kitchen counter overnight. The next day, the sugar will be softened. It may be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator.

Other Ways to Soften Brown Sugar

Some people swear by putting a slice of white bread or apple slices into the container of brown sugar. The sugar takes the moisture from the bread or apples, keeping it soft.

How to soften hard cookies

We all love to have a soft, absorbent towel to wrap around us after a shower or bath. The softness protects and soothes our skin, and the absorbency captures the moisture so we can get dressed more quickly.

Unfortunately, even after buying the softest and most plush towels we can find (and afford), they can end up feeling stiff and scratchy after a few months. Why? It all has to do with how they're washed and dried.

Every towel will eventually become stiff and scratchy if body soil, body oils, detergents, chemicals, and minerals from hard water are left in the fibers after washing. Most of the time, the softness can be brought back to the towel simply by stripping away the gunk and then following some easy steps to help prevent the problem in the first place.

What You’ll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Clothes dryer
  • Wool dryer balls (optional)
  • Outdoor clothesline (optional)
  • Water softening system (optional)

Materials

  • Hot water
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Household ammonia (optional)

Instructions

How to Soften Towels
Detergent None
Water Temperature Warm or hot
Cycle Type Normal
Drying Cycle Medium heat or permanent press
Special Treatments Distilled vinegar, conditioned water

How to soften hard cookies

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Instructions

Load the Washer With Towels

Gather similarly colored towels and washcloths, and load them into the washer. Do not overload the washer because the towels need room to move in the washer drum.

How to soften hard cookies

Select the Water Temperature and Cycle

To remove body soil, detergent, and fabric softener build-up that is causing the problem, select the warm or hot water option. Set the cycle to normal wash.

How to soften hard cookies

Add Distilled White Vinegar and Wash as Usual

If you have pre-loaded automatic detergent and fabric softener dispensers, disengage them for this load. Do not add any detergent or fabric softener. Instead, add two cups of distilled white vinegar to the washer drum. The vinegar will help strip away the residue left in the towels that is causing them to feel stiff.

How to soften hard cookies

If you live in an area that has hard water and don’t use a water-softening system, it will take more than vinegar to cut through the mineral deposits built-up in the fibers of your towels. Instead of vinegar, add one cup of household ammonia to the hot water wash. Do not add anything else. Combining other products with ammonia can cause toxic fumes.

Load the Dryer Correctly and Choose the Correct Cycle

As you remove the towels from the washer, give them a quick shake to help fluff the fibers before you toss them in the dryer. Choose a medium heat or permanent press setting to prevent over-drying the fibers. After loading the dryer, toss in several wool dryer balls if you have them. The balls will “beat” the towel fibers during the tumbling action, leaving them softer and fluffier. Give the towels another good shake as you remove them from the dryer before folding.

How to soften hard cookies

If you choose to hang your freshly vinegar-washed towels on an outdoor clothesline or drying rack, they may still feel a bit stiff after drying. Give the dry towel a quick knead to help loosen fibers before folding.

Repeat If Needed

If the residue is particularly heavy and the towels have not returned to a soft state, repeat the steps.

Every home cook has been there: You’re getting ready to bake, you reach into your pantry to get your ingredients and you realize your brown sugar is hard as a rock. Don’t worry! Once you know how to soften brown sugar, you can get back to business—and back to making treats like Ree Drummond’s brown sugar oatmeal cookies or her favorite turkey brine for Thanksgiving. Don’t just toss your brown sugar and use granulated instead—brown sugar has a unique molasses flavor and adds tons of moisture to baked goods.

How to soften hard cookies

So what went wrong? The main reason your brown sugar is super hard is because it dried out. After you open a package of brown sugar, you instantly release some of the natural moisture in the sugar. The exposure to open air dries and hardens both the sugar crystals and the molasses in the sugar, making the sugar crystals stick together. The end result: brown sugar that feels more like stone than damp sand! But the good news is your brown sugar is still totally usable. The even better news is that reviving your solid brown sugar is simple—just restore the moisture. Read on to learn how to soften brown sugar in a few different ways. And to keep your brown sugar from hardening in the first place, store it in a tightly-sealed food storage container that isn’t prone to rust (don’t just fold down the top of the bag and hope for the best). You can also add a brown sugar saver to your container, like a brown sugar bear, which can help maintain moisture in brown sugar for up to six months.

How to Soften Brown Sugar in the Microwave:

This is the fastest and easiest way to soften hardened brown sugar. Just place your block of brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. Wet a paper towel and squeeze until just slightly damp. Lay the paper towel over the brown sugar and microwave it in 20-second intervals, loosening the sugar with a fork between each interval, until the sugar has returned to its normal texture.

How to Soften Brown Sugar Without a Microwave:

This method will take a little longer, but it’ll do the trick! Place your hardened brown sugar in a secure plastic container or bag. Then, lay a slice of sandwich bread on top of the brown sugar and cover the container with the lid or seal it if using a bag. Let sit for at least 12 hours (or overnight). This method works like magic—the moisture from the bread is transferred to the brown sugar, helping it get back to its normally soft texture. You can also use the same method with apple slices. All you have to do is lay an apple slice or two on top of the brown sugar and apply the same technique as with the slice of sandwich bread.

How to Soften Brown Sugar in the Oven:

To soften brown sugar in the oven, place the hardened pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the brown sugar in the oven and warm at 250 degrees. Check on the brown sugar every couple minutes or so and break it up with a fork until soft. Allow the brown sugar to cool slightly before trying to use it in a recipe. Remember, you don’t want to cook or melt the brown sugar, you just want to soften it—so don’t try to speed up the process by raising the temperature of the oven.

How to soften hard cookies

If you find yourself baking more these days, take the time to review this helpful post. I’m so excited to republish it because understanding this crucial concept is key in your baking’s success.

Butter is the starting point for an immense amount of baked goods, so it’s important to have it prepped as the recipe suggests. But guess what? We’re all human and we forget to bring butter to room temperature first or we just don’t have the time. We make up for it by trying to heat it in the microwave, but it always ends up slightly melted. At this point, butter and sugar can’t cream properly leading to cookies over-spreading, dense cakes, overflowing cupcakes, and flat muffins.

Soften Butter Quickly with This Trick

Let’s dive into this a little further.

Why Softened Butter?

First, let’s discuss why you actually need softened butter for your recipe. I actually have an in-depth post about room temperature butter if you’d like to read further.

Most recipes calling for butter call for room temperature/softened butter. And there’s legitimate science involved for this particular consistency. Butter, a solid fat, is capable of holding air and the creaming process is when butter traps that air. While baking, that trapped air expands from the heat and produces a fluffy baked good. Not only this, room temperature ingredients bond together very easily since they’re warmer, creating a seamless and evenly textured batter. A smooth batter with trapped air = a uniformly textured and proper tasting baked good. Cold ingredients do not emulsify together. Period. This results in clumpy frosting, chunky cheesecake, dense cake, flat breads, and oily muffins.

  • It’s literally #1 in my top 10 baking tips: if a recipe calls for room temperature butter, use room temperature butter. It can’t properly cream with sugar otherwise.

How to soften hard cookies

Room Temperature Butter is Colder than You Think

Room temperature butter is cool to the touch and about 65°F (18°C). This might be colder than your kitchen. When you press it, your finger will make an indent. Your finger won’t sink down into the butter, nor will your finger slide all around. To get that perfect consistency and temperature, leave butter out on the counter for around 1 hour prior to beginning your recipe.

How to soften hard cookies

If your cakes are dense, you’re probably softening the butter too much. And butter that’s too warm causes cookies to overspread. But guess what? You have complete control to prevent these problems.

How to Soften Butter Quickly

The best way to soften butter for a recipe is to set it out on the counter for about 1-2 hours. The amount of time depends on the weather and how cool you keep your kitchen. But we forget and/or we just don’t have time.

There’s a billion tricks to softening butter quickly, but the following is what works best for me. Here’s what you need:

  • water
  • butter, sliced into small pieces
  • microwave

Step 1: Pour 2 cups of water into a microwave-safe cup or bowl. I always use a liquid measuring cup.

How to soften hard cookies

Step 2: Microwave it for 2 minutes until extremely hot. Meanwhile, place butter in a heatproof bowl or on a plate.

How to soften hard cookies

Step 3: Remove water from the microwave. Place butter inside. Quickly close microwave. (Our microwave is one of those models in the kitchen island. I love it!) Remove water from the microwave.

Step 4: The radiant heat will soften the butter in about 10 minutes.

How to soften hard cookies

Keep This in Mind

The more butter your recipe calls for, the larger the bowl or plate (holding the butter) should be. In other words, you don’t want a huge pile of butter in a small bowl. Spread it out so the pieces of butter can warm up quickly and evenly.

More Tips to Make YOU a Better Baker

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How to soften hard cookies

How to Soften Butter Quickly

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: softened butter
  • Category: Baking
  • Method: Microwave
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Soften butter quickly with this super easy trick.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • butter (sliced into pieces)*

Instructions

  1. Pour 2 cups of water into a microwave-safe cup or bowl. I always use a liquid measuring cup.
  2. Microwave it for 2 minutes until very hot. Meanwhile, place pieces of butter into a heatproof bowl or on a plate.
  3. Very carefully remove water from microwave. Place butter in the microwave. Immediately close the microwave door to trap hot air inside.
  4. The radiant heat will soften the butter in about 10 minutes.

Notes

  1. The more butter your recipe calls for, the larger the bowl or plate (holding the butter) should be. Spread the pieces of butter out so they can warm up quickly and evenly. Thinner pieces will soften faster.

Keywords: butter

And Always Remember

If a recipe calls for room temperature butter, make sure all other ingredients are room temperature as well. This includes eggs, milk, and sour cream. When cold ingredients touch creamed butter, the butter will cool down and solidify again. And, as you now know, this sabotages your recipe. Place eggs in warm water for 10 minutes and/or microwave dairy ingredients (not butter!) for about 10 seconds prior to using. Now go make perfect sugar cookies!

Learn how to properly soften butter to room temperature (and why it’s important that you do).

Baking recipes often call for butter that's been "softened to room temperature." I always assumed this was to make our lives easier, because if you've ever tried to cream cold butter — you know it's no fun. But turns out, there's actually a scientific reason for softening butter to room temperature, beyond just making it more malleable. Read on to learn the science behind softened butter, and how to soften butter quickly and easily:

Why Softened Butter?

As you cream butter and sugar together, the grains of sugar force their way through the fat, leaving a lot of tiny air bubbles in their wake. During baking, that trapped air expands, giving you a light and fluffy result. If the butter is too cold, it won't hold air, giving you a dense result. If the butter is too warm, the air bubbles will collapse.

What Is Softened Butter and What Should It Feel Like?

Softened butter should still hold its shape, but easily dent when pressed. Whether you've planned ahead or you're in a pinch, learn to soften butter five ways: one slow way and four quick ways.

The Best Way to Soften Butter

Pretty much any baker will tell you, the best way to soften butter is to leave it out at room temperature before baking. The problem? This requires planning. If you do remember, you should allow the butter to sit at room temperature between 30 minutes and an hour, depending on how cold it was to start with and the room temperature. The butter should easily dent when pressed, but it shouldn't be liquid anywhere. 

If it begins to melt, pop it back in the fridge for a few minutes to firm it up before use. This method is favored for its consistency. But if you have a sudden urge to bake and not a lot of time, there are alternative methods that will suffice.

How to Quickly Soften Butter

Let's just admit it — we've all popped a rock hard stick of butter in the microwave only to end up with a liquidy, buttery mess. Next time you're in a pinch, skip the microwave method (which often gives you a melted exterior and rock solid interior) and opt for one of these methods for softening butter instead. 

Cut it into cubes: If you don't have 45 minutes to soften butter the old-fashioned way, this method of cutting a stick of butter into cubes only takes about 10 minutes. Small chunks will soften much quicker than a whole stick, and depending on how much time you have you can either leave the cubes out a room temperature or place them near a warming stove. If the cubes are near a heat source, keep an eye on them to make sure they're not melting.

Pound it: Not only is this method great for when you're short on time, but it's also a good way to get your anger out (hey, they say baking is therapeutic, right?). To do this, place the whole stick of butter in a plastic bag or between two sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin or meat pounder to flatten it like dough. The friction will warm the butter and the larger surface area will help the butter soften faster.

Grate it: If you have to soften your butter right this instant (cookies wait for no one) then this method is for you. Use the largest holes on a cheese grater to grate the butter into a heap of fluffy, shredded butter. Because the pieces are so small, they'll soften almost instantly, making them ready to use right away. 

Give it a water bath: Another way to quickly soften butter without settling for the microwave is to use a water bath. Heat water in a saucepan, just below the boiling point. Remove it from the heat. Place a heat-safe bowl nested on top with the butter inside. Allow the butter to soften, but keep a close eye on it to make sure it doesn't melt.

The quick way to soften butter for baking, with a little wax paper and a rolling pin.

Elise founded Simply Recipes in 2003 and led the site until 2019. She has an MA in Food Research from Stanford University.

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Many baking recipes call for "softened" butter, or room temperature butter.

The reason for using softened butter is that you want to beat the butter (also called "creaming the butter"), either with sugar or without, and it's very hard to beat a cold stick of butter.

Why beat the butter? To get air bubbles into it which will expand when baking.

The best thing to do to soften your butter is to put it out on the kitchen counter for a half hour before you have to use it. But sometimes we don't think that far ahead.

One popular solution is to put the cold butter in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds. The problem with microwaving butter is that the microwave can heat the butter unevenly, and tends to over-soften or even melt the butter in places.

A New York Times article on butter in baking says, “Never use a microwave: it will melt it, even though it will look solid. When the butter is still cold, but takes the imprint of a finger when gently pressed, it is ready to be creamed.”

You want pliable butter for beating, not almost melting butter.

Here are a few tricks to quickly soften butter:

  1. Grate the cold butter using the large holes of a cheese grater.
  2. Cut the butter into smaller cubes, they'll soften more quickly that way
  3. Put the stick of butter between two pieces of wax paper and roll out with a rolling pin

See below for how to soften butter quickly using some wax paper and a rolling pin. This trick was taught to me several years ago by my neighbor, pastry chef Evie Lieb, who told me that she learned about it from a collective of Bay Area bakers called the "Baker's Dozen".

Recipes often call for softened butter, which mixes well with other ingredients. The traditional way involves letting your butter stand at room temperature until softened, but we’ll also show you how to quickly soften butter in a pinch. If you really need to know how to soften butter fast, skip straight to our instructions for how to soften butter in the microwave.

Chocolate chip cookies, buttermilk biscuits, yellow cake. All of these delightful classic baked goods (plus many more) call for softened butter. It mixes much easier with flour and sugar in batters or cookie dough than hard, cold butter or even melted butter. But whether you're a new or experienced baker, it's easy to forget to set out butter sticks to give them enough time to come to room temperature. So if you're trying to get ahead in your holiday cookie baking or are mid-recipe and need to know how to soften butter quickly, you're in the right place. Softened butter should still hold its shape but dent when pressed. No part of it should be melted. Use these butter softening methods for both salted and unsalted butter.

How to Soften Butter at Room Temperature

Not sure how long to soften butter? Keep an eye on it, but the easiest way to soften butter is to remove a cold stick from the refrigerator and let it hang out at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes until it becomes room temperature or until just spreadable. The timing will vary depending on the room temperature and how cold the butter is to start with. If the butter starts getting quite soft but is not yet melted, place it back in the refrigerator for a few minutes to keep it from melting before you are ready to use it.

This is easily our favorite way to soften butter for baking cookies because it guarantees consistency. Plus, when it comes to times like holiday baking, we need that long time to go find our cookie cutters, sprinkles, and other baking tools.

How to Soften Butter Quickly Four Ways

If you're on this page, there's a good chance you probably need a way to soften butter fast. For the baking sessions where the traditional sit-and-wait route isn't an option, these methods for softening butter will speed up the process. Here's how to soften frozen butter or refrigerated butter without melting it.

  1. Cut Up the Butter: If you cut a stick of butter into smaller chunks or slices, it will soften more rapidly at room temperature. If you need a specific measurement of butter, measure it while the butter is whole, using the measurements on the wrapper as a guide.
  2. Pound It: To shorten softening time, place the wrapped stick of butter between two pieces of parchment or waxed paper and pound it several times on each side with a rolling pin ($9, Target) to partially flatten.
  3. Beat It: Some recipes call for softened butter that is then beaten with an electric mixer ($30, Bed Bath & Beyond) along with other ingredients. For these recipes, you can cut the cold butter into small chunks and beat it by itself with the electric mixer until it softens before adding the additional ingredients.
  4. Microwave It: This method works best for softening butter meant to be used as a spread. If using this method for baking, ensure the butter does not start to melt, since this would be too soft for baking recipes that call for softened butter. To soften butter in the microwave, place the butter in a microwave-safe bowl ($13, Target) and microwave on 30 percent power (defrost) for 15 seconds. Check the consistency of the butter and repeat, if necessary. Take note, we're not softening butter at full power here, that too often results in a melted butter mess all over the microwave. The defrost setting is much safer.

Test Kitchen Tip: If the butter you are softening for cookie dough melts, use it for another purpose and soften new butter for your cookies. Once melted, the butter reacts differently with the dough and will give your cookies a different consistency.

Dressed-Up Softened Butter Recipes

Not only is softened butter ideal for baked goods, it's also great for mixing in other flavors to create compound butters or seasoned butter like this lavender butter recipe for later. Try this mouthwatering herb butter, honey and green garlic butter (pictured above), or experiment with adding your own mix-ins.

Softened Butter Tip: These flavored butters are also a great way to use butter that got too soft if you tried something like microwaving butter to soften it, but didn't use our defrost setting tip.

Though softening butter seems like a step that could be easily skipped for the sake of time, it really only takes a bit of thinking ahead. Trust me, those few extra steps of prep work will pay off when you bite into that perfectly-baked chocolate chip cookie.

Learn how to store your brown sugar properly so it stays fresh longer. Plus, learn how to soften it in the event something does go wrong.

Brown sugar can be used in everything from cookies to sauces. The ingredient adds a delightful hint of sweetness and molasses flavor to any dish you use it in, but if you've ever reached for a package of brown sugar after it's been open only to realize that it's now hardened into one solid lump, you know how frustrating it can be to try and cook with it again. The hardened confection can become difficult to measure, and, at times, may even seem like it has gone bad. Fortunately, getting your brown sugar back into its former scoop-able form is easy with these chef-approved tips.   

Why does brown sugar harden?

The reason why brown sugar hardens often has a lot to do with science and how you store it. "Brown sugar is white granulated sugar that is coated with ​molasses," explains chef Albertho Appolon. "This is why brown sugar hardens together once it has been exposed to air, because the molasses coating evaporates over time, and the sugar granules stick back together." So, once the moisture from the molasses begins to evaporate, your brown sugar will begin to harden.

How to soften brown sugar that’s gone hard.

The good news is that unless your brown sugar has obviously gone bad, you should be able to get it soft again. According to Kim Vickers, head baker at Dough, the fastest way to get your sugar back to its former scoop-able softness is to microwave it. She suggests putting it into a microwave-safe bowl, draping it with a napkin, and then heating it up at 20-second intervals until it's soft again. If you have more time, Jason Fullilove, chef consultant and caterer, suggests breaking out the bread. "If you put a slice of bread in with your brown sugar in an airtight container for a day or two the brown sugar will soften up again," he says. "Just discard the bread [afterward]." Of course, the best way to keep your sugar soft is to store it properly in the first place.

How to keep it softer, longer.

To keep that moisture evaporation at bay, you should store your brown sugar in the most air-tight container possible. "The container doesn't have to be special, as long as it has a lid to stop air from getting to the sugar," Appolon explains, adding that if you're not going to need your brown sugar again for a few weeks, you can store it in the freezer. "It can stay frozen for as long as you need, and it only takes two to three hours to defrost."

How can you tell if your brown sugar has gone bad?

Although brown sugar has a long lifespan, Vickers says that it can still go bad. "If you find bugs or other contaminants in your sugar, it should be disposed of immediately," she says. Otherwise, the fact that your brown sugar has hardened over time isn't necessarily a sign that it's gone bad. 

Sure, there’s a time and a place for a crispy cookie (gingersnaps, duh!). But, most of the time, we’re all about those that err on the side of warm, soft, chewy, and gooey. Here’s what you need to know about making perfectly soft cookies every time:

What Makes Cookies Soft?

Esther Chou/Getty Images

A cookie’s texture depends on a number of factors (ingredients, ratios, bake time, etc.) and how those factors work together. For instance, white sugar generally produces crispier results than brown sugar—but many cookies that are made with white sugar are soft and fluffy. Still, there are some basic guidelines that can help you on your quest to bake the softest cookies around.

Wanwisa Hernandez / EyeEm/Getty Images

For soft cookies, use:

  • Brown sugar, as it has a high moisture content and retains moisture better than white sugar. Also, when combined with eggs, brown sugar can prevent spreading (taller cookies tend to be softer and fluffier).
  • Shortening instead of butter or in addition to butter. Butter has a low melting temperature, which promotes quick and even spreading. Shortening, meanwhile, takes longer to melt during the baking process.
  • Baking powder instead of baking soda. Baking soda, which reacts with an acid, causes cookies to spread. Baking powder, meanwhile, uses the dough’s moisture to react with itself. It also reacts at room temperature and again in the oven. All this reacting gives it extra lifting power, making your cookies light, airy, and cake-like.
  • Eggs, particularly egg yolks. Eggs work to make your cookies soft in two ways: They add a ton of moisture, and the proteins add structure that prevents spreading.
  • Cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. Low in protein and high in moisture, cake flour is used to leaven all sorts of baked goods.

Bake time can also affect the texture of your cookies. As anyone who’s accidentally over-baked cookies knows, they get dryer and crunchier the longer they’re in the oven. Closely monitor your cookies while they’re baking to make sure they don’t dry out.

Related:

Can You Make Hard Cookies Soft?

Yes! You can absolutely soften hard or stale cookies. Simply place the cookies in an airtight container, throw a slice of white bread in there with them, and then close the lid overnight. The cookies will absorb the moisture from the bread and you’ll wake up to a deliciously soft dessert.

Need to soften your cookies faster? Wrap the cookies individually in damp paper towels (damp, not wet). Zap them in the microwave—paper towels and all—for about 10-15 seconds.

How to soften hard cookies

I had never tasted or even heard of a kolaczki cookie until I met my husband. Every holiday season his mother makes these traditional polish cream cheese cookies and they are divine. His family is not Polish themselves, but his parents grew up on the south side of Chicago and these cookies were popular in the area.

In researching this cookie I learned that there are many different spellings including kolaczki, kolachky, kolachy, and kolacky. But however you spell it, the cookie starts with a cream cheese dough that is rolled out and filled with all kinds of fillings.

Why these Cookies are one of My Favorite Holiday Cookies…

  • The dough requires very few ingredients
  • They taste like a fancy pastry, but are much easier to make!
  • One batch makes a lot of cookies- perfect for sharing or putting in a cookie tin!
  • The assembly process is best done with a crowd! Make them with kids or other friends and family!

I also love that you can do a variety of fillings to please everyone! Choose two or three fillings so that everyone you share them with will find something they like!

How to soften hard cookies

How to Make Polish Kolaczki Cookies

How to soften hard cookies

  1. Pick out your fillings. I have found that a pre-made canned filling, like solo brand filling, actually works best in these cookies. Canned fillings are very thick which means they will not seep out of the cookie. You can use a jam instead, but be aware that the filling might run out!
  2. Make the cream cheese dough. The dough requires very few ingredients: butter, cream cheese, vanilla, salt, and flour. Mix all of the ingredients together until a stiff dough forms.
  3. Chill the dough. Because this dough has a high ratio of butter and cream cheese, you do need to chill it to make it easier to roll out. I press the dough out thin between plastic wrap so it chills faster.

How to soften hard cookies How to soften hard cookies

How to soften hard cookies How to soften hard cookies

Tips for Success!

  • It’s really important that the dough remain chilledas you are rolling out the cookies, otherwise it will get too sticky. Work with a small piece of dough at a time, keeping the rest in the refrigerator.
  • You can be liberal with the powdered sugar as you roll them out. This is why I prefer it to flour when rolling so that the cookies don’t get too dry.
  • You can freeze the kolaczki dough for up to 3 months before using. Wrap it well or store in a freezer ziplock bag. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.

These are one of my favorite unique holiday cookies to add to my cookie tin! They are so special and different than what most people will be gifting!

How to soften hard cookies

Oatmeal cookies are a classic healthier dessert. Oats are a whole grain, which is a rare feature in cookies.

I usually use rolled oats to make oatmeal cookies, but I recently found myself wondering, “Can I use steel cut oats in cookies?”

We were out of rolled oats, but we had steel cut oats in our cabinet. This led to some research and several experimental batches. I discovered that yes, not only can you make cookies with steel cut oats, but they’re arguably more delicious than the rolled oat version.

How to soften hard cookies

Steel Cut Oatmeal Cookie Tips

When making cookies with steel cut oats, you have two options. You can use traditional Irish oats, or you can use the quick-cooking variety.

For an easy batch of cookies, use raw “instant” or “quick-cooking” steel cut oats. These are broken down into smaller pieces than traditional Irish oats, so they give the cookies a nice texture.

How to soften hard cookies

Cooked traditional oats are in the cookie on the left, and raw quick cooking oats are in the cookie on the right.

If you’re using traditional steel cut oats, you’ll want to cook them first, just like when you’re making oatmeal. They’re a bit too hard when baked into a cookie in their raw form, which leads to a lot of extra chewing. To use cooked oats, simply substitute one cup of cooked oatmeal for the instant raw oats listed in this recipe, and add an extra half cup of flour (or more as needed to achieve a non-runny dough consistency).

For the chocolate chips, I like Enjoy Life allergy-friendly chocolate. These chips come in a variety of sizes.

Whether you make them with quick-cooking or traditional oats, these cookies have a delicious flavor and texture. Watch this video to see the simple process behind these steel cut oats cookies: