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Baking cookies is one of my favorite things to bake. I bake so many cookies at one time that most of them are leftover. You may have noticed that when you leave cookies out on the counter, they often get soft after some time passes. But why is this? Is it because of the heat in your kitchen or something else?
Cookies will become soft when left out because they contain sugar and salt, both of which are hygroscopic. This means that they tend to absorb water from the surrounding environment. When we leave cookies out for too long, the moisture in the air will eventually seep into them and cause them to become soft.
When I first started baking cookies, I expected my cookies to always become hard if I left them out for too long. However, this wasn’t the case. Some of my cookie batches became soft when left out for too long. In this article, I will be answering some questions I’ve had so that you can understand why this happens and how to fix it.
Why Do Cookies Become Soft When Left Out Over Time?
As a general rule, cookies become soft when they are left out because the moisture in the air absorbs into them over time. Since sugar and salt are both hygroscopic minerals, they will absorb water from the surrounding environment, making the cookies softer over time.
The salt allows this process to happen more quickly by weakening the bonds between sugar molecules (sucrose) so that it can more easily absorb water.
This is why cookies with more salt tend to soften faster than those without any added salt.
Cookies that are made without any salt or sugar tend to get hard instead of getting soft when left out over a period of time.
*By the way, if you’re looking for some new cookie sheets/baking pans to replace for your kitchen, I recently came across the Perfect Nonstick Cookie Sheets / Baking Sheets Set that I got for myself and they work great! You can check out these Nonstick Cookie Sheet Set on Amazon!
Below, I’m going to break down exactly how to keep cookies from getting soft once left out for too long.
How Do You Keep Cookies & Biscuits From Getting Soft When Left Out?
To prevent cookies from getting soft, allow the cookies to completely cool before storing. Place them in an airtight container while storing them in a moisture-free, dry place. Proper storage will help prevent your cookies and biscuits from absorbing moisture from the surrounding environment.
Here are other tips to help you keep your cookies and biscuits from getting soft over time:
Fully cool them before storing
Making sure your cookies are fully cooled before storing is very important to prevent them from getting soft.
Leaving the cookies in a container while they’re still warm will create condensation which will create additional moisture in the surrounding environment.
Store them in a cool dry place
Since they are going to absorb any moisture around them, you want to store them in a place that is as dry as possible. This could be the pantry, a cookie jar, or even a Ziploc bag as long as the area of storage is moisture-free.
This is why the refrigerator should be avoided, as it will make your cookies moist and soft. The same goes for leaving the cookies in a hot kitchen. All that surrounding condensation will absorb into the cookies making them soft.
Store them in an airtight container
I recommend storing your baked goods in an airtight container. This will help keep the moisture out, and it will also prevent them from going stale.
You can find airtight containers in a variety of sizes, so be sure to choose one that is appropriate for your needs.
Store them at room temperature
If you don’t have an airtight container, storing them at room temperature in a Ziploc bag will work too.
You could even store them uncovered on the counter if you prefer not to use an airtight container or a Ziploc bag as long as the area is cool and dry.
Avoid high humidity areas
If you can’t store your cookies and biscuits in a cool and dry place, then you’ll have to try to avoid humid areas.
The kitchen is usually one of the most humid places in the house, so try to keep your cookies and biscuits in a different room. Baking or cooking something else in the kitchen while the cookies are left out will inevitably make them absorb all the extra condensation.
*Side Note: You might also want to know How To Properly Store Cookies. I recently wrote an article that talks about all you need to know for Storing Cookies To Make Them Last, which you can check out here!
How Long Do You Leave Cookies To Cool?
On average, it is recommended to let the cookies cool for about 5-10 minutes before you start to eat them. This will help them to firm up a bit and not be as soft. Leaving cookies out in a humid environment for longer than 10 minutes after they are cooled will start making them soft.
Make sure that the cookies are fully cooled before storing them to keep them from coming out soft from the containers.
This is also good for storage purposes because as they cool, the cookies lose any moisture that may have been absorbed. So when you store them, they stay longer without going soft.
*Side Note: Reheating your cookies the right way is no simple task, If you’re looking to know if you can Reheat Your Cookies In An Air Fryer, I recently wrote an article that talks about What To Expect When Reheating Cookies in An Air Fryer, which you can check out here!
Why Do Soft Cookies Go Hard While Hard Cookies Go Soft When Left Out?
Soft cookies will become hard because the starch in the flour will start crystalizing after some time when left out. While hard cookies have a lot more sugar and salt which are hygroscopic ingredients that will draw in moisture from the air and make them soft when left out for some time.
You may have noticed that bread goes harder when left out while crackers go soft over time.
This is because of the difference in ingredients and how they absorb water from the air around them after some time. The same thing happens to soft and hard cookies.
*Side Note: You might also want to know How To Bake Cookies Without A Cookie Sheet. I recently wrote an article that talks about What Can You Use To Bake Cookies Without A Cookie Sheet, which you can check out here!
Why Does Bread Harden When It Gets Stale While Cookies Get Softer?
Bread will become hard over time because the starch in the flour will start crystalizing when left out. While hard cookies have a lot more sugar and salt which are hygroscopic ingredients that will draw in moisture from the air and make them soft when left out for some time.
Cookies will get softer when they get stale because of the high sugar and salt content in them. So, while bread may harden when it gets stale, cookies mostly get softer.
Do Biscuits Go Soft In The Fridge?
As a general rule, biscuits will go soft in the fridge if they are not stored in an airtight container properly. Since the fridge gets opened many times throughout the day, the mix in cold and warm environments creates condensation. This will make the biscuits absorb the moisture and become soft.
If you want to store your biscuits in the fridge, I recommend storing them in an airtight container or a Ziploc bag before putting them in the fridge. This will help keep them from becoming soft.
Remember biscuits are baked goods and you can easily store them at room temperature in a sealed container.
How Do You Soften Hard Biscuits And Cookies?
As a whole, you can soften your hard biscuits by surrounding them in a moist environment. Place a damp cloth inside a container with the cookies and close it for about an hour. The sugars in them will absorb the moisture and make them soft again.
You can wrap them in a wet paper towel and put them in a microwave for a few seconds. You can also spread softened butter or cream on top of hard biscuits to make them softer.
*By the way, I recently wrote an article about How To Soften A Cake That is Hard. This article talks about all the ways to soften a hard cake without it losing its texture. You can check out this article here!
Cookies and biscuits will go soft over time when they are left out because they absorb the moisture from the surrounding environment. This is due to the high sugar and salt content in them that absorbs moisture from the air. You can prevent this by storing them in an airtight container or a Ziploc bag at room temperature.
Learning how to properly store each type of cookie based on their ingredients have helped me save their texture over time. I hope this article helps you prevent your cookies from getting soft again!