Cookie Magic

What is better than a pan of freshly baked cookies? Two pans.

Nothing beats wolfing down half a dozen, warm, soft cookies. But something awful happens after a few days go by and those cookies sit in a jar for too long. Your downy soft Snickerdoodles turn into tooth chipping blocks.

Never fear because there is one old trick that all moms seem to know when it comes to hard cookies. Throw some bread in the cookie jar and those cookies will soften right up.

The first time as a kid that I saw bread in the cookie jar, I thought my mom had lost it. I started to throw out the Wonder bread when my mom explained to me that the bread helps make the cookies soft again.

‘Yeah right mom,’ I thought. ‘I find that harder to believe than when you tried to tell me that eating vegetables is good for me.’

But guess what? She was right.

How does bread do it? That’s what I am wondering today.

For today’s guess, I would like to ask someone to help me try to determine how this cookie phenomenon is possible. We will call it a guest guess.

If there is one person that knows more about cookies than anyone I know, it is my younger brother Chris. This guy loves cookies so much that it is a good thing he can’t grow a beard because he would constantly have cookie crumbs hanging off of it.

Here is what Chris had to say:

Me – “How does bread help soften a cookie?”

Chris – “The easy answer is cookie magic.”

Me – “Don’t you mean bread magic? What does the cookie do other than be a cookie?

Chris – “That’s the magic of a cookie.”

Chris – “Okay, here’s what really happens. Obviously you put the cookies in the jar first.  You don’t start with a jar full of fresh and then add the cookies.  That would just be a waste of bread.”

Chris – “After a few days out of the oven cookies begin to get lazy and become hard.  Everyone knows that cookies hate bread.  Humans see the cookies getting hard and decide to put bread in the cookie jar to motivate the cookies.  So cookies are like ‘we gotta get out of here and away from this dumb bread.’ They shape up and become soft again so they can get snatched up out of the jar.”

Me – “So you are saying that cookies become soft around bread because they can’t stand being around the bread?”

Chris – “That’s the thing about cookies…you always want ‘em.”

Here is the real reason:

According to, Cookies are hygroscopic, which means that they draw in water out of the air and hold it in the sugar structure. Bread, on the other hand, is not hygroscopic. It has an open structure, and all its moisture evaporates into the air. “When a hard cookie and a fresh piece of bread get placed together in a plastic bag, two things happen. The hygroscopic cookie starts sucking out moisture from the air. The bread, as always, is evaporating its moisture out into the air of the bag. But now the cookie’s sugars are sucking up the bread’s moisture for itself, making the cookie nice and soft again while the bread gets hard.”

Final thoughts:

So maybe Chris doesn’t know as much about cookies as I thought. Turns out, cookie softness has nothing to do with cookies not liking bread and wanting to be “snatched up.”