Dry or Hard
Here are some helpful solutions for the common causes:
A different fat than what was called for in the recipe was used
The texture of a bar cookie prepared with vegetable shortening will be more cake-like. Substitute equal amounts of shortening for butter or margarine and add 2 tablespoons water for each cup of shortening used. Learn more about Fats in Baking.
Dough was overmixed
When adding the flour, be careful not to overmix. (Don't mix too vigorously or too long – follow recipe directions.) Overmixing develops the gluten in the flour, which can produce tough bars. If the recipe doesn't call for an electric mixer, mix in dry ingredients using a wooden spoon.
Ratio of dry ingredients to fats and liquids was too high
When flour or other dry ingredients are "scooped" into the measuring cup directly from the container, it compresses, or becomes packed. This means you will be adding more flour than called for in the recipe. Spoon flour from the container into the dry measuring cup and use a metal spatula or the flat side of a knife to level the flour even with the top of the cup. Learn more about measuring.
Too little fat was used
- Clear glass or plastic measuring cups with pouring lips and handles are used to measure liquids. For dry ingredients, always use a measuring cup that comes as a "nested" set (i.e. separate cups to measure 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and 1 cup).
- Check package to make sure the product you used contained at least 70% fat. Spreads with less fat contain more water, which will make bar cookies more cake-like and drier. Too little fat will result in dry or cake-like bar cookies. Margarine may have been incorrectly measured. Carefully cut on lines found on the margarine stick wrapper. Or, pack margarine into dry (nested) measuring cup, then use a spatula or straight edge of a knife blade to level even with the top of the cup. Remember that one stick of margarine is equal to 1/2 cup. A common baking mistake is thinking that one stick is equal to one cup.
- The butter may have been incorrectly measured. Carefully cut on lines found on the butter stick wrapper. Or, pack butter into dry (nested) measuring cup, then use a spatula or straight edge of a knife blade to level even with the top of the cup. Remember that one stick of margarine is equal to 1/2 cup. A common baking mistake is thinking that one stick is equal to one cup.
- Diet "margarines" or spreads in tubs contain water in place of fat, affecting the dryness of the cookie. Use butter, margarine or vegetable oil spreads with at least 70% fat in sticks. Learn more about Fats in Baking.
As altitude increases, liquids and even the moisture in foods evaporate faster
- Sea level recipes for cookies may give acceptable, but different results at high altitudes. It may be necessary to change the amounts of flour and/or liquid, or to make temperature changes.
- Cookies may or may not need a 15 to 25°F temperature increase, depending on other ingredients used.
- Substitute brown sugar for granulated sugar.
- Be careful not to overmeasure dry ingredients or overbake the cookies. Learn more about High-Altitude Baking.