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Food & Recipes

The Secret to Perfectly Baked Cookies? Try This Pro Chef’s Easy Water Bath Trick

Once baked, use this storage tip to keep those cookies soft for weeks to come!


We’ve finally found the secret to moist homemade cookies — and it’s one that has the baker’s stamp of approval: a water bath! This method of placing a pan of water in the oven during the baking process is a common step in recipes for cheesecakes and baked custards. But it’s also great to use when baking cookies to prevent the treat from drying out in the oven. This way, you’re not left with a tray of cookies that are too tough to bite into and enjoy. Keep reading to learn more on why this water bath trick helps create the perfect texture within each cookie.  

Why cookies tend to dry out in the oven

There are many factors that lead to dry cookies, from adding too much flour to overmixing the dough. But, if you’ve the recipe to a T and still end up with dry cookies, another thing to consider is the role your oven plays. Most ovens don’t generate a lot of humidity, which is needed so moisture can move throughout baked goods like cookies. This, along with overbaking the treats, can lead to a dry, crumbly batch of cookies. Luckily, adding more moisture into the oven is as simple as creating a water bath.

How to make cookies more moist with a water bath

Placing a water bath in the oven does wonders. “Baking cookies with water helps to keep them moist and tender by creating a steamy environment inside the oven,” Norah Clark, pastry chef and food editor at Boyd Hampers, explains. “This steam is generated when the water in the pan turns into vapor, which then circulates the cookies, preventing them from drying out.”

All you need to do is place a wide baking pan on the rack next to or below the cookies and gently fill it with 1 to 2 inches of hot water. Then, fully slide the rack into the oven and bake. If you’re making several batches of cookies, refill the tray as needed when the water looks like it’s evaporated.

Does a water bath affect the cookie baking time?

All ovens are different, but this trick shouldn’t throw off the baking time too much. The main thing is that you’re closely watching the cookies so they don’t overcook. “They should be golden brown and crispy around the edges, but still soft and chewy in the center,” Clark says. (For more baking tips, here’s how coffee creates extra-rich chocolate cookies and how to make cookies perfectly round.)

2 delicious homemade cookie recipes

Now that you know the easy trick to moist cookies, try it when preparing these recipes for an upcoming cookie exchange or movie marathon at home!

Citrus Cocoa Crinkles

A recipe for Citrus Cocoa Crinkles as part of a guide on using water to help make this baked good extra moist

We jazzed up brownie mix with orange juice and cinnamon for this easy twist on a favorite.


  • 2 oranges
  • 1 (18.3 oz.) package fudge brownie mix
  • 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar


  • Active: 45 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr., 20 mins + freezing and thawing time
  • Yield: 48 servings
  1. Grate 1 tsp. zest and squeeze ½ cup juice from oranges. In large bowl, combine brownie mix, flour, cinnamon, egg, juice, zest and oil. Shape into 1-inch balls.
  2. Heat sheets. Place sugar in bowl; working with 2 to 3 at a time, add dough balls. Toss until coated. Place 2-inch apart on baking sheets; flatten to 2-inch rounds.
  3. Bake until just set, 9 to 10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Transfer to racks; cool.

Fruity Star Sandwiches

A recipe for Fruity Star Sandwiches as part of a guide on using water to help make this baked good extra moist
Image Professionals GmbH/Getty

Make ’em doubly nutty: Replace half of the flour with almond flour and fill cookies with Nutella.


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup raspberry jam, stirred


  • Active: 1 hr., 15 mins
  • Total time: 2 hrs, 45 mins + freezing and thawing time
  • Yield: 20 servings
  1. Mix flour, baking powder and ¼ tsp. salt. On medium speed, beat butter until fluffy. On low, beat in sugar, egg and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture until dough forms. Shape into disk; wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes.
  2. Heat oven to 350°F. Roll disk to ⅛-inch thick. Using 2-inch star cutter, cut out shapes. Using 1-inch star cutter, cut centers from half. Place cookies 1-inch apart on baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Cool. To serve, spread whole stars with jam; top with cutout stars.

How to store cookies so they stay moist

Storing the baked and cooled cookies correctly is also important as excess exposure to air could cause them to go stale. “Soft and chewy cookies should be stored at room temperature in an airtight container,” Katie Jacobs, blogger and author of The Chocolate Chip Cookie Book (Buy from Amazon, $26.49), explains. “Crunchy or crispy cookies should be stored separately from soft cookies in a container with the lid partially unsealed. The moisture trapped in the container will soften the cookies.” Once stored, you should be able to enjoy them for 2 to 3 weeks. Although it’s not surprising if loved ones devour the entire batch of tender cookies right away! (If you want to warm up those leftover baked treats, read this story on how to reheat cookies.)

Keep reading for dessert recipes to whip up during the holidays:

Christmas Cupcakes to Make Your Holidays Merry and Bright — 10 Easy Recipes

No-Bake Mini Cheesecakes Make It Easy to Treat Yourself — 6 Easy, Creamy Recipes

These Fun Cake-in-a-Jar Recipes Make It Easy to Take the Party With You!

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