Brownies can be dry for various reasons, such as incorrect preparation, overcooking or improper storage, which may result in a tough and unappetizing dessert. Fortunately, softening hardened brownies and restoring them to their moist, delicious state is possible with a few tricks.
Don’t let dry or stale brownies go to waste. You can still enjoy them as a quick dessert topping. For example, pulse the brownies in a food processor until they form coarse crumbs and then sprinkle on ice creams or other desserts.
Prevent Brownies From Going Dry
The basis of all brownie recipes is the sum of the same essential ingredients. These include flour, sugar, fat — usually butter or oil — eggs or egg substitutes, and chocolate.
The quantity and ratio of each of these ingredients can make a huge difference in the moisture content of the finished product. Properly measuring the ingredients in your recipe can help ensure the right texture, consistency and moisture content.
A primary ingredient in brownies is flour, which is important to build and maintain their structure. Adding liquid to wheat flour creates an interaction that forms gluten, which acts as a leavening agent in baked items including brownies, according to EatWheat.org. But using too much flour can tip the ratio of moisture and lead to tough, dry brownies.
Most brownie recipes contain a significant amount of sugar, which is needed to produce a light and tender product. If you're counting calories, you may be tempted to cut back on the sweetness — a half-cup of granulated sugar contains 362 calories, according to the USDA. However, decreasing the sugar content too much in your recipe may cause the brownies to come out flat and taste both bitter and dry.
The University of Massachusetts says that most recipes will still be good if you don't cut down on the amount of sugar more than one-quarter or one-half of what is called for. Substitute some of the sugar for powdered artificial or natural sweeteners, such as dried fruit, to add sweetness.
Be Careful Not to Overcook
Baking for too long can also result in dried out, hard and even burnt brownies. Using the correct baking time and temperature recommended by the recipe is crucial for preserving the moisture. One cake-like brownie recipe published by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture suggests baking the brownies at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.
Read more: Fudgey Chocolate Brownies
Bear in mind that brownies will cook more quickly in metal pans than in glass ones. Start checking your brownies when the edges start to pull away from the pan slightly. Insert a toothpick in the center. You want some crumbs that are clumpy and moist to stick to the toothpick.
If the toothpick comes out clean, you may have overdone brownies. Take them out of the oven and let them cool completely before serving.
Brownies should be cut as needed to keep them from drying out prematurely. Keep them tightly wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature, not in the refrigerator, recommends the Dining Services of Utah State University. The low-humidity in your fridge will take the moisture out of the brownies, leaving them crumbly and dry.
The exception to this rule is for brownies that contain cream or custard filling or other perishable ingredients, or if you have used a frosting containing dairy or eggs. In this case, they must be refrigerated within two hours, advises the Food Marketing Institute.
Read more: Pumpkin Swirl Brownies
Softening Hardened Brownies
You may be able to rehydrate your stale brownies by using a microwave oven. Place the cut pieces on a single layer of paper towels moistened or sprayed with water. Cover the brownies with another piece of dampened paper towel. Fold the ends of the towel closed.
Cook on the medium setting for about 15 seconds. If the brownies are not moist enough, continue cooking in five-second increments until you get the desired result.
The tried and true method for softening sugar with bread works for cookies and brownies too. Place a couple of pieces of white bread over the top of the cut-up brownies in a sealed container, such as plastic Tupperware. Leave it to sit overnight.
The brownies will absorb moisture from the bread, according to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. The next day, they will be tender once again.
Another option is to soften them in the oven. Line a pan with parchment paper and place cut brownie pieces on top. Set your oven to 300 F.
Put the brownies in the prewarmed oven for one to two minutes. This is a quick and easy method to revive your dry brownies, but be sure to serve them immediately as they will quickly harden again.
Read more: Raspberry-Laced Dark Chocolate Brownies
- EatWheat: "The Function of Flour in Baking"
- West Virginia Department of Agriculture: "Cooking With West Virginia Honey"
- Utah State University: "Dining Services: Bakery Product Handling Procedures"
- Food Marketing Institute: Cornell University Institute of Food Science: "The Food Keeper"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Sugars, Granulated"
- University of Massachusetts Amherst: "How to Cut Down on Sugar"
- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: "Soften Brown Sugar"