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Sorry to ask a rather non-specific question, but I am actually trying to formulate an example. Suppose you have a recipe to make biscuits, but what you get is quite hard, and you would like to have a softer result. What do you need to add or change in the recipe? It does not matter if it's not accurate. I just need a non-blatantly wrong process or component.

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    First question: Do you mean biscuits as a Brit might say, or as an American might? A British-style biscuit is a cookie in the US. In the US, what we call a biscuit is more like a scone. They're very different, so it would help the US folks to know which you mean. – bikeboy389 Dec 12 '10 at 20:56
  • @bikeboy389: let's say cookies. As I said, it's not really important. I just need a traditional methodology or ingredient that changes the result. – Stefano Borini Dec 12 '10 at 21:05
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    Your question is a little to vague to answer well. However, it is retained moisture that makes a cookie soft, and this article covers the question sunset.com/food-wine/techniques/… – Doug Johnson-Cookloose Dec 12 '10 at 21:55
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    Do either of these questions help you at all? How do I get my chocolate chip cookies to turn out thick and soft? or Chewy chocolate chips cookies. Really what it all comes down to is increasing the moisture (more eggs, softer sugars) and increasing the fat (more butter), and also not overmixing the dough. – Aaronut Dec 12 '10 at 22:00
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    @Stefano: To be honest, I don't know. Bread is one of the few things I never bother to make myself, and thus I never have yeast in my home. It doesn't sound like it would improve moisture retention - yeast is just a leavening agent - but that's speaking from intuition and not experience. Maybe someone else here can answer that, although there's no guarantee they'll see it as a comment - you should spell it out in the question. – Aaronut Dec 12 '10 at 22:31
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Normally if you want to increase chewiness and softness, you increase your egg and fat. Also, instead of using water, use milk. These are blanket rules, having no idea what your specific issue is. Also, try using a flour that has lower protein count. You don't want a bread flour for cookies, cakes, biscuits - pastries in general. Of course if you are stuck with a bread flour, make sure to undermix your ingredients. The more you mix, the more gluten is produced. This is what you want for breads, but not the structure you are looking for in pastries, etc.

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If the recipe contains them, you can replace the following ingredients:

  • Milk - Replace with buttermilk or heavy whipping cream

  • Butter - Replace with shortening, making sure to keep cold until ready to pop in the oven

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    Best if you can find the butter-flavoured shortening, so you don't lose too much of the buttery taste. – Aaronut Dec 13 '10 at 19:15
  • Shortening provides a huge improvement over butter. – Wayfaring Stranger Aug 15 '15 at 7:00
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One very useful trick for making moister cookies is to replace part of the white sugar with brown sugar. Brown sugar is hygroscopic, meaning it attracts and holds moisture. That is why molasses cookies are so incredibly moist, and why brown sugar tends to clump together in the bag.

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In the latest Cook's Illustrated, their sugar cookie recipe swapped out some butter (saturated fat) with some vegetable oil (unsautrated), with the claim that it increased chewiness. However, you have to make up the flavor loss from giving up some of the butter (they added a bit of cream cheese).

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