Wondering how to fix dry and crumbly cookie dough? You definitely can! My guide to fixing dry and crumbly cookie dough details the main reasons and solutions so you can bake the best cookies every time.
- How do you know if cookie dough is too dry?
- Why is my cookie dough dry and crumbly?
- 1. Mistakes in measurements
- 2. Not enough liquid
- 3. Not enough fat
- 4. The dough is overmixed
- 5. You're using the wrong flour
- 6. The dry ingredients are not balanced
- 7. The dough dried out whilst resting
- 8. The oven is too hot, or they were overbaked
- 5 Ways to Fix Dry and Crumbly Cookie Dough
- 1. Double up
- 2. Add more liquid
- 3. Add more fat
- 4. Rest the dough
- 5. Store cookie dough correctly
- Expert tips on how to fix dry and crumbly cookie dough
- Dry and crumbly cookie dough FAQs
- Cookie Recipes
- How to Fix Dry and Crumbly Cookie Dough
How do you know if cookie dough is too dry?
Perfect cookie dough is soft and pliable and should hold together in a nice ball. If it seems chalky and is flaking apart when you try and use a cookie scoop, then the chances are your cookies are going to come out dry and crumbly. And no one wants dry chocolate chip cookies! Read on for my tips on how to fix crumbly dough.
Why is my cookie dough dry and crumbly?
There are several reasons why cookie dough might be dry and crumbly, and it's usually because there isn't enough of a particular component or too much of it! It can also be an issue with your method or even the equipment. Keep reading for common reasons why cookie dough is dry and crumbly.
1. Mistakes in measurements
I always recommend weighing ingredients for a cookie dough recipe by gram using a digital scale over measuring by volume. The cup system is not standardized worldwide. Did you know that UK, US, and Australian cups are all different volumes? And it is much easier to make mistakes or end up with a little too much or too little of something, resulting in dry and crumbly cookies. Baking requires precision; it's a science.
2. Not enough liquid
Moisture is a key factor in baking. When we bake cookies, the heat of the oven turns the water content in the dough to steam, and it evaporates, which dries out the cookie dough. Too little water and it evaporates too soon, and this makes your cookie dough too dry. And water is present in several of the traditional wet ingredients for cookies, including butter and eggs, and vanilla extract.
If you are baking with a butter substitute or egg substitute, you could end up with less water in the recipe if it isn't planned correctly.
3. Not enough fat
Fat is very important, it is a tenderizing agent. It gives bakes a soft and moist texture and sometimes acts as an emulsifier or leavening agent too (like the butter in puff pastry). Usually, cookies are made with butter. Which is a fantastic fat to bake with, but often people will try and partially substitute it with something lower in fat in an effort to make the recipe healthier or lower in calories. And this will therefore result in dry and crumbly cookies.
Read my Baking 101 guides to learn more about the science of baking and how to get the best results when baking around a dietary restriction or preference.
4. The dough is overmixed
As soon as you begin to mix cookie dough, the gluten strands in the flour will start to develop. And the more you mix, the more they develop. Therefore, over mixing dough will lead to dry dough.
Do also pay attention to the mixing method the recipe calls for, too. Does it say to cream the butter and sugar? Or does it mention folding in certain ingredients? Does it say 'beat' or 'mix' or 'stir'? Different methods of combining ingredients do different jobs, and it's important to use the right one.
5. You're using the wrong flour
Flours are not created equal. They have varying levels of protein, and baking with strong bread flour will garner a different result than baking with all-purpose flour or pastry flour. Likewise, certain gluten-free flour brands that are advertised as a 1:1 substitute for all-purpose flour don't always contain enough starch or protein in the blend to give deliciously soft and chewy cookies.
The safest option for cookies is baking them with all-purpose flour; it is a brilliant medium-strength all-rounder that is perfect for cakes and muffins as well. In some countries, it is known as plain flour. If you are baking with gluten-free flour, check you are making the best substitution in terms of the blend.
6. The dry ingredients are not balanced
Similarly, there might be a mistake in the recipe, or you may have accidentally added too much sugar, flour, cocoa powder, or even baking powder. If the dry ingredients are out of balance with the wet ingredients, you will end up having to fix dry and crumbly cookies. For example, did you know that brown sugar contains more moisture than white sugar because of its molasses content?
Or, if you are making rolled cookies (and this also applies to other baked goods like sweet pastry), then don't overdo the dusting flour on your worktop. It can unbalance the dry ingredients if you use a huge amount and it becomes incorporated.
Or, you might have just added too many chocolate chip chips, and that makes the dough too dry.
7. The dough dried out whilst resting
Cookie recipes sometimes call for the dough to be rested prior to baking. And if the dough is not wrapped and stored correctly in the fridge, it can dry out, which will, in turn, lead to dry and crumbly cookies. Refrigerators have circulated cold air, and this is a very drying environment for food to be in.
8. The oven is too hot, or they were overbaked
It's also worth talking about some cookie baking tips! The moisture in cookies will evaporate too fast if you bake cookies in an oven that is too hot. This will result in a dry cookie. Always preheat the oven before baking cookies, and use an oven thermometer to check it is at the right temperature.
Cookies will also dry out if you bake them for too long. Set a timer, or by the time you take them out of the oven, all the moisture within the cookie dough will be long gone. It is better to slightly underbake your cookies and take them out too soon, than too late. If the cookies are overbaked, they will harden more. Check my baking tips on how to soften hard cookies.
5 Ways to Fix Dry and Crumbly Cookie Dough
Fix dry and crumbly cookie dough before you bake it with these simple solutions. Adding more, mixing less, or using an essential piece of kit could be the answer to soft and chewy goodness. Keep reading to find out!
1. Double up
If you can remember whether or not you added enough or too much flour/sugar/butter, then you can easily fix your cookie dough by making a second batch of dough. Balance the error in this batch, and then mix the two doughs together.
For example, if you added one egg instead of two to the first batch, add three to the second batch, and the dough will end up with the right amount. As this will entail quite a bit of extra mixing, I'd recommend letting the dough rest in the fridge for a while before baking to let the gluten relax.
Please note that it is much easier to overmix cookie dough when you are using an electric mixer. Mixing by hand (with a rubber spatula) is more gentle and allows you to really feel the dough and check its texture and consistency as you bring the ingredients together.
2. Add more liquid
Luckily, you can also moisten dry cookie dough! To fix dry and crumbly cookie dough by adding more liquid, start slowly by mixing in one extra teaspoon at a time. Add more of whatever liquid is in the original recipe, be it water, eggs, or milk (for example). Stop before it gets wet or too sticky and rest it before baking.
3. Add more fat
Similarly, if you don't think the dough contains enough fat, you can add more fat to fix dry and crumbly cookie dough. Whether the recipe uses softened butter, melted butter, oil, or another fat like vegetable shortening/Crisco, add teaspoons more of it until you reach the desired texture and consistency. And again, rest it before baking to let the gluten relax, or you'll run into the same issue due to over-mixing.
4. Rest the dough
Don't mix cookie dough for an extended period of time. But if you think you have overmixed, you can simply allow the dough to rest (properly wrapped!) in the fridge to let the gluten relax again. I'd recommend allowing the dough to rest for at least 4 hours before baking.
5. Store cookie dough correctly
Prevent cookie dough from drying out when it's resting. Ensure cookie dough is double-wrapped in plastic food wrap and aluminum foil and completely air-tight when in the refrigerator (or freezer). You could also check out my tips on how to soften hard cookies.
Expert tips on how to fix dry and crumbly cookie dough
- Weigh ingredients by the gram using a digital scale.
- Always use room-temperature eggs in baking.
- Mix cookie dough until all the ingredients have been incorporated and all the flour streaks have disappeared, then stop. Do not overmix.
- Use an oven thermometer to always bake at the correct temperature.
- Bake cookies until they are still slightly soft, as they will harden further as they cool.
- If it's too late to save them and you're wondering what to do with dry cookies, I like to crumble them up and sprinkle them over ice cream. So if you're wondering how to fix crumbly cookies after baking, this is how!
Dry and crumbly cookie dough FAQs
It is probably because the cookie dough needs more liquid or fat or the dry or wet ingredients are unbalanced. Read my full guide to fixing dry and crumbly cookie dough for more information.
Try mixing in a teaspoon of extra flour or turning chocolate chip cookie dough out onto a floured surface and lightly kneading to incorporate it.
If it is a small amount, try adding a teaspoon of extra milk or butter to moisten cookie dough. Otherwise, make a second batch of dough minus the extra amount you added to the first batch and mix those two doughs together.
The overmixed dough will be tough and dry due to gluten development, so it will need to rest for longer in the fridge to allow the gluten to relax. Wrap securely to avoid it drying out further.
It will be stiffer and less pliable. Allow it to rest in the fridge to let the gluten relax again before baking.
It is probably because fridges are a drying environment with circulated cold air, and the cookies were not wrapped correctly. Always double-wrap in plastic food wrap and aluminum foil to prevent dry cookie dough.
Dip them in a cold glass of milk and read my article about how to soften hard cookies.
How to Fix Dry and Crumbly Cookie Dough
5 Best ways to Fix Dry and Crumbly Cookie Dough
- Option 1: Double up the recipe and fix the quantities before mixing them together.
- Option 2: Add more liquid (eg. egg, milk) a teaspoon at a time.
- Option 3: Add more fat (eg. butter) a teaspoon at a time.
- Option 4: Rest the dough to allow the gluten to relax.
- Option 5: Double wrap and store the dough correctly to prevent drying out in the fridge whilst resting.
- Fix dry cookie dough with either option 1,2,3,4, or 5
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