If you’ve ever made cookie dough only to discover that it’s raw or baked into a mass of crumbs and powder, you’re not alone. Cookie dough can be a temperamental thing, especially if the recipe has a lot of sugar and fat since both of these ingredients can impede moisture from being properly absorbed by the flour.
While this is a bit of a bummer, there are ways to remedy this situation. Below, we’ll share five tips for fixing dry and crumbly cookie dough so that your cookies will come out perfectly every time. Plus, we’ll also go over some common causes of dry cookie dough so you can avoid these mistakes in the future.
1. Add More Liquid
When cookie dough is too dry and crumbly, adding more liquid is the easiest solution. Typically, the cause of the dryness is too much flour. The best way to fix this issue is to add more liquid so that there is more moisture to offset the flour. There are a few different liquids you can use to “fix” dry cookie dough.
For example, if the recipe calls for milk, try using buttermilk or sour cream instead. Or, if you have some vanilla extract on hand, add a teaspoon of it for each cup of liquid called for in the recipe. This will help cut through the dryness caused by all that sugar and give your cookies a great flavor as well.
If the recipe calls for melted butter, you may be able to fix the dryness by switching to an oil like vegetable or canola oil. The reason for this is that butter contains about 16 percent water, while vegetable and canola oil contain none (the reason for this is so that baked goods don’t become too greasy). The lack of water in oil will help offset some of that dryness caused by excess flour.
The one thing to keep in mind with dry cookie dough is that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, many cookie dough recipes are made that way on purpose because the dry ingredients are meant to absorb the wet ingredients during baking.
For example, consider classic snickerdoodles. The batter is meant to be a bit crumbly since the sugar is supposed to melt and bind everything together during baking. This is also why many chocolate chip cookie recipes call for the chocolate chips to be added at the end so they don’t get fully incorporated.
So, if you’re working with a recipe that’s meant to be a bit on the dry side, there’s no need to panic. Simply follow the instructions and bake according to your time and temperature recommendations.
However, if you’re making a recipe where the outcome is meant to be soft, chewy, and moist (like most of the recipes here), then you’ll want to take some action to fix dry dough.
When you add more liquid to your dry cookie dough, it’ll need to sit for longer in order for the flour to absorb all of it and become nice and moist. On the other hand, if you add too much liquid and your cookie dough ends up too wet, you can always add a bit more flour until you reach your desired texture.
To fix dry and crumbly cookie dough, you’ll want to first ensure that you’re using the correct amount of liquid ingredients. Too much liquid can cause the flour to be unable to absorb it all, leaving you with a chalky dough that’s more powder than dough. On the other hand, not enough liquid can result in dry, crumbly dough.
The ratio of liquid to dry ingredients is important when making cookie dough. In general, you want to use about one tablespoon of liquid for every cup of flour in the recipe. However, if your recipe appears very wet before you add in the flour, you can either reduce the amount of liquid or increase the amount of flour until you reach a texture that’s similar to playdough.
The type of liquid ingredient used is also important. While we’ve mentioned that too much fat or sugar can cause your cookie dough to be dry and crumbly, these ingredients are also necessary for making tender and chewy cookies since they help create a good structure for your baked cookies. If your recipe calls for melted butter or egg yolks (instead of just whole eggs), however, it does not need as much fat since this ingredient is already incorporated into the recipe.
2. Mix Until Well-Blended
If your cookie dough is crumbly and doesn’t hold together well, you need to mix it longer to allow the fat and sugar to be distributed more evenly. This will also ensure that all of the flour has been properly moistened.
The time needed to get the perfect cookie dough depends on the recipe, but generally speaking, if you’re mixing the dough by hand, it should take at least four to five minutes of mixing. If you’re using an electric mixer (highly recommended), you should mix the dough for at least three minutes on low speed.
If your recipe calls for chilling the dough before baking, it’s a great idea to give your dough a few extra minutes in the fridge before rolling and shaping it. Chilling will also help make your cookie dough easier to work with.
If you find that after four or five minutes of mixing, your cookie dough is still crumbly, don’t worry—you still have some tricks up your sleeve!
If your cookie dough is crumbly but wet, it’s usually a sign that you haven’t mixed it properly. The easiest way to fix this is by simply giving it a second or two of mixing by hand or with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. This is especially important if your recipe has a lot of melted chocolate since this ingredient can actually seize up when it’s over-mixed.
The main culprit here is the use of a low-protein flour such as all-purpose or cake flour. This type of flour simply isn’t capable of absorbing moisture in the same way that higher protein flours like bread or pastry flour can. For this reason, you’ll likely need to get a bit more creative with your recipe adjustments if you don’t have any high protein flour on hand.
For example, you could replace some or all of the flour with an ingredient that will add more moisture such as brown sugar or melted butter. You could also add in a little extra liquid such as milk or water. Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to add more sugar and fat in order to balance out the extra liquid ingredients.
If you’re trying to add more chocolate chips, nuts, oats, or other mix-ins, do so at the end of mixing and be careful not to over-mix them as they can turn into a pasty mass when overmixed.
3. Add More Fat
If your dough is extremely crumbly and you’re using a fairly standard cookie recipe that calls for solid fats like butter, shortening, or vegetable oil, then the solution is actually quite simple—you just need to add more fat.
The reason for this is that solid fats, such as butter and shortening, can coat the flour and prevent it from absorbing moisture. When you add more fat to the dough, however, it helps create a barrier that prevents the flour from absorbing moisture. But since there’s more fat in the dough now, you’ll have an easier time working with the dough and rolling it into balls or shaping it into logs.
For instance, let’s say your recipe calls for 1 cup of butter (8 tablespoons) and your dough turns into crumbs after just a few strokes of the mixer. Add another half cup of butter (4 tablespoons) to your bowl and mix on low until the mixture is uniform again.
If you’re using self-rising flour for your recipe, this will help give your dough more structure since self-rising flour already has baking powder and salt added in.
The next time your cookie dough turns into crumbs and powder, try adding more fat by either substituting some of the flour with an equivalent amount of additional fat or simply adding in an extra tablespoon or two of butter or palm shortening. This extra bit of fat will help improve the structure of your cookie dough so that it has some malleability and can be easily shaped into balls without crumbling apart.
4. Add More Sugar
Sugar is hygroscopic, helping to pull moisture from the surrounding environment into the cookies. So when you have dry cookie dough, adding more sugar will help to counteract this dryness. While you don’t want to add too much sugar (we’re talking more than 50 percent of the total amount of dry ingredients), a small addition can go a long way.
Even if you don’t want to add more sugar, consider using a little bit of brown sugar instead of all granulated. The additional molasses in brown sugar can help improve the moisture levels in your cookie dough.
If your recipe calls for creaming butter and sugar together, you may want to take this opportunity to add more sugar. This will help condition the butter so it incorporates more easily into the dough and prevents it from over-beating and turning your dough gritty.
If your original recipe is low in fat, you may want to try adding an extra tablespoon or two of butter or palm shortening to your dough. Be careful not to add too much fat or else your cookies will end up greasy rather than chewy and soft.
If your cookie dough seems overly wet, try adding in more sugar by either substituting some of the flour with an equivalent amount of additional sugar or simply adding in an extra tablespoon or two of granulated white sugar or brown sugar. This extra bit of sugar will not only help improve the structure and malleability of your cookie dough but it will also help absorb excess moisture so that you’re left with a more workable and less sticky dough after being mixed together.
5. Chilling Helps
If your cookie dough is too dry, you can also try chilling it before attempting to bake with it. Chilling the dough will help to solidify the melted fats and flour so that they are less prone to absorbing excess moisture. And when these ingredients are not as soft and malleable, the dough will be much easier to work with.
To chill cookie dough, simply scoop the dough into a bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap or an airtight lid. If you are baking within the next day or so, chilling for at least one hour is sufficient. But if you are baking several days later, it’s best to refrigerate the dough for at least 12 hours so that all of the ingredients have time to properly bind together.
If you are going to be refrigerating your cookie dough for longer than 12 hours, remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking so that it has a chance to soften up a bit and become easier to scoop and shape into cookies.
If you find that no matter what you do, your cookies turn out crumbly and powdery after baking, there’s one last thing worth trying: chilling the dough before shaping into balls and baking
If you’ve followed all of these tips and your cookie dough still comes out crumbly and powdery, don’t despair. There is one last thing you can try that might help: chilling the dough before baking.
When flour is mixed with liquid and fat, gluten begins to develop. Gluten is what gives baked goods structure, but it also can trap moisture in the dough. When you chill dough, the gluten develops a bit more, but less moisture is captured in the dough because it’s cold.
When you then shape the cold dough into balls and place them on a chilled cookie sheet, you’re essentially trapping that extra moisture in the dough since cold temperatures slow down the rate of evaporation. This is why chilled cookie dough tends to result in cookies that are less crumbly and powdery than other types of dough.
Of course, this trick only works if you plan to chill your dough overnight or for several hours—don’t just stick it in the fridge for a few minutes because this won’t have enough of an impact to make a difference.
In conclusion, dry and crumbly cookie dough can be a frustrating problem to face. However, with the five solutions outlined in this article, you can quickly get back on track to making delicious cookies. Start by ensuring that all ingredients are fresh and at room temperature. Then, adjust the flour to liquid ratio, add more fat or moisture, chill the dough in the fridge, or add an egg yolk or two. With all these tips and tricks, you’ll have a tasty batch of cookies in no time!