How to fix crumbly cookie dough?

How to fix crumbly cookie dough

How to fix crumbly cookie dough? Well, the quick answer to this is by doing the following 3 steps:

  • Add more liquid
  • Add more fat
  • Let your cookie dough sits for a while

I will be sharing more detail about the 3 steps above below. But before that, let’s understand cookies and the reason why your cookie dough gets crumbly.

The Art of baking cookies

Cookies are one of the trickiest things to bake.  They seem simple but there’s actually a lot of chemistry that goes into it from the combination of the ingredients, the mixing process, the chilling factor, and finally the baking.

Bakers undergo a lot of trial and errors before arriving at the perfect cookie recipe.  I’m sure most of them have met a crumbly cookie dough situation on their path to success.  In fact a crumbly cookie dough is not the end of your cookie career, it’s part of the process and totally fixable.

Why did my cookie dough get crumbly?

There are a lot of reasons why your cookie dough got into this state. 

First, backtrack on how you made the dough.  Go back to the recipe and try to recall if you put the right amount of each ingredient.  This will help you in remedying your crumbly dough. 

The Usual Suspects

Okay, now let’s get to the task at hand.  What made your dough crumbly?  There are usual suspects to this sort of scene.  Let’s look into each of them.

Too Much Dry Ingredients or Too Little Fat

Maybe you put too much flour or over measured any of your dry ingredients.  This will instantly make your dough crumbly because the amount of fat in the mixture is not enough to lubricate the dry ingredients effectively. 

Sometimes the reason for a crumbly dough is the lack of fat in the mixture. Fat acts as a lubricant in cookie doughs, they make them smooth, pliable, and easy to handle.

Not The Right Kind Of Fat

Not using the right kind of fat like butter or shortening also causes your mixture to crumble.  Butter substitutes and margarine contain water and may lack the fat levels to fully coat the dry ingredients in the recipe.  Make sure to use the prescribed type of fat indicated in the recipe. 

Not Enough Liquid

Some cookie recipes call for addition of water or milk.  Don’t skip them because this may be the reason why you have this crumbly problem.

Too Much Mixing

Treat your masterpiece gently.  Mixing cookie dough causes the flour to develop gluten.  The more you mix the batter, the more this gluten develops making the mixture dry and tough. To obtain the best result, you should try getting the best hand-mixer cookie dough.

How to fix crumbly cookie dough?

Now that you know what went wrong, it’s time to fix it so you can bake those babies!  Here are some quick fixes to de-crumble your dough.

Add More Liquid

If the recipe includes adding liquids like milk or water, you can add more gradually in small amounts to moisten the dough.  At this point, use your hands so you can feel the change in texture and to also avoid overmixing the dough. Once it’s pliable, stop adding the liquid.

Add More Fat

Some cookies do not have liquid ingredients and only have the fat as its lubricant.  In this case, add more of the same type of fat gradually while mixing.  Once it becomes pliable, stop adding fat.  Too much fat may cause your cookie to spread too much, which is not going to be pretty.

Let It Rest A Bit

If you think you most likely overmixed your dough, let it rest a while and try working on it with your hands.  If you it feels more pliable after resting then you don’t need to add any liquid or fat anymore.

Other Cookie Tips

Substitutions may yield different results

If you substituted some of the ingredients, then it’s possible that you may get different results too.  You may need to tweak the recipe if what it requires is not available in your area.

Take note of the way you measured ingredients

Maybe you measure flour by packing it in the measuring cup while the recipe author simply scoops it from the flour jar without packing it in.  Unless you know the recipe owner, you won’t really know.  But it won’t hurt to try a different approach on your next try and see what happens.

Try different brands of ingredients

It’s possible that the brand of quality of ingredients you used were not suitable to the recipe. There are some butter brands that produce the better results.  If you’re not satisfied with the resulting dough, you may want to explore changing the brand of butter.

Quality and characteristic of ingredients may also vary from country to country and may yield different results.  You may have used small-sized eggs but the recipe author actually used large-sized eggs.  So feel free to adjust the recipe to what works for you. After all, recipes are there to guide you.  They are not the rule of law.  That’s why there are a lot of recipe variations out there.

‘Thawed’ your cookie dough

Putting your dough in the refrigerator may also cause it to dry up and feel a bit crumbly.  Try letting it rest at room temperature a bit and see it the texture improves before trying any of the suggestions above.  Maybe all your dough needs is a little warming up at room temperature and a bit of a massage.

Make sure to check the expiration of your ingredients

If they are near their expiration dates, you may not get the same results in your cookie.  Especially with baking powder or baking soda.  Make sure everything is in good condition and sealed tight to keep their freshness.

Just Keep Baking

Baking is all about trial and error until you get the right formula.  That’s what makes it challenging and exciting.  Don’t feel discouraged with minor setbacks in your dough.  Sometimes, even if you followed the recipe exactly, you can still end up with a crumbly cookie. And since you’ve learnt how to fix crumbly cookie dough, you will know exactly what to improve on for your next batch of cookies.

Or maybe it’s not even you, it’s the recipe.  Compare the recipe you were using with other recipes and see what’s different. Or maybe there are better recipes out there that suits you better. There are plenty of cookie recipes and cookie cookbooks that you can try.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and test.  Take note of the adjustments you made and tweak the recipe accordingly – after all this is your cookie journey.

To continue with your cookie journey, you might want to find out if you can freeze your cookie dough or microwave your cookie dough. It’s an interesting cookie world out there.