Dry cookie dough impossible to work with? Find out why and what to do about it.
Is there anything worse in the kitchen, aside from perhaps a fire, than dry, crumbly cookie dough that's crumbly?
Crumbly sugar cookie dough that you’re trying and failing to cut into shapes can be especially frustrating.
Don't scrap the dough without trying a few of these tricks. But, realize that it is often best to just throw it out and start over.
Before starting over, read the recipe at least twice, from start to finish.
Why Your Cookie Dough is Dry and Crumbly
Too Much Flour
The usual culprit in dry dough is too much flour.
Not measuring your ingredients correctly, particularly flour, can keep your dough from forming.
Are you digging a measuring cup into a bag of flour? Then you’re probably adding too much flour. Pushing a cup into a bag of flour can compact it and result in using more than the recipe dictates.
Measuring flour is best done by weight, which means using a kitchen scale.
Once you start using a scale to weigh your ingredients, you’ll wonder why you resisted for so long.
Weighing ingredients is easy and accurate.
Kitchen scales can be had for less than $10 today. Scales are really a lazy baker’s best friend.
Have you ever made peanut butter cookies and loathed scrubbing out the measuring cup you used for the peanut butter?
No need to do that if you’re weighing your ingredients.
Just put a piece of wax paper on your scale and drop peanut butter on top until you hit the required number of grams.
Pick up the wax paper, slide the peanut butter off of it into your mixing bowl. Then toss the paper. Easy peasy.
If you don't want to use a scale, learn how to measure flour correctly.
How to Measure Flour Accurately Without a Scale
- Gather your flour
- a whisk or fork
- a spoon
- a measuring cup
- a butter knife or bench scraper
Fluff up the container of flour using a spoon or a whisk or scrunch the bag a bit with your hands.
Use a spoon to scoop flour into your measuring cup until heaping (flour going over the rim of the cup.)
Slide the excess flour away using the flat edge of a knife or bench scraper.
Sometimes, if I’m feeling extra fussy and I’m using measuring cups instead of a scale, I’ll pour flour into a large bowl and whisk it a few times before measuring. That way the flour is nice and aerated before measuring.
Even if you do get a scale, you should know, in case you run out of batteries, how to properly measure flour.
Not Enough Butter or Fat in Dough
Another reason for dry cookie dough is if you didn’t use enough fat in the recipe.
Sometimes new bakers or bakers not paying attention think a stick of butter represents a cup of butter when actually you need two sticks for a cup.
Go back and read the recipe again.
Retrace your steps.
Do you see two butter wrappers out on the counter or just one wrapper?
If you know you only used one stick of butter and should have used to, you can try melting one stick and working that into the dough with your hands. Using a mixer at this point will just dry out the dough even more.
But, if you’re sure you used the amount of fat called for in the recipe, you could try adding a tablespoon or two of melted butter to the dough and again working it in with your hands.
If you didn’t use enough butter, you could try adding more to the dough.
Keep in mind, you’re experimenting here to see if you can save the dough, you may not be able to.
Melt a couple tablespoons of butter and try rubbing that into the dough with your hands.
Did you forget the eggs?
Eggs add moisture to dough and act as a binder.
If you forgot to add the egg or enough egg, that could also make your dough dry.
Egg is difficult to add into cookie dough after you’ve made it.
In this case, I would toss the cookie dough and start over.
Another problem can be caused by using the wrong size egg.
What size egg did the recipe call for and compare that to what you used?
Most cookie recipes call for one large egg.
Over mixing The Dough
Improperly Wrapped Dough
Did you notice the dry dough after you chilled it?
Many cookie doughs benefit from chilling for at least an hour and often 24 hours in the fridge.
However, the dough should be properly wrapped with an airtight container or resealable bag.
Cookie dough will last a week, properly wrapped in the fridge. After that, freeze the dough in a freezer-safe container.
Working a tablespoon at a time, try adding a bit of milk or melted butter or canola oil to your cookie dough and incorporating the liquid with your fingertips. If you've added two tablespoons of liquid and you've still got dry, crumbly cookie dough, toss the dough and start over.