Were you excited to eat some fresh baked cookies? Was everything going well until you looked at your dough and saw that it was dry? It is crumbly and tough rather than soft and pliable?
Dry cookie dough is never good! So what should you do? You don’t want your cookie efforts to go to waste! And baking dry cookie dough will likely lead to tough dry cookies.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to fix dry cookie dough. Your cookies will be saved soon enough!
Don’t forget to check out these 12 additional cookie baking tips to solve other common cookie problems as well!
Why Is the Dough Dry?
There are a few reasons why your cookie dough may be dry and crumbly rather than holding together in a nice ball. Figuring out why the dough is dry may help you determine how to fix it before you try to bake it.
1 – Not Enough Fat
The most common reason for dry cookie dough is that there is not enough fat in the dough. Either the recipe itself didn’t call for enough fat or it was just measured incorrectly.
Fat acts as a lubricant in cookie dough, greasing it up so that it is smooth and pliable. Without enough fat, the dry ingredients will not be sufficiently lubricated and may not bind together well.
2 – Not Enough Liquid
Some cookie dough recipes call for milk or water. If these were measured incorrectly or omitted, the cookie dough will be too dry. Double check the measurements of any liquid ingredients (including eggs and vanilla!) to see if one of them is lacking.
Be sure to find out what the benefit of eggs is in cookies!
3 – Too Much of the Dry Ingredients
Over measuring the dry ingredients will be a cause for the cookie dough to become dry. Even something small like an extra ¼ cup of flour can be the culprit of dry cookie dough.
Or maybe you added two tablespoons of baking powder instead of two teaspoons- way too much! Excessive dry ingredients makes for excessively dry dough.
4 – Over Mixed
After you add all the ingredients into the bowl and start blending the cookie dough, the flour will instantly begin to develop gluten.
If you allow the dough to mix, and mix and mix…it will get tougher and harder as the gluten in the flour develops more and more. This can make for hard, dry dough.
5 – Dried in Fridge
If you make your cookie dough ahead of time or you buy premade dough, it may dry out in the fridge.
The refrigerator is a very drying place as it is constantly circulating air in order to remain cold. The air will quickly dry any moisture in your cookie dough, changing the texture of the dough completely.
How to Moisten Dry Cookie Dough
Now that you know why your cookie dough may have become dry, it is time to fix the problem! Let’s say goodbye to dry cookie dough and hello to soft, tender cookies.
Based on the reasons above, you will want to follow one or more of the tips below.
For instance, if you have determined that you don’t have enough liquid in your dough, you will want to add liquid and see if that fixes your dough before trying any of the other tips.
1 – Add Liquid
If your cookie dough recipe already calls for a liquid such as milk, water, eggs or egg whites, start trying to moisten your dough by adding 1 teaspoon of the liquid at a time, mixing the dough briefly afterward.
Most basic liquids will not have much effect on the dough or the taste of the cookies and will help your dough come back together into a workable consistency.
If you need to add more than ¼ cup of liquid in order to soften the dough, you may have made a mistake in the recipe elsewhere as this much extra liquid may be means for concern. Add a little at a time, mix slowly and assess your dough results.
This method also works well if your dough simply dried out in the fridge. Refrigerators suck water out of the dough so adding water or milk back in will help fix the problem that the fridge caused.
2 – Add Some Fat
Adding fat to your cookie dough will definitely soften the dough. However, you do not want to add too much as it will change the end texture of your cookies.
Too much fat will cause your cookies to spread when baking and the grease to separate from the cookie dough, causing for some oily cookies!
Whatever fat is used in your recipe, butter, vegetable oil or Crisco, add 1 teaspoon of the fat to the dough and gently knead the fat in with your hands.
Using your hands to mix in the extra ingredient will prevent you from over mixing the dough, causing it to be tough, while also blending in the fat well.
3 – Use Your Hands
If your dough looks just a little crumbly after being mixed, try using your hands to blend the dough rather than a spoon or paddle attachment on a stand mixer.
Your hands can really help bring a dough together in a gentle way, without causing over mixing. You can also use your hands to scoop and form the cookie dough balls, pressing the dough together well.
4 – Let It Rest
If you believe you over mixed your dough, the best idea is to let the dough rest. If the flour developed too much gluten while mixing, you need to let that gluten soften.
Cover the dough and set it aside on the counter at room temperature for at least an hour. Then, scoop and bake the dough without mixing it again. The dough should be much softer after sitting.
5 – Fix the Recipe
If you know that you over measured the dry ingredients or didn’t add enough butter to the recipe, you can try to fix the recipe completely. However, this can be tricky.
You will have the best luck if you know exactly how much extra or exactly how few of an ingredient you put in. For example, if you added 2 cups of flour instead of one, you may be able to fix the dough!
To fix the dough, you will need to make more cookie dough (I know, starting again is hard!). Calculate your recipe based around the quantity of the ingredient that was mistaken.
So, if you added two cups of flour to the dough rather than one, you will need to make the entire recipe again using all the same quantities but skipping the flour at the end (you already have the cup of flour in the first batch of dough!).
Blend the dry dough, with the new dough at the very end, mixing them together until just combined. Your dough will hopefully be the correct texture and, now, you will have extra cookies!
It can be tricky to fix dry cookie dough but, as you can see, there are a few ways to do it!
Always start adding ingredients slowly, giving the dough a chance to come together with just a minor tweak. One of these solutions is sure to work!
On a final note, if you somehow happen to end up with extra cookie dough or extra cookies after they’re baked, be sure to find a good use for them with one of these creative ideas!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.