Shortbread is a lovely traditional Scottish treat that many people enjoy because the recipe isn’t too complicated, and it tastes delicious!
However, what happens when something goes wrong in the baking process? For example, what if the dough looks weird or crumbly? Is shortbread dough supposed to be crumbly?
Oddly enough, the answer is both a yes and a no!
Today, we’ll talk about why your shortbread can be crumbly, how to fix it if it’s too dry, and give a few tips to ensure your next path is yummy.
So, bring your apron and pans, and let’s start!
Is Shortbread Dough Supposed to Be Crumbly?
In a way, shortbread dough is supposed to be crumbly but not too crumbly. This is because the main ingredients in shortbread dough don’t include any liquids like water or eggs.
As a result, you’ll have a buttery yet crumbly dough instead of a sticky, malleable one. However, remember that when you push the dough together, it’s still supposed to have some consistency.
If it’s too crumbly, you’ll find it hard to mold it into shapes, and you’ll have flaky cookies in the end as well.
So, you need to find the middle ground between a dry, crumbly dough and a sticky one!
Why Is My Shortbread Crumbly?
A crumbly shortbread cookie indicates that something went wrong in the dough-kneading process! Most likely, the dough was too dry—there are many reasons why this could happen.
So, to help you out, we’ve made a list of the most popular mistakes:
1 – Over-Mixing
While it makes sense to mix every ingredient you have to make that lovely shortbread, you should be careful not to over-mix the dough.
This can be slightly confusing as the whole point of preparing a dough is mixing the ingredients together! However, it seems that by overdoing it, you risk the gluten structure of your dough.
So, to avoid that, keep your eyes out for these little things:
- Flour streaks
- Butter lumps
- Sugar lumps
If you notice any of these features in your dough, keep kneading until they’re all evenly distributed.
2 – Too Much Flour
Sometimes, we feel like adding a little more of any ingredient can make a good recipe better. However, deviating from the recipe could affect the dish negatively.
For example, adding more flour can leave you with extra dry dough that won’t bake properly.
This doesn’t mean you should kill your creative streak, though! It just means considering all the other ingredients and how they blend together.
So, before you put anything extra, make sure that it’ll work—only then, get creative!
3 – Insufficient Butter
The previous problem was about adding too much of one ingredient; now let’s talk about the opposite: not enough of another—specifically, butter!
Butter is the key ingredient in making shortbread as it gives the biscuit its mouth-watering flavor and helps with texture and moisture retention.
As a result, when there isn’t enough butter, you end up with a dry and crumbly dough.
4 – Refrigeration
Putting your dough in the fridge is something many of us do when we need the mix to cool down a little bit. It helps us get a better handle on the dough and makes it easier to shape.
However, your fridge constantly circulates the air inside to keep everything chilly. As a result, your dough ends up dry and crumbly.
The primary way to prevent this is by using plastic wrap around the dough or an airtight container that’ll lock in the moisture.
What to Do if Shortbread Dough Is Too Crumbly?
Now that you know what causes your shortbread dough to turn out crumbly, it’s time to find out what you can do to fix it.
First things first, you’ll need to measure everything you’re using to the exact amount. This will help you avoid this problem in the first place by stopping you from adding too much of anything.
However, if you start kneading and already feel that the dough is dry, then go ahead and try one of the following tricks:
1 – Drizzle Some Butter
As we already mentioned, the lack of butter or too much flour can leave you with a very dry dough. So, the first solution here is to add a bit more butter.
Just melt the butter first, let it cool to room temperature, add one teaspoon at a time, and then slowly mix it in.
2 – Add Water
Though this isn’t something we recommend, adding water can actually help moisturize your dough and keep it intact.
Just make sure to add only a spoonful or two to avoid making the dough soggy.
3 – Let It Rest
Sometimes the trick isn’t in adding more ingredients as much as it’s about leaving the current one as they are.
There’s a chance the dough needs a little rest so the gluten can soften and get back to holding everything in place.
So, place the dough in a bowl, cover it in plastic wrap, and leave it at room temperature.
So, again, is shortbread dough supposed to be crumbly? Hopefully, you’ve figured it out after reading our little guide.
To quickly recap, shortbread dough is in the middle ground between entirely malleable and totally crumbly. It’s supposed to be just crumbly enough to hold together when you try to shape it.
If your dough is getting too dry, revise your recipe and add a bit of butter.
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.