Picture this: You’ve spent the whole day looking forward to baking some delicious cookies. Maybe you are trying out a wonderful new cookie recipe you have found, or maybe you’ve used a trusted family favorite recipe.
You’ve labored over getting the ingredients together and mixing them into a delicious dough, only to find that when you’ve finished the dough it’s turned out extremely dry.
Nightmare! - am I right?
Dry cookie dough is the bane of a dessert connoisseur’s life. Luckily this article tells you exactly how to fix it and turn your dough disaster into a sweet success, as well as the different reasons your dough can dry out and how to prevent it.
What Are the Different Types of Cookie Dough?
Cookie dough is a glorious treat that has long been enjoyed baked into circles of joy or eaten raw out of the bowl. Cookie dough has many wonderful variations, with some being more popular and longstanding than others. All cookie dough recipes tend to have some ingredients in common.
The stand out favourite has always been the classic chocolate chip cookie dough, typically made with all-purpose flour, butter, sugar, vanilla extract, salt, eggs, baking powder and of course, chocolate chips.
Similarly, the timeless classic recipe for sugar cookies features mostly the same ingredients, albeit in slightly different amounts. Typically this recipe omits the brown sugar often used in chocolate chip cookies as it is less rich of a taste.
Another popular cookie dough recipe is the oatmeal cookie. Using dried oats along with the flour, getting the balance between wet and dry ingredients right is absolutely key in ensuring this recipe doesn’t dry out too much.
As you will have noticed, all the above cookie dough recipes tend to use at least some form of dry ingredients such as flour, oats and baking powder, as well as using wet ingredients like butter, oil, milk and eggs.
Although the ingredients in any given recipe may change slightly, especially in terms of amounts needed, the basic premise remains the same. This means that the reasons your cookie dough may dry out will be the same no matter what recipe you decide to use.
With this in mind, this informative guide will be helpful with most cookie dough recipes out there, as the fixes we suggest can be used to save any dough from classic chocolate chip to healthy and hearty oatmeal raisin.
Why Did Your Cookie Dough Get So Dry?
Understanding why your dough dried out is going to be the key to fixing the issue. There are a number of factors that cause dough dryness. Most of these factors lie within the ingredients used in your cookie dough recipe, and there are some other factors that can affect it during the mixing process and storage of dough.
The recipe for a basic batch of cookies typically involves a mixture of dry and wet ingredients namely flour, baking powder, eggs, butter, sugar, and milk, as well as the typically added extras such as chocolate chips, sweet spices, and vanilla extract.
These ingredients are often needed in very specific amounts and for that reason, we recommend that you follow your recipe exactly. However, we all know how easy it is to pour a little too much or too little of something without realizing it. For example, there may be too much or too little fat (i.e. butter), liquid (i.e. milk, eggs, and vanilla), or dry ingredients (i.e. flour, baking powder, and sugar).
It’s helpful to know exactly what these ingredients do in your dough recipes and why they are so important in the first place.
What does fat do in my cookie dough recipe?
Fats such as butter, oil, or margarine are utterly key in any great cookie dough recipe.
They help to bind together all your dry ingredients and ensure you get a smooth dough that is easy to mold and doesn’t just crumble apart when you try to cut your cookie shapes.
Why do I need liquids in my cookie dough recipe?
Similarly to fats, liquids such as eggs, milk, water and even vanilla extract play an important role in ensuring your cookie dough mixture is smooth and sufficiently moist.
Ensuring the correct amounts are used is very important because if you use too much you’ll end up with a runny cookie mixture that resembles a bowl of melted ice-cream, and too little and you’ll get the dry, crumbly mess we are trying to avoid.
What do the dry ingredients bring to my cookie dough recipe?
The dry ingredients are the base of the cookie dough mixture. Flour and sugar are both the main event for any delicious dough, but there’s a fine line between a perfect amount and a perfect disaster.
Even as small as a couple of tablespoons too much flour can cause too dry a mixture. Ensuring you get these amounts perfect the first time may save the stress of trying to fix dry dough.
Bear in mind that your cookies will be crispier, chewier, and crunchier after baking if too much flour and other dry ingredients are used.
What about the mixing of the ingredients?
It may sound silly but there is such a thing as over-mixing. Over-mixing can cause the cookie dough mixture to become aerated which basically means that it becomes full of air. This is great for when you want to make super-thin and crispy cookies that tend to have a drier consistency.
However, if you’ve come to this article because your cookie dough is too dry then the likelihood is that you want soft, gooey cookies with a moist dough. You need to stop mixing your dough as soon as both the dry and wet ingredients have come together.
How does the storage of dough affect it?
Lots of us make our dough in advance and store it in the refrigerator. Our refrigerators can be very drying places as their main job is to keep food cool.
If the dough is kept in a refrigerator unwrapped or wrapped poorly it can lose its moisture and become hardened and dry, especially if it is not wrapped securely forcing more cold air inside it.
Storing your dough in the refrigerator is not an issue and can actually benefit your batter as long as it is covered completely so no air can get in.
Fixing Your Dry Cookie Dough
Now that we know why each type of ingredient is important in our cookie dough, how the amounts of them can affect the dryness, and what mixing and storing can do to the texture of our dough, it’s time to see how to fix these mistakes.
Understanding the reasons your dough becomes dry in the first place means that knowing whether to add more fat or liquid is needed. You should bear in mind, however, that adding extra ingredients may well end up changing the texture slightly.
Adding more liquid
Adding liquid to your dry dough mixture should be done slowly and precisely. Use whatever liquid the recipe originally called for and add it bit by bit no more than a teaspoon at a time and mixing very gently after each addition.
Adding a liquid such as water or milk should not change the taste or texture of the cookie that much, especially because it will be added so gradually.
Eggs, on the other hand, will bind the ingredients together further, so although they are a liquid that would help smooth the mixture, it will be more beneficial to add a thinner liquid such as the aforementioned milk or water.
If your recipe did not call for any liquids, to begin with, you could try the other fixes listed below or alternatively, try adding plain water rather than milk very slowly and gradually.
Adding More Fat
Adding more fat such as butter, margarine or even oil to your mixture may seem like the most obvious step when fixing dry dough. However, for this method, you should be very cautious as extra fat may change the texture and taste of your cookie dough into something that you didn’t want.
Extra fat will certainly make the dough moister and softer, but it could also make it oilier so do bear this in mind. For this reason, if you do decide to add more fat you should ensure that you use the same fat you used originally and add it in very slowly and gradually.
For the fat method, you should knead the dough with your hands gently to make sure all the fat has rubbed in, adding your chosen fat teaspoon by teaspoon until it is at your desired consistency.
Keep in mind that the more fat in your cookie dough, the cakier the texture will be and you will get softer centered cookies after baking.
Leaving It Alone
This sounds counterproductive but there is a method in the madness. If your dough is too dry due to over mixing, something you can try is leaving it out to rest.
Resting dough can help to ensure the drier ingredients such as the flour have adequate time to hydrate and become more moist. In turn, this can help the cookies have a richer taste and an all-round smoother texture.
You can leave the cookie dough tightly covered out on a table or work surface for resting. This is especially helpful if the dough has become dry because of overmixing. Overmixing can cause the flour to produce too much gluten, resulting in a drier texture.
For resting to be most beneficial the dough needs to be left at room temperature and should be there for an hour at the very least.
If you want to make it ahead this can be done in a refrigerator, however, extreme care must be taken to ensure that the cookie dough is covered tightly and completely so that no air can get in. This would cause the opposite to happen, drying out the mixture rather than helping soften it.
As you can see, a dried out cookie dough is not the end of the world (although it might feel like it at the time). There are a number of things that can fix dry cookie dough and ensure cookie perfection, as well as steps you can take to prevent it from happening in the future.
The takeaway message is don’t panic, your cookie dough can be saved, take the time to work out whether it needs extra liquid, fat, or just some time to rest. Follow our informative guide above to ensure any dough mishaps are easily put right.
Most importantly, enjoy the process of baking, and the sweet reward of the first bite of a warm cookie afterward.