Cookie Rescue: How to Fix Cookie Dough When Things Go Wrong

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Whether you incorrectly read the recipe or you accidentally added too many ingredients into the bowl, things can quickly go wrong when baking cookies. When these problems arise, will you know what to do? 

When things go wrong while mixing a batch of cookie dough, you can typically rescue the batch by changing the recipe, correcting your mixing techniques, or altering the temperature of the dough and the environment surrounding it.

Before you throw out an entire mixing bowl of cookie batter, look at the options below to fix many of the most common cookie dough problems.

What Can Possibly Go Wrong?

Anyone who has ever baked a batch of cookies can probably list numerous things that can go wrong at any given time. While baking can be fun and relaxing, it can also create a ton of stress when things go wrong. 

So, what are the most common types of things that can go wrong when whipping up a batch of cookie dough? Let’s take a look.

  • The cookie dough gets dried out.
  • The cookie dough is too thin and runny.
  • The cookie dough is crumbly.
  • You overmixed the cookie dough.
  • The cookie dough has gone bad.

Why Would Cookie Dough Get Dried Out?

Your cookie dough should be thick and able to hold its form after all the ingredients are mixed together. If you can’t create a giant ball that holds itself together but instead crumbles or flakes apart, it’s dried out.

But why would your cookie dough dry out? There are numerous reasons why you may end up with dry dough.

  1. It’s overmixed: The more you mix cookie dough, the more gluten develops from the flour, making the batter drier and harder and giving you a crispy cookie.
  2. It needs more fat: The fat in cookie dough acts as a binding agent; when there is not enough, the dry ingredients won’t stick together.
  • Too many dry ingredients: When there are too many dry ingredients, the entire recipe will become overly dry.

How to Fix Dry Cookie Dough

So, you have dried-out cookie dough. It’s not the end of the world; there are a few different ways to fix it that don’t require much effort and will save your next batch.

If you are wondering how to moisten cookie dough that has dried out, try one of the tips listed below.

  • Add more fat: Add more fats such as oil, butter, or shortening. 
  • Add more liquids: Milk, water, eggs, and extracts are all liquids that can help bind your dry ingredients and make them moist.
  • Knead the dough: Sometimes, all you have to do is knead the dough with your hands. Using your hands can help pack the dough tightly in a gentle way.
  • Cover it and let it be: Cover dried cookie dough with a paper towel, then let it sit out for a few hours. By leaving the dough to sit, the gluten will begin to soften.
Spoon lifting raw chocolate chip cookie dough from glass bowl

Why Your Cookie Dough Is Too Thin

Thin cookie dough can be tough to work with because it is often runny and will produce flat cookies that run together. If your cookie dough seems thinner than it should be, it probably has something to do with your measurements or the temperature of the batter.

How to Thicken Cookie Dough

If you want thicker cookie dough that is easy to manage and holds its shape, you might want to look at the ratio between wet and dry ingredients. Sometimes the fix for thin, runny dough is adding extra flour or sugar to the bowl.

If the ingredients are correct, the other possibility is that your dough is too warm. Cookie dough contains a good amount of fats that will begin to melt as soon as the batter starts to warm up, and the more they melt, the thinner it gets.

If your cookie dough gets too thin, put it in the refrigerator for about an hour to cool it down. Always take a short break when mixing the ingredients, keeping them from warming up too much during the process.

Why Your Cookie Dough Is Crumbly

Crumbly cookie dough is almost always a direct result of dry cookie dough. When deciding how to fix crumbly cookie dough, consider adding extra liquid ingredients to moisten it more.

You might also want to consider the following:

  • Adding in more fat
  • Reducing the amount of dry ingredients added to the mix
  • Avoid letting air come into direct contact with the dough

Can You Overmix Cookie Dough?

Thoroughly mixing your cookie dough is essential, ensuring all ingredients are evenly incorporated into the batter. However, mixing your cooking dough too much can be just as bad as undermixing it, leaving you with sticky cookie dough.

Overmixing cookie dough can cause it to bind together too much, making the sticky dough hard and, at times, too thin and crumbly. 

How to Fix Overmixed Cookie Dough

The best way to fix cookie dough that you mixed too much is by adding a little extra flour to the cookie recipe. To do this, add one spoonful at a time until the batter reaches the ideal consistency.

The flour will help bring the fat and liquid ingredients back together to form a nice, firm dough ball.

How to Tell if Cookie Dough Is Bad

Although there are plenty of ways to fix cookie dough when things go wrong, there isn’t anything you can do for cookie dough that goes bad.

Eating raw cookie dough can be dangerous on its own. However, there is an increased risk of illness if you eat cookie dough that goes bad, even if you bake it. Expired cookie dough contains lots of harmful bacteria that will make you sick and sometimes put you in the hospital.

If you think your cookie dough has expired, toss it out immediately. If you are unsure, here are a few things to look for:

  • The dough is hard or crumbles easily.
  • Noticeable mold or mildew is growing in the batter.
  • There is an unpleasant odor or taste to the dough.
Female hands rolling out cookie dough with a wooden rolling pin

How to Fix Cookie Dough When It Is Too Salty or Sugary

Sometimes your measurements can be a little off when adding important ingredients that make a big difference if you use too much. Sugar and salt are two of the most noticeable items that can create a huge problem.

If your cookie dough tastes too salty, the best way to correct it is to add more sweet ingredients like white sugar, brown sugar, or honey. 

If your cookie dough tastes too sweet, you can counteract that flavor profile by adding a bit of spice with cinnamon or cayenne. You can also tone down the sweetness with something a little sour, such as lemon or lime zest.

Summing Things Up

Just because you made a mistake when putting together your cookie dough batter doesn’t mean you should just give up.

If something goes wrong while baking the perfect cookie, consider using one of our quick fixes. Remember, sometimes you have to tweak your cookie recipe a little bit to make it as great as it can be.