Help--dough won't hold together

  • Posted by: drbabs
  • December 8, 2014


sfmiller December 9, 2014
I've made these several times, and one time the dough didn't come together. Volumetric measurements, but I'm pretty careful and consistent with those when baking. I added a couple teaspoons of water, as you would with a pie dough that was too crumbly, and carried on. They turned out fine.

The type of cocoa may matter, but there are other factors at play, too: brand of flour, moisture content of the brown sugar (it can vary a lot) and butter, humidity in the kitchen, phase of the moon.... ;)
drbabs December 9, 2014
Yes, it was dumb of me not to read the comments before I started baking these, but clearly the recipe is a bit temperamental.
boulangere December 8, 2014
Reading all the comments, I suspect that the difference may well lie in the cocoa powder. Using a good high-fat cocoa with a fat % of around 24% could be the secret.
Greenstuff December 9, 2014
Why? if you see above, I did use a high-fat cocoa powder, one of Dorie Greenspan's recommended ones, Scharffen Berger. (And I weighed rather than measured.) While my end result was delicious, there's no question that my dough was all crumbs.
drbabs December 9, 2014
That's probably true for me; the cocoa powder I used isn't very high in fat so it probably acted more like flour. In any event, I was able to rescue the cookies by beating in another tablespoon of soft butter and a little liquid. I found them impossible to slice when frozen, however. So i just left the logs out till they were sliceable. Not the prettiest cookies I've ever made, but they are delicious. Thanks everyone!
Greenstuff December 8, 2014
I'll be interested in your results. I'm also interested if Kristen has any more info on the cocoa powder making a difference. Mine was Scharffen Berger.
Kristen M. December 8, 2014
I haven't run into this myself, but I remember Dorie discussing it in a post on her site. About crumbling difficulties, she writes, "It seems to me that Dutch-processed cocoa makes an easier-to-handle dough than "natural" cocoa. I've had very crumbly dough using Sacco brand cocoa and I've made my best cookies with premium cocoa powders from Cocoa Powder Valrhona and Scharffenberger. As for supermarket brands, Droste is my pick." More here:
Greenstuff December 8, 2014
I read all the comments before I made the cookies, so I wasn't surprised when I mixed them up and had a pile of crumbs. I resisted the urge to use more butter or some liquid. Instead, I gathered up the piles into plastic wrap, did what I could to form logs, and put them in the refrigerator. The next day, I gingerly sliced them with a very thin serrated knife (a tomato knife). I managed to keep a lot of them pretty much together, but there were still a lot of pieces, which I did my best to reform into slices. The upshot? They looked just like the picture in the recipe, and even more importantly, they were delicious! I guess that's where the "genius" comes in.
drbabs December 8, 2014
Well, I didn't resist the urge--the original dough was nothing but crumbles--so I'll post my results when I bake them.
Kristen M. December 8, 2014
Hi drbabs -- I think a lot of people run into this, and it may have something to do with varying types of cocoa powder, if I remember right.

I would chill the dough a bit longer if you can, or even freeze it, and if it still crumbles as you're slicing (with a very thin, sharp or serrated knife), just smoosh them back together -- they still work well that way.
drbabs December 8, 2014
Thanks, Kristen. It was literally in crumbles when I finished mixing, so i gently worked in about a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of coffee. Just till it held together. I was then able to roll the dough into logs, which are now in the freezer. I'll let you know what happens. Thanks for responding.
drbabs December 8, 2014
Here's the rest of the question: I followed the recipe exactly, and even weighed the ingredients. I'm considering working in more butter. Has anyone had this happen? Am I on the right track?
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