Why are my cookies a crumbly, dry texture when made with confectioner's sugar?

Over the last year I've experimented with a number of cookie recipe's that call for "confectioner's sugar" to be used in the cream-with-butter initial steps. Among these have been Sables and chilled rolled cookies from a Pierre Herme book, a Payard meringue cookie recipe, and then a few different shortbread recipes. All the recipes have metric and cup conversions (I don't have a scale so use cup) , I think I'm creaming properly and trying not to overmix in the flour/dry ingredients. I'm using C&H Pure Cane Confectioner's Powdered sugar. Every time the cookies have in common this dry bordering on chalky crumbly texture that I don't care for, when they're supposed to be "light and delicate.". Any ideas as to whether it's a technique issue? Are French pastry recipes referring to some other type of sugar? Could it be in the ratio of ingredients?

  • Posted by: Ghazzzit
  • November 13, 2011


Blissful B. November 14, 2011
Sorry, that "add your answer here" was unintentional. So glad you found a solution Celestyyne!
Blissful B. November 14, 2011
Add your answer here
hardlikearmour November 14, 2011
Confectioner's sugar in the US tends to contain some cornstarch, too, so that may be a contributing factor. C&H definitely has cornstarch. Perhaps the French confectioners sugar does not?
Ghazzzit November 14, 2011
Thank you so much for this insight! I didn't realize that there was anything other than sugar in the bag - your comment prompted me to look into that variable further. I ended up making my own "confectioner's" sugar out of granulated (in a coffee grinder) to ensure nothing but sugar was present, and then tried one of my previously failed recipes. It made a huge difference! The chalky texture wasn't there, I think I achieved the "delicate" that I was aiming for.
hardlikearmour November 15, 2011
Blissful B. November 14, 2011
It could absolutely be a taste preference - what others enjoy and call delicate, you dislike and call crumbly. That's OK. Part of the fun of trying new recipes (for me) is expanding my awareness of food in general, including learning what new tastes I don't like.
boulangere November 13, 2011
I use confectioner's sugar (aka powdered, or 10X) in shortbread cookies, also. That said, they are extremely delicate, though not dry - that's probably from the 18 ounces of butter. But I would tend to shy away from using them in cookies where the first step is that one of creaming room temp butter and sugar until light, pale, and fluffy. When you do that, some of the sugar is dissolving in the water content of the butter, but the rest is undergoing a chemical reaction which causes it to trap air molecules which, along with leavening (if any), expand in the heat of the oven, causing the cookies to rise. I suspect that the confectioner's sugar, being such a tiny granule itself, is trapping too much air, causing the cookies to lose too much moisture (baking being, basically, a process of gradual dehydration) too quickly. Clearly, you possess an admirable persistence, so perhaps try subbing granulated sugar for the confectioner's, follow the same mixing directions, and see what happens. And please let us know your results.
Ghazzzit November 14, 2011
Thanks for your quick reply! Combining the information you shared along with another members I ended up grinding granulated sugar to a fine consistency to reproduce the desired texture without any unwanted additives. This really did the trick and my test batch of Sable's turned out fantastic!
boulangere November 15, 2011
Great news!
Recommended by Food52