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I baked cookies last night and they came out rather crumbly. It felt like I put in quite a lot of flour - would that affect the crumbliness?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Well, looking at the recipe...

The sugar (brown sugar + honey) level looks roughly appropriate compared to the flour so that's unlikely.

The fat level looks a tad low for the cookies I normally do, but I've never used oil in cookies before. You might try increasing the oil just a bit to lend extra tenderness, but I don't think this is the real issue. (Using oil in cookies also means you're not creaming, which is typically important in most cookies...so its a bit odd, but I don't know that it would cause them to be 'crumbly'.)

The lack of the egg definitely isn't helping it to keep structural support. The recipe is basically banking on the fact that it needs to be moist to hold together. There's not really enough liquid to form gluten to add structure (which you don't usually want for cookies anyway). Since there's nothing in the cookie to give it 'structure', if you dry it out its just going to fall apart on you.

I suspect your problem is from the directions of 'Don’t overbake these, or they’ll dry out a little.' They dried out a bit too much and lost all support. It's easy to over bake cookies and this is a recipe with very little room for error in that area.

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I would agree, and add that even though using oil for the fat might very well not be helping matters, it seems the ratio of 4:1::flour:fat seems low. Most of my favorites use approximately a 2-3:1-2 flour:fat ratio (for higher fats, normally a nut butter is mixed in). Also recall, if you are shooting for a low fat recipe, you can substitute in apple sauce. I find oil tends anyway to harden cookies; I understand the author was scooting away from shortening and butter, maybe apple sauce would be a better way to go. –  mfg Oct 14 '11 at 18:27
    
@rfusca if I added this ratio of oil to flour, will the recipe be less sticky? I tries this recipe while adding an egg to it, but it ended up a little sticky, it stuck over my hands also when I was placing them in the pan. –  Zeina Jan 9 '13 at 13:41
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Too much flour can definitely cause crumbliness. I suggest you experiment with the amount by trial and error. This (alone) may not be the most effective solution though...

Moreover, the lack of eggs in that recipe is naturally going to have its effect. Egg is used in baking primarily as a binding agent, and the lack of such here is going to lead to lack of cohesion/increased crumbliness. If you don't mind adding eggs, this is the easiest solution. Otherwise, there are alternative binding agents that could do the job pretty well:

  • Cornstarch and water

  • Soy flour and water

  • Flour, vegetable shortening, baking powder, water

The recipe you give seems to utilise baking powder and vegetable oil as binding agents, but this is quite possibly insufficient. Also, I have heard that using whole-wheat flour decreases crumbliness.

There is a great page on Egg-Free Cooking Options in general over at exploreveg.org, which mentions the above options and more. (And gives exact measurements.)

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Baking powder is a leavening agent rather than a binding agent. And fats will act to make baked goods more tender by reducing the amount that the proteins in the flour can combine. –  AaronN Oct 14 '11 at 14:38
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Let me be explicit then: Your information on eggs is right on. As to the link you provided, your representation of the data from the link is misleading. As presented in your answer, vegetable shortening and baking powder on their own are presented as binding agents. They are not. Combined with other ingredients they can replace an egg, but that is not clear from the information provided in your answer. Also, I would appreciate it if your comment could be edited to remove the personal attack. –  AaronN Oct 14 '11 at 15:13
    
The linked page doesn't indicate shortening and baking powder are a binder...it mentions flour,water,shortening, and baking powder replace eggs as a binder...that's quite a bit different. –  rfusca Oct 14 '11 at 19:12
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You probably have a problem from not letting them rest long enough before putting them in the oven. Looking over your recipe, I did not see this step, which is something that effects the binding. I have encountered this explanation while reading other recipes.

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