A simple way to shape cookies: no spoons, no scoop, no hassle

Portioning out drop cookie dough is pretty straightforward. Past generations of bakers used a couple of tablespoons. Today, many of us use a cookie scoop. But there’s another way to shape cookies, one that doesn’t require the repetitive motion of spooning or scooping over and over again.

A simple way to shape cookies via @kingarthurflour

Believe it or not, all you need is less than a minute and a knife to divide a big batch of cookie dough into oven-ready tablespoon-sized portions.

How? It’s easy as 1-2-3.

Don't have a cookie scoop? Here's a quick and simple way to portion drop cookie dough using just your hands and a knife. Click To Tweet

A simple way to shape cookies via @kingarthurflour

1. Pat cookie dough into a 1”-thick square

Pat your dough onto a piece of greased parchment or waxed paper; I’m using our Oatmeal Cookies recipe here.

Drop cookie dough is malleable and easy to work with, but don’t stress if its sides aren’t completely straight; just do the best you can. Remember, you’re shooting for a square (or rectangle) of dough that’s 1″ thick.

Wrap the paper around the dough and chill it for 30 minutes; this will make it easier to handle, and result in better cookies — really. For more, read our blog post — Chilling cookie dough: does it make a difference?

A simple way to shape cookies via @kingarthurflour

2. Cut the dough into 1” cubes

A bench knife, heavy chef’s knife, or rolling pizza cutter are all suitable tools for the task.

A 1″ cube of typical drop cookie dough is just a bit smaller than a dough ball made with a tablespoon cookie scoop. So portioning cookies this way may increase your yield slightly.

If you don’t want to bake the cookies right away; or want to bake some now, some later, freezing all or some of the dough is a good option. Once you’ve cut the dough into cubes, place the slab (without separating the cubes) into the freezer; tent it lightly with plastic wrap or your favorite reusable covering.

Once frozen, use a spatula to loosen the dough from the paper before placing individual cubes into an airtight plastic bag and returning them to the freezer. For best results, use frozen dough within one month; space cubes on a baking sheet, and allow them to thaw while your oven is preheating.

A simple way to shape cookies via @kingarthurflour

You can see one of these cookies is square-ish, but for the most part your cubes of dough magically transform themselves into round cookies.

3. Transfer the cubes to a baking sheet and bake

But wait: don’t the cookies come out square?

Surprisingly, no. While it’s true that cutout cookies (think stars and hearts) retain their shape as they bake, drop cookie dough “melts” in the oven’s heat. The dough cubes’ corners soften and settle so that the cookies end up round — not square.

 

A simple way to shape cookies via @kingarthurflour

Can you shape cookies this way when they need to be rolled in sugar?

No problem. Lightly grease the paper, then sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon sugar (which is what these Snickerdoodles call for).

Pat the dough into a square atop the layer of sugar. Sprinkle the top with additional sugar.

A simple way to shape cookies via @kingarthurflour

Chill the dough, then cut it into cubes and position them on a baking sheet.

A simple way to shape cookies via @kingarthurflour

If your recipe calls for flattening the dough balls with the bottom of a drinking glass, go ahead and do so; they’ll still “round up” as they bake.

A simple way to shape cookies via @kingarthurflour

See? A square shadow of cinnamon-sugar is all that remains from the dough’s original cube shape.

A simple way to shape cookies via @kingarthurflour

Can you shape cookies when they have lots of mix-ins?

Absolutely. I always add more chocolate chips (a full pound) than my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for. Because, chocolate.

I also usually make a double batch of this recipe. Because, chocolate chip cookies.

A simple way to shape cookies via @kingarthurflour

I pat the dough onto greased parchment that I’ve laid in a half-sheet pan (13″ x 18″). Putting the parchment and dough in the pan makes it easier to move it around, and also helps keep the dough’s edges nice and straight.

A simple way to shape cookies via @kingarthurflour

I use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to an even thickness.

Now, this does make the dough a  bit shorter than 1″, but no worries; the cookies will still shape themselves into rounds as they bake.

A simple way to shape cookies via @kingarthurflour

After 30 minutes in the fridge (while the oven is preheating), the dough’s ready to be cut. Again, a bench knife is a great tool for this task.

A simple way to shape cookies via @kingarthurflourTwelve minutes later: lovely round cookies. Over 100 of ’em by the time I’m done. My arm aches just thinking of scooping out 100 cookies, but using this pat and cut method?

A simple way to shape cookies via @kingarthurflour

It’s a piece of cake. Gingersnaps, you just got a whole lot easier!

Attention cookie scoop users: I’m totally not dissing your favorite tool; it stood me in good stead for years. But if you’re making a large batch of cookies (or your hands and wrists simply need a break), I urge you to give this shaping method a try. I think you’ll be glad you did.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Pat O'Leary

    My usual method for large quantities of biscuits (cookies) is to roll the dough into a cylinder. I know what length it should get to, depending on how thick each one should be. Then I chill the cylinder. Then I chop it into 8 or 16 i.e. chop in half, chop each half in half etc – making decisions about where “half” is is quick and easy.
    If I want to freeze it for another day I just freeze the cylinder “as is” and defrost & cut it on the cooking day.
    PS: having it in cylinder form can be fun if I want to add say cinnamon or crunchy flavoured sugar or something to the edges – just sprinkle on a sheet and roll the cylinder in it.

    Reply
  2. Connie Clabaugh

    I make bread in my bread machine. I always raises beautifully. But when baking the top sinks a bit. Am I using too much yeast?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, Connie! It could be that you do have a bit too much yeast in there. We’d suggest checking out our Bread Machine FAQ page for some helpful tips on troubleshooting this. Morgan@KAF

  3. Jill Reichow

    I bake over 40 doz. cookies for desert for the bass fishing tournament up where our cabin is in Canada. This will certainly make my days easier as my back is fused and standing to make that many cookies is very tirering. Thanks for a great idea….not only for the fisihing tourney, but for when I’m home and close to the grandkids. I can’t believe my family hasn’t thought of this as much cookie baking as we do. Thanks much again!

    Reply
  4. Bonnie Swann

    I cannot commit yet! When I was a small girl, my Mom told me I made the prettiest,
    roundest cookies, so much that I should enter the cookies in the Fair……. I did and
    won a blue ribbon……. these square cookies still look square to me. 🙁

    Reply
    1. Sara

      You could always pick up the cookie and roll it in the palm of your hand to make it round.

  5. StaceyD

    Thanks for this PJ, I have been using cookie scoops to shape in the past, but I love this much quicker and almost as accurate method even better. Nope, can’t draw (or cut) a straight line, LOL. I just finished making the “Soft and Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies” from this site. In case you all were wondering, double the batch and pat into a 1/4 sheet pan. It’s a perfect fit 🙂

    Reply
    1. Deonna Stocker

      Oh my gosh! I have a cottage bakery out of my house and boy oh boy do my wrists and hands hurt after 400 cookies. I am going to try this for sure! Thanks.

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