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. PJ Hamel, post author

      Linda, it can vary by the size of the recipe. The cookies I make most often, our https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/chocolate-chip-cookies-recipe, I use a 9″ x 13″ pan for dough that includes 2 cups of flour and 2 to 2 1/2 cups chips; you could use that as a rough comparison tool for other recipes. But honestly, it’s probably just as easy to pat the dough into a 1″-tall square or rectangle on a piece of parchment or waxed paper; that way you don’t need to worry about the pan size, it’s just whatever size it turns out when it’s 1″ thick. Hope this helps — PJH@KAF

  1. sandy

    There have been so many great comments on this post. I tried this yesterday with snickerdoodles and it was so fast and easy. I did give the cubes a quick roll between my palms to round them after they were cut, but even with that extra step it was so FAST! I also got very consistently sized cookies. I did experiment a little at the beginning. I cubed a few rows to test the size.. Cut the dough and baked just a few to see if I liked the size of the cookie once baked. I usually make little cookies… Two little sweet bites…. No more spooning out cookie dough for me….

    Reply
  2. Lisa

    I’ve been doing this for years! Although I just freeze the dough in the rectangle form wrapped in parchment paper and store in a freezer bag. When I need cookies, I take out the rectangle, cut the number of squares I need from frozen, put the rest back in the freezer and bake the ones I cut. Might need to bake the cookies an extra minute, depending on if the dough is still frozen. I currently have 4 different cookie doughs in my freezer.

    Reply
  3. Karen Golik

    I roll my cookie dough into a long tube. Then wrap it in plastic wrap. Chill it. Then slice and bake. I can make several different batches of different kinds of cookie dough. Then bake. When I have time. Someone told me that this is what bakeries do.

    Reply
  4. Marcia

    I’ve made cookies for …. decades! What a great idea. Never thought of this easy way to make large batches. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Well same here, Marcia – it only took me like 50 years to figure this out! Good luck speeding through your next batch 🙂 PJH@KAF

  5. Valerie

    Thank you for the tip! I always thought you got less cookies this way! My sister and I host a cookie swap party every December and this will make things much easier for us and our guests. 😁👍🏻

    Reply
  6. Nayda Oehninger

    Magic or witchcraft? this is great!
    It has been a real problem for me until today.
    Thanks from URUGUAY- South America

    Reply
  7. Tom Anderson

    How about for bigger cookies–say 1 1/2 T. Would the dough have to be 1 1/2 inches thick and 1 1/2 inches wide OR would the dough stay 1-inch thick, but be 1 1/2 inches wide?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Tom, for a 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie, you’d want to go with squares that are 1 1/4″ wide on each side and just 1″ thick. (Using 1 1/2″ wide squares would get you much larger cookies containing more than 2 tablespoons worth of dough.) Happy baking! Kat@KAF

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