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. Karen

    The best way to get a consistent size cookie is to weigh them. Not very hard to break off some dough and weigh. No need for a scoop or a rolling pin or any of the things listed. 15 grams is perfect size. I do this with all my cookies and they come out beautiful and all the same size!

    Reply
  2. Kelly

    We make multiple batches of many different cookies at Christmas time and this will make life a whole lot easier!

    Reply
  3. Pam K.

    When I have to make a lot of cookies, I will stir them all up on one day and bake then all the next. After stirring them up, I put a batch of dough in a gallon zip top bag and flatten it out with a rolling pin. I store these in the refrigerator until the next day. When it’s time to bake I cut down the sides of the bags and turn the big dough square out onto a cutting board and use a pizza cutter to cut squares. It is so quick and easy!

    Reply
  4. taissa schahar

    I love having cookies on hand too & what works great for me is to form my cookies into a log (usually 2 logs per batch, think 1970s rolls of Pillsbury cookies) wrapped in freezer paper & plastic wrap & bung them into the freezer where, as logs, they stack nicely & don’t take up much room. When I want cookies I slice as many cookies as I want to bake, & return the log to the freezer. It makes the cookies easy to share in a pre-baked state, too.

    Reply
  5. Tai Schahar

    What i find even easier is rolling my cookie dough into a log (typically 2 logs per batch), freezing the logs, and then slicing off however many cookies i want to bake, returning the remainder of the log to the freezer. This is not only faster than cutting before freezing but also takes up less room in the freezer – the logs stack neatly and don’t move around.

    Reply
  6. Meg

    Thank you very much for this post that will be so time-saving! I’d portioned out dough this way before, but always before took the time and trouble to shape it from squares to balls. Now I won’t bother since the squares will round themselves when baking. And the sugar sprinkling option is awesome! Who knew?!

    Now I’m itching to make your favorite chocolate chip cookies! Thanks again!

    Reply
  7. Mary

    This is genius!
    I agree that cookies taste better after the dough has been refrigerated, and of course it’s impossible to scoop chilled dough. This simplifies both the refrigeration and the portioning! Thank you!

    Reply

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