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. Dee

    May be genious but … the “love” is the ingredient in every scoop and roll. Might well go buy a roll of P.bury. Did I write that outloud???? 😉 I do like easy every now and then though for bake sales and pot lucks. 💕

    Reply
  2. KO

    This is a perfect solution to my broken cookie scoop and 8 dozen chocolate chip cookies that need to get shaped and baked!!! Thanks P.J., you are awesome! 😋

    Reply
  3. LinC

    What a fabulous time-saving technique! I made chocolate chip cookies using the technique this week, and it went much faster than the spoon-scoop method. One caveat: my cookies came out with a more uniform round shape if I rolled a cookie dough cube in my hands before setting it on the cookie sheet. As mentioned above, the cookies were slightly smaller than I usually scoop, but I liked the larger yield and the uniform size.

    Reply
  4. Sue Updike Younger

    Thank you so much. I had noticed cookie dough from the market came chopped into squares and thought, “Why not try that?” Then I saw your post. Made five dozen oatmeal chocolate chip cookies yesterday. So much easier and much more consistent in size for the last cookie sheet!

    Reply
  5. Dee Ann

    Genius! I will be able to prep at least four sheets of cookies at a time since I have a double oven. Way less work!

    Reply
  6. Linda M

    Hi,
    I wonder if commercial bakeries do something like this? Thanks for the new trick!
    I will see where else this is useful, like making meatballs.
    I now freeze blueberries individually on a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper placed on it first. Then I store them in a zip bag. Works like a charm.
    I have also learned to cut out all of a batch of sugar cookie dough before I turn on the oven. Then I don’t have to work in a hot kitchen and the actual baking goes quickly. I store the parchment sheets with the cookies on them in the fridge until the oven is ready to go.

    Reply
  7. Sarahjane Dooley

    This is a great recommendation! Despite baking cookies for almost 50 years, I’ve never tried the cut and refrigerate or freeze method. I really like the idea of frozen cubes that don’t have to all be made at once. And if frozen, I am much less likely to eat the dough uncooked!

    Reply
  8. Wanda

    Genius!!!
    This will make my cooking baking sessions so much easier, and scooping dough is my least favorite part of the process!
    Thanks for all of the helpful comments too; never thought of rolling biscuit dough into a cylinder!!!

    Reply

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