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.
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.
1. Pat cookie dough into a 1”-thick square
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?
2. Cut the dough into 1” cubes
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.
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.
Can you shape cookies this way when they need to be rolled in sugar?
Pat the dough into a square atop the layer of sugar. Sprinkle the top with additional sugar.
Chill the dough, then cut it into cubes and position them on a baking sheet.
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.
See? A square shadow of cinnamon-sugar is all that remains from the dough's original cube shape.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Twelve 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?
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.