I am embarrassed to admit that I spent years avoiding slice-and-bake cookies because no matter how carefully I shaped the log of dough, the finished cookies always came out looking, well, dented. Smushed. Lopsided. Somewhere between a circle and a square. Even if they tasted great, I just couldn’t achieve a symmetrical cookie dough roll.  

It’s a shame, really, that I let this concern stop me from making many great recipes (like these Glazed Ginger-Citrus Shortbread, hello) because a) it’s very superficial, and b) it’s actually quite easy to form a nearly perfect round log. 

But not with two hands alone. You’ll need a sheet of parchment and a sturdy straight edge like a bench knife or, even better, a long ruler.

 Bench Knife Cookie Roll Photography by Rick Holbrook; Food Styling by Kaitlin Wayne
A bench knife smooths out any lumps and bumps on your cookie dough log.

Once you’ve got the tools, here’s what you do: 

  1. Transfer your cookie dough onto the center of the parchment sheet and pat it into a rough log that’s your desired length and height. You’ll want the log to be fairly even to make your job easier later on, so avoid a thick middle or thin ends.  
  2. Fold the parchment over the log of dough (you can either fold toward or away from you, depending on what feels most natural) and roll it a couple of times to smooth it out. The dough can still be quite rustic at this point. 
  3. Now use your non-dominant hand to press the straight edge at a 45-degree angle into the crevice where the dough meets the work surface, with the parchment as a barrier in between.  
  4. Once you’re set-up, use your dominant hand to gently tug the top piece of parchment paper as you keep applying pressure against the dough and the work surface with the straight edge. As you pull, the dough will butt up against the straight edge and rotate, rounding out into a very smooth, symmetrical log. (Imagine a much, much less dramatic version of a lump of clay transforming into a smooth bowl on a pottery wheel.)  

This tip doesn’t just apply to cookie dough, either. You can use it to gently round out a roll cake, like a Bûche de Noël, or a log of cinnamon rolls

After you’ve made your round log of cookie dough, you’ll want to maintain its shape, especially if it’s a soft, malleable dough that might flatten out in the refrigerator or freezer. If you happen to have the cardboard tube from an empty paper towel roll lying around, snip it lengthwise and use that to cradle the dough. If you don’t, simply give your dough a rotation every 15 minutes or so to evenly distribute the pressure as it chills. 

Pistachio-Crusted Icebox Cookies Photography by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne
Now you're ready to make perfectly round Pistachio-Crusted Icebox Cookies.

Now onto the final step: slicing! As you cut your dough log into individual cookies, give it a quarter-turn every three or four slices to ensure that the knife doesn’t flatten one side repeatedly against the cutting board. And voilà, perfectly round Maple Pecan Shortbread, World Peace Cookies, and Pistachio-Crusted Icebox Cookies

And if all of that seems like a lot of work for round cookies, just remember: There are always squares

We’ve got holiday cookies for everyone this season: See our brand-new batch of holiday cookies, A Cookie for Everyone, organized by flavor, texture, and style so you can find just the right recipe.

Cover photo (Glazed Ginger-Citrus Shortbread) by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne.

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Glazed Ginger-Citrus Shortbread
Glazed Ginger-Citrus Shortbread
4.8 out of 5 stars 6 Reviews
Total
2 hrs 25 mins
Yield
about 5 dozen cookies
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Filed Under: Tips and Techniques
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About Sarah Jampel

Sarah Jampel requested — and received — a deep-fryer for her 13th birthday for the dual purpose of making samosas and doughnuts. Now, [redacted number of years and redacted number of cooking disasters] later, she is King Arthur Baking Company’s Recipe Development and Test Kitchen Manager.   While S...
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