As a former pastry cook of a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City, I've baked a fair share of cookies—thousands, in fact, from drop cookies and cut-outs to rugelach and thumbprints. They were beautiful cookies, every single one. Even though I appreciate a good-looking cookie, I would never discriminate against an ugly one—even if it’s lopsided and not Instagram ready—as long as it has buttery bronzed edges and pools of molten chocolate dotted throughout. (If there’s a dessert more magical than a warm chocolate chip cookie, I’ve never had it.)
When I make cookies for my loved ones, they aren’t picky about how the cookies look either. However, when making cookies for bake sales, potlucks, holiday cookie boxes, showers, and for gifting, I like to put my best baker’s foot forward. I want the cookies to look as delicious as they taste.
Drop cookies, like oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip, and peanut butter cookies, spread as they bake, taking a shape of their own, not always circular. Here are two genius baking tricks to get perfectly round cookies every time—both are so simple, I instinctively use them anytime I make cookies.
1. Portion the Cookie Dough with a Cookie Scoop
Whether or not your cookies are perfectly round won’t matter if they are all different sizes, which also means they’ll bake unevenly. That’s why the first step is to portion the cookie dough into evenly sized mounds. For that, I use a cookie (aka ice cream) scoop. I own them in three sizes: #60 for small cookies, #30 for medium cookies, #10 for large cookies. Each holds one tablespoon, two tablespoons, and almost half a cup of cookie dough, respectively. If you only get one, I recommend a #30 scoop since it’s a standard size most cookie recipes call for.
To portion the cookie dough, scrape up enough of it to fill the scoop and make sure to pack the dough in tightly to avoid air pockets and to get a rounded top and flat bottom. Scrape any excess dough against the edge of the bowl. Squeeze the handle and release the round, portioned cookie dough on a baking sheet. That’s it!
2. Scoot the Baked Cookies Into a Precise Circle
As soon as the cookies are done baking and you pull them out of the oven, place a round biscuit cutter, cookie cutter, or bowl, cup, or mug turned upside down over a cookie. Whatever you use should be a little larger than the cookie. Swirl it in small circular motions with the cookies enclosed inside—this will smooth the uneven edges and scoot the cookie into a precise circle. Lift the cutter. Ta-da! Consider yourself an expert cookie baker.
This is important: the cookies must be hot out of the oven for this trick to work. As the cookies cool, they will harden into whatever shape they are in. It will not be possible to reshape them once cooled.