Cookie

This Trick Will Free You From the Frustrations of Rolling Out Cookie Dough

November 30, 2016

Many sugar cookie recipes will ask you to chill the dough post-mixing—and for good reason. As baking buff Erin McDowell has explained, room temperature butter is more likely than cold butter to glom onto the work surface (and, consequently, to require extra flour protection, leading to less tender cookies). Plus, when the dough rests under refrigeration, the protein strands relax and it becomes less susceptible to shrinking as you roll it, cut it, and bake it.


The Problem

But, I have an issue: I find it terribly difficult to hammer down the now-hard dough to the intended thickness (and just as difficult to wait for it to thaw).

Once I've gotten to 1/4 inch or, heaven help me, 1/8 inch, I've re-warmed the dough up so much that it's glued to the surface, holding the gingerbread man's arms and legs hostage. No matter how much flour I add—and how much tougher I risk making the cookies—the integrity of the shapes is doomed.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

The Fix

Over the past three days, a small team of us baked 18 different sugar cookie recipes (more answers to your "What were you thinking?!" question later this month—just you wait!) and, in the process, came across a solution from Dorie Greenspan that will forever change the way we roll out dough. (No one is surprised.)

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I chill it in the pie plates themselves instead of between parchment or waxed paper, (less fridge space and safer for dough) though the top crust may need to warm up a few minutes to be more pliable for crimping. (I use this method even if I roll pie dough onto a floured counter. Just roll it up on the pin and unroll it onto the pie plate before refrigerating.) P.S. I like shortbread dough for cut-out cookies; it only has to go into the fridge for 30 minutes -- or--if you're quick, not at all!! Great for kids. Shortbread also keeps better (than sugar cookies), as it has no eggs in the dough--a real plus. ”
— Alyce M.
Comment

Instead of rolling the cookie dough post-chilling, Dorie suggests rolling it out pre-chilling, but between two sheets of parchment paper instead of on a floured work surface. Sandwiched by parchment, your very-pliable dough has no chance of latching onto your rolling pin or your kitchen counter. Once you've got it at your desired thickness, you can carry the flattened dough right on over to the refrigerator, where it can chill until firm. (If the dough slab is going to be too large, just cut it into pieces and stack them up with parchment dividers.)

You needn't have an expanse of clean marble or incredible forearm strength for nice-looking cookies! With parchment as protection, rolling out cookie dough has never been easier or neater.

And, bonus tip (!), since the dough is already on parchment paper, you can cut out the shapes you want, then let them remain in their same place: By pulling away the scraps around the cuts rather than trying to transfer the cookies themselves (in other words, by messing with the negative space and leaving the positive space alone), you'll keep your reindeer and snowmen perfectly intact. Reroll the scraps later.

Ready to roll?

And, for a little help getting started...

Share your best sugar cookie tip in the comments below.

82 Comments

teresa December 15, 2016
We've always done this in my family, as far back as my Grandmother, who is now 104!! <br />
 
karen December 11, 2016
this brilliant article should start with a drum roll and a TaaDaa!!
 
Scott P. December 7, 2016
I have done this with pie crusts forever. Good tip for cookies, never thought to do that.
 
Julie G. December 7, 2016
So what was the best sugar cookie after the test?
 
JoAnne L. December 6, 2016
I've always used very fine granulated sugar with a tiny bit of flour to roll my chilled sugar cookie dough. I like mine rolled very thin and do it in small batches while the rest of the dough remains in the fridge. I find the parchment paper method clumsy and awkward for me.
 
Sandie December 6, 2016
I love to cook and bake...but I detest rolling out dough so I simply don't make recipes that require rolling. Interesting article...but I still won't be breaking out the rolling pin anytime soon!<br /><br />Now I have an urge to bake some drop cookies! :)
 
patti P. December 5, 2016
Patti Paige<br />I use this technique as well, and describe it in my cookie book, (You Can't Judge a Cookie by It's Cutter). I like to keep a pile of rolled out dough between parchment sheets in the freezer for when I have to bake a few cookies. But when I am rolling many cookies at once I prefer to roll out the dough after brief refrigeration on a pastry cloth or piece of canvas, very lightly dusted with flour. The nap of the cloth helps to keep the flour from sticking and you can roll out all your cookies until you use up all the dough without constant refrigeration.
 
Leanne V. December 5, 2016
So smart!
 
Linda December 5, 2016
I think we should credit our Grandmother's and Mom's. I'm 73 and have been passionate about cooking since I was a young girl and I've been doing the wax paper method since my 20's...way before Cook's Illustrated:-)
 
Ian December 5, 2016
This is a great technique but not new. Cook's Illustrated has suggested this method for their gingerbread cookie recipe for many years in their holiday baking issue. It works perfectly every time- I suggest we attribute credit to the folks at America's test kitchen.
 
Smaug December 5, 2016
This (like most of their innovations) is way older than America's Test Kitchen.
 
Alyce M. December 5, 2016
I do this for pie dough, too; it rolls out much easier if not chilled first. I chill it in the pie plates themselves instead of between parchment or waxed paper, (less fridge space and safer for dough) though the top crust may need to warm up a few minutes to be more pliable for crimping. (I use this method even if I roll pie dough onto a floured counter. Just roll it up on the pin and unroll it onto the pie plate before refrigerating.) P.S. I like shortbread dough for cut-out cookies; it only has to go into the fridge for 30 minutes -- or--if you're quick, not at all!! Great for kids. Shortbread also keeps better (than sugar cookies), as it has no eggs in the dough--a real plus.
 
Jenni December 5, 2016
jcnNorcal, do you HAVE to be so superior and sarcastic? There are LOTS of people who are just starting out on their journey for whom that information will be very helpful!
 
Jo M. December 5, 2016
Hey Jenni - I think you've misunderstood what jcnNorcal was saying.<br />Anyway, whoever said what, I for one was glad of this advice, even though I have been preparing food from scratch for many years (in my 60s). <br />I am a good cook (including fancy stuff) though I say it myself....but I am not a good baker, and when baking all advice is welcome
 
Jenni December 5, 2016
I've just re-read it, and Indeed I did Jo, I will apologise immediately, thank you for bringing it to my attention :-) I'm an ok cook and am also in my sixties, it never would have occurred to me to put anything I'm rolling between two sheets of parchment, waxed paper, or cling film...but it definitely makes sense.
 
carla G. December 5, 2016
Everyone gets different info from different places and learns to cook at different ages. It's great that no matter how old it is it's available to folks that may not be hip to Cooks. Love that site/show/mag btw!
 
jcnNorcal December 5, 2016
Brilliant. As for you "I don't know what the big deal is, I've done this for years" people. We get it, you are smarter than everyone.
 
Jenni December 5, 2016
Hey, my sincerest apologies, I misread what you said, and took you to task over it. :-(
 
Elizabeth S. December 5, 2016
Those same cookie cutout tips AND more right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nx9z8ljnzQ (from Elizabeth Stinson, Cooking with the Cul-de-sac Woman). Click the YouTube link to also see how to make Sugar/Classic AND Gingerbread cutouts from ONE batch (using my original 2-for-1 shortcut idea, "gingerbread sludge concentrate" which easily transforms half of the classic dough into gingerbread dough, yielding both/two holiday cutout cookie doughs!). OR, simply visit Elizabeth Stinson Cooking with the Cul-de-sac Woman at www.youtube.com and see my "2-for-1" Christmas Cookie Cutout Dough Recipe! Also @cookingwiththe.culdesacwoman on Facebook. @EstinStinson on Twitter. cookingwiththeculdesacwoman on Instagram. #MindfulHomeCooking
 
Meleyna N. December 4, 2016
I've also been doing this for years. The parchment tends to slip and slide around the counter though. To solve this, I cut the bottom piece of parchment extra long and let it hang over the countertop. That way, when I lean up against the countertop while rolling, it holds it in place.
 
Elizabeth S. December 5, 2016
Great minds think alike :)<br />
 
Sara Q. December 5, 2016
Also you can put a small dab of butter or oil underneath the corners of parchment to anchor, preventing sliding around.<br />Merry Christmas to you and yours!
 
carla G. December 5, 2016
Thought I was the only one that did that! Lol.
 
Jane December 4, 2016
Where has this tip been all my cookie baking life?? What a great idea? Same process would also apply to pie dough I assume. Very inspired to rush to bake now! Thanks for the great idea!
 
Jo M. December 4, 2016
What a brilliant tip, it will revolutionize my Xmas baking! Good old Food52 always giving amazing advice.
 
Linda December 4, 2016
Yes, it does. If you go back and read the thread I commented that I've been my pie crust that way for years. Works like a charm.
 
Briana M. December 4, 2016
Does this work with pie dough as well then?
 
Karen M. December 4, 2016
Judging by the comments, I would think a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom, and a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap on top might be a good combination to try. I tend to bake my cookies on parchment.<br />
 
Elizabeth S. December 5, 2016
You might get some sticking on the wax paper.