A few weeks back, Stella Parks—the brilliant, James Beard Award–winning pastry genius behind Serious Eats and BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts—was kind enough to reward me for falling into a deep, deep social media–scrolling wormhole with an expert lesson in cookies.
On Instagram, she posted this crazy-useful 15-second tip for making freshly baked chocolate chip cookies perfectly round—one of a few cookie-related issues I struggle with regularly—and I've been able to think of little else since:
It goes like this:
1. Take your cookies out when they're still a tiny bit under-baked.
Parks notes that this trick should be done on a hot baking sheet, while the cookies are still in the final stages of firming up.
"The reshaping needs to be done immediately after the cookies come out of the oven, while they're still totally molten and unstructured," she says. "All of my recipes opt to slightly under-bake the cookies, so carryover cooking will finish them off on the tray."
For folks using a recipe that has them fully bake the cookies in-oven then immediately transfer to a cooling rack, she notes that taking the baking sheet out a minute or two early will help make the batch viable for this trick.
2. Grab a cookie cutter (or something similar) that's a bit wider than your cookies.
Parks uses a cookie cutter that's slightly larger than the cookie itself to conduct the reshaping.
I personally don't have a large stock of cookie cutter sizes, so I've tried this with an overturned mug, cup, and even a small bowl, and it's worked perfectly each time (although visibility is limited, whereas with Parks' cookie cutter, you can see what you're doing the whole time). I've found that it's best to have roughly 1/3-inch to 3/4-inch of space between the cookie's edge and the rounded tool you're using (e.g., cutter, mug, bowl). In tests with something much wider than the cookie, it was way too easy to accidentally gain extraneous force and cause the cookie to sink in on itself in the reshaping process.
3. Move the hot cookie around in a circular motion within the rounded mold for about 15 seconds.
As Parks demonstrates in the video, the reshaping trick is super simple: Just swoosh around the rounded mold (cookie cutter, overturned mug/cup, overturned bowl) in a circle with the still-molten cookie inside of it for roughly 10 to 15 seconds. The edges of the cookie will be pliable enough that this will cause them to take on the rounded shape of the mold you're using. The result? Perfectly rounded cookies.
Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.