Whether you’re making sugar cookies or gingerbread men, there comes a time in every baker’s routine when you need to roll out cookie dough. Many bakers avoid cut-out cookies because it can get messy, but if you know how to handle your dough correctly, rolling it out is a piece of cake.
How to roll out cookie dough
There are a number of recipes that require you to roll out the dough before getting your cookie cutters out. I always recommend working with cookie doughs that spread less, as these give you the best definition in the finished bake.
Regardless of flavor — and even if you’re using store-bought dough — these helpful hints will apply.
The dough will likely need to be prepared in advance and chilled before you roll it out. Chilling the dough makes it firmer and easier to handle. It’s less likely to stick to your work surface and your cookie cutter cuts will come out cleaner.
Some doughs are so soft that they need to be frozen before rolling, while others are dry enough that you can work them almost immediately. Follow your recipe’s directions to find out how long to chill the dough.
If your kitchen is warm — or you simply like to take your time and feel the dough warm up as you work with it — divide your dough into smaller pieces and work with one chunk at a time instead of using the whole batch.
Hint: If the dough becomes too sticky to handle, pop it back in the fridge.
Choosing your rolling pin
You can use any kind of rolling pin to roll out your dough, but for cookies, I prefer flat rolling pins over the tapered variety. Flat rolling pins make it a little bit easier to get an even thickness to your cookies, which is important to ensure that they bake evenly
The work surface
Make sure you have a clean, flat work surface to roll out your dough. If you don’t have a flat space on the countertop — and a 24″ square space is usually enough to get by — you can use a large cutting board or even a clean baking sheet. I used to use a large wooden cutting board when I had a tile counter that wasn’t well-suited to rolling out dough.
Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and place the dough in the center, giving it a light dusting of flour. The dough should still move around slightly as you work with it, and not get stuck in place. A bench scraper is a handy tool to have to double check that the dough is not stuck.
Roll out the dough to the thickness directed by your recipe. Try to use an even pressure on the rolling pin to create cookies of an equal thickness. Thicker cookies tend to be a bit chewier and can hold up to a generous layer of icing, while thinner cookies tend to be crisp.
Try to get as many cut-outs from the sheet of rolled out dough as possible. The scraps can be gathered up and gently kneaded together before rolling them out for a second batch.
If you’ve added too much flour to your workspace, the extra flour could cause the third and fourth batches of cookie dough to become a bit tough, so aim to get the most out of the first and second roll.
Preparing your oven
Make sure the oven is preheated before you even begin to work with the dough. Place the cut-out cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet as you cut them, and then pop them into the oven when the sheet is full.
Most cut-out cookie doughs don’t spread too much, so you may be able to place your cookies slightly closer together than you would a standard batch of chocolate chip cookies. Leave enough room that they have a chance to cook evenly.
Tips & troubleshooting for rolling out cookie dough
- All purpose flour works well for dusting the countertop in most cookie recipes, but feel free to use gluten free flour if you’re making something like gluten free cut-out cookies.
- If your dough is sticking a lot, use a little more flour or pop the dough into the freezer for a few minutes. Generally, a little extra flour won’t hurt if it helps your cookies get in the oven!
- Dip your cookie cutter in a bit of flour to ensure the dough doesn’t stick to it. This will also cause your shapes to come out with crisp edges.
- If your cookies are stuck after you cut them out, use a bench scraper or spatula to gently pry them off the counter and transfer them to a baking sheet.