A Guide to Cookie Scoops


Christmas cookie season is nearly upon us. Is your kitchen ready?

It's possible to bake cookies with nothing more than a sheet pan, a bowl, and a tablespoon, I suppose, but I wouldn't recommend it. A few specialized tools will make your frenzied weeks of baking a great deal more manageable and enjoyable.

First up is the cookie scoop. Some people insist on calling them "ice cream scoops" still, but I've honestly never seen anyone use one of these on a frozen dessert. No, these mini-dishers are made for raw dough, turning out perfect little mounds that bake up into uniform cookies.


You can find cookie scoops at kitchen and craft stores, as well as in the kitchenware sections of many big-box retailers. Some, like mine, have wide handles you squeeze to push out dough, while others have side levers you press. Both work, and both are difficult to get perfectly clean. Go with what moves you.

Cookie scoops generally available in three sizes:

Small "teaspoon" scoops: These babies hold just about two teaspoons of dough, perfect for petite cookies. In the traditional system of scoop measurement, these would be size #100, as 100 level scoops with one of these dishers would empty a one-quart container. I do not own a small scoop myself, as I don't often seem to make recipes that call for a teaspoon of dough per cookie. Someday.

Medium "tablespoon" scoops: These dishers are my cookie-baking workhorses. Most drop cookie recipes call for one tablespoon of dough per cookie, and a medium scoop drops about one and a half tablespoons. That's OK - as King Arthur Flour's web site states, a generous tablespoon is what most cookie recipes expect people to measure out using the old-school two-spoons method anyway. By the way, a medium scoop is size #40.


Large "bake sale" scoops: I find there's some variation here among manufacturers. Oxo offers a #20 scoop as its large size, which is the size of my Farberware scoop as well. The #20 holds about three tablespoons of dough, making cookies 3½-inches wide. King Arthur Flour sells Zeroll "jumbo" scoops that it says hold 3 tablespoons of dough but are size #30 (about 2 tablespoons). Norpro's scoop is the same. Whatever size you end up with, you'll make whopping big cookies you'll have to bake longer than the original tablespoon-scoop recipe calls for, checking regularly for signs of doneness.

Check out these cookie scoops if you're in the market. Happy scooping!

Great choices (all important varieties available):

Oxo Good Grips Cookie Scoop

Zeroll Universal Color-coded EZ Disher

Alternative choices:

Martha Stewart Collection Small Cookie Scoop

Norpro 35 mm Scoop Stainless Steel

Food Network Sends 12 Days of Cookies Greetings


It's beginning.

If you successfully subscribed to this year's Food Network 12 Days of Cookies newsletter, you should have received the above message in your inbox today. Check your junk folder if you don't see it; if it's not there either, you likely need to resubscribe.

Wouldn't you know it, I got two of these e-mails today. Guess I still was on the list from last year.

If the 12 Days of Cookies sends tingles down your holly-draped spine, check out the link list I added to the right sidebar of this web page (sorry, RSS readers, but you'll have to come visit us fo' reals). You'll find every post I've made in worship of this annual holiday tradition, including the helpful yearly archives. Check those out to rediscover neglected cookies from, say, 2002 or 2004, still available buried deep in the Food Network database.

Picture: Food Network's 12 Days of Cookies Newsletter

Salty Oatmeal Cookies Recipe


The recipe title alone sounded so intriguing that I had decided to make these Salty Oatmeal Cookies before I read on and discovered . . . another roll-out cookie!

If Homer Simpson became a baker, he might yelp, "Dough!"

Tee-hee. I crack myself up.

Honestly, I tried to roll the suckers out, but this dough did not seem at all suited to it. The large oat flakes caused the dough to break apart whenever I lifted it. Thus, I was back to scooping and flattening with a floured glass bottom.

The recipe could use some more detail, frankly. Nowhere does it tell me how big each cookie should be, so there's no way I was going to emerge with three dozen cookies. Also, it would have been helpful to know how much these cookies spread before I crowded a ton onto the first tray.

So here's your warning: They spread a lot. Allow space.


Salty Oatmeal Cookies don't resemble the classic recipe off the top of the Quaker Oats carton. White sugar makes for a very light cookie, and of course, no raisins enter the picture. The cookies also lack the warm spices that make their way into many oatmeal cookie recipes in favor of plain, simple salt.

I elected to use kosher salt rather than table salt for gilding the cookies. I've read larger flakes are better accents, with the texture adding a little crunch. Plus, it's a bit prettier.


Tastewise? I don't know. I think brown sugar, with its more caramel flavor, would be a better base. The cookie flavor as is reminds me strongly of a honey-wheat pretzel, with a slightly sweet, grainy base and strong saltiness.

Not bad. I could see it growing on me. They're a decent snack.

Interested in this recipe? Check out a few other bloggers who have tried it:
Culinary in the Country: Trying to keep my hand out of the cookie jar . . .
The Everyday Gourmet: Salty Oatmeal Cookies

My recipe comments in [brackets].

salty-oatmeal-cookies01.jpgSalty Oatmeal Cookies
Source: The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
Yield: 3 dozen cookies

½ cup (3¼ ounces) vegetable shortening
½ cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1 large egg
1½ cups (6¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling [I used kosher salt for sprinkling]
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups (10½ ounces) rolled oats

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the shortening, butter, and sugar until light. Beat in the egg. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda and stir into the sugar/shortening mixture. Mix in the vanilla and oats. Cover the bowl and chill the dough for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it ¼ inch thick on a lightly floured work surface. Cut it into shapes with your favorite cutter, or simply cut it into squares or diamonds, using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife. Lightly sprinkle the surface of the dough with salt.

4. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until they're just lightly colored at the edges. Remove them from the oven, let rest on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Good Housekeeping's Christmas Cookie Calendar


I caught sight of this link to 30 days of cookie recipes tucked away in my December issue of Good Housekeeping.

Unfortunately, for now it only seems to link to the same 30 Days of Cookies page I saw last year. While they still look lovely, I was hoping they would have a new batch.

Keep an eye on the link for when we actually get within 30 days of Christmas. Maybe we'll see some new cookie recipes appear!

good-housekeeping-dec08sm.jpgIn the meantime, here are links to the cookie recipes Paula Deen provided to Good Housekeeping for their feature on her family's holiday celebrations. Check out the article itself to read the whole story of Paula's now-husband Michael's famed Christmas morning proposal.

Gingerbread Boys & Girls: A holiday classic! I love a good spice cookie.

Sand Tarts: This recipe page even includes the cute origin story for the recipe that appears in the magazine. I love pecans, so this recipe might merit further investigation for me.

Hidden Mint Cookies: For the wannabe baker, this recipe is really more a method for combining a store-bought cookie with store-bought dough. If you are timid about baking or feel pressed for time, you might want to try this one. Good Housekeeping suggests letting the sugar cookie dough firm up in the freezer for at least 6 hours or overnight to make slicing easier.

Pecan Clusters: Paula herself points out that these are less cookies than individual bites of instant fudge. But what's wrong with fudge, now?

White Chocolate Cherry Chunkies: I have to admit I find this recipe intriguing. Unlike many, I don't find white chocolate repulsive, and I'm not against the idea of candied cherries, either. They look festive!

The Quest to Create a Cookie Recipe

lemon-coolers03.jpgI own at least dozen cookbooks featuring cookie recipes. I subscribe to several magazines offering at least occasional cookie recipes. I also have the Internet and its vast cookie recipe collection at my disposal 24/7.

I bake hundreds of cookies every holiday season. I own cookie scoops, a food scale, cutters, and four cookie sheets. I started a blog all about baking cookies.

You get the idea I have an interest in cookie making?

chocolate-snaps02.jpgOne thing I have never done, though, is create my very own cookie. Sure, I've messed around with other people's recipes, swapping in different mix-ins or substituting one sugar or extract for another. I even once modified a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe to create double chocolate chip cookies.

Still, I've never conceived an original cookie concept and developed my own recipe for it. Reading the Bakers' Banter blog over the past few months has convinced me that baked goods don't have to come from time-honored formulas, though. Instead, new cookie recipes come from ideas put into practice using the basic skills any baker has developed. You use your sense of how ingredients work together to get started, and then you simply tweak each batch as you go until you achieve perfection.

OK, that really probably isn't so simple. But hey, I need the motivation to start!

Right now, I'm considering what sorts of characteristics and flavors I like in cookies. In addition, I'm thinking about other desserts I like but would like more if they were as convenient to bake and store as cookies.

Some ideas:

Cookie types: I love buttery shortbread and chewy oatmeal cookies. I don't care for roll-out cookies (so much work!), but I'm not against slice-and-bakes.

Mix-ins: I'm a huge fan of nuts, especially almonds and pecans. Dried fruits, such as cranberries and dates, also sound good. Chocolate chunks are nice, but I'm leery of non-chocolate chips and their strange ingredients. I'm wondering whether fresh fruits like apples could work.

Flavors: I have some maple and almond extracts in the cupboard screaming to get used. I enjoy excessive vanilla extract in baked goods as well -- less and you don't really notice it. Warm, sweet spices like nutmeg and cinnamon make me happy, but I'm not so keen on including any overly unusual herbs or spices.

Desserts: It occurs to me, what with Thanksgiving around the corner, that I don't like baking pie. I love eating homemade pie, but raw pastry and I don't get along. Why not a nice apple pie cookie instead? Or what about creme brulée or butter cake, while we're on the subject?

What do you think? Any cookie cravings out there?

Chocolate Snaps


I waited until the witching hour, but I finally managed to bake the Halloween cookies I've been planning all month.

Not that I haven't been baking. I've churned out several loaves of bread (two this past week alone), a couple batches of muffins, and two dozen carrot cupcakes with pumpkin-hued cream cheese frosting to get us in the Halloween mood.

Mmm. Carrot cake. Aaaauuughhhhh.

Anyway, I decided that Halloween demanded dark chocolate cookies, especially since I'd already gone the fall-spice route with the cupcakes. Preferably, cookies made from a recipe calling for Dutch-process cocoa, which produces baked goods as black as my wicked heart.


And black my heart felt after struggling fiercely with this extremely soft dough. I chilled it for three hours, which was the minimum suggested, but I doubt a longer rest would have helped matters. Maybe a nice marble gravestone to roll on . . .

I heavily floured the countertop, as instructed, but the cookies sucked it up like vampires at a blood bank. I managed to get three cookies off the counter without resorting to my bench scraper. The rest got reformed into circles on the baking sheet.

Next, I tried patting the dough out straight onto the cookie sheet with my hands, punching out the cookies and pulling off the excess. That method worked all right, but the dough still stuck the rolling pin and it was a pain to peel up the excess.

I tried slicing a log of dough, but the soft dough squished into little rectangles. I couldn't slice it thin enough, either. Still, this method yielded some success when I rolled the cut dough into balls, placed them on the cookie sheets, and pressed them flat with a greased glass bottom.

I cast a spell on you, recipe, and now you're mine!

A ghost of a problem: The flattened cookies turned out bigger than the 2-1/4 inches called for in the recipe, so I only ended up with 53 cookies, far from eight to nine dozen. I never hit the recipe yield right, though, so no big deal.


The cookies taste a lot like slightly soft Oreos, appropriate since one of the variations calls for sandwiching them around a creamy filling. If you love the classic lunchbox cookie, you'll enjoy these.

I usually avoid roll-out cookies (and pie dough) because of these hassles. They're the monsters under my baking bed; the boogeymen in my cookie closet. But tonight, I persevered and triumphed; the brains of Frankenstein combined with the cunning of the Wolfman pulled me through the ordeal.

Happy Halloween!

My comments in [brackets].

chocolate-snaps03.jpgChocolate Snaps
Source: King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook
Yield: 8 to 9 dozen cookies [I ended up with 53 cookies]

1-1/2 cups (6-1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (2-1/4 ounces) Dutch-process cocoa powder [natural cocoa is given as a possible substitution, but your cookies will turn out reddish rather than blackish]
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounce) sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder, whisking until no lumps remain. In a separate, larger bowl, beat the butter until light. Add the sugar and continue beating until it's well incorporated. Then add the egg, water, and vanilla and beat for at least 2 minutes, until the mixture has lightened both in color and texture. [The change is dramatic.] Gently mix in the dry ingredients.

2. Shape the dough into a flattened disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, or overnight. This dough is very soft, so it's imperative that it's been chilled before you roll it out.

3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two or three baking sheets. [Actually, if you rolled the cookie dough out on the parchment, transferred the paper to the sheet, cut the cookies, and removed the excess, that might work better than the coming step . . .]

4. On a clean, heavily floured work surface, roll the dough to a 1/8-inch thickness, and use a round cutter to cut it into 2-1/4-inch circles. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets. They won't expand a great deal, so you don't need a lot of space between them.

5. Bake the cookies for 17 to 18 minutes. (Watch them carefully; it's difficult to tell when they're done, as they're so dark you can't see if they're brown, but when you start to smell them they're probably done. If you smell even a whiff of scorching, remove them from the oven immediately.) Transfer the cookies to a rack and cool them completely.

Nutrition (1 cookie, 7 g): 30 calories, 1 g fat, 1 g protein, 2 g complex carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 6 mg cholesterol, 14 mg sodium, 14 mg potassium, 14 RE vitamin A, 3 mg calcium, 8 mg phosphorus, 2 mg caffeine

Optional: Frost the cookies with orange-tinted Vanilla Yogurt Frosting for a spooky treat.

Vanilla Yogurt Frosting

This basic frosting recipe requires no eggs, sugar syrup, or double boiler. It's easy to whip up in under 10 minutes with ingredients you likely have on hand anyway.

It's an adaptation of a recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook
that my mom uses to frost her cakes and sugar cookies. This recipe makes a larger quantity than the original, enough for frosting and filling a double-layer cake or icing a whole lot of cookies.

I used plain, whole-milk yogurt to develop this recipe, but I would guess that any sort of yogurt would work, including vanilla yogurt. And if you don't have yogurt around, follow the original recipe's lead and use milk.

chocolate-snaps03.jpgVanilla Yogurt Frosting
Source: The Cookie Book
Yield: Enough frosting for covering and filling a double-layer cake (maybe about two cans' worth)

½ cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter
4 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 to 5 tablespoons plain yogurt
Optional: Food coloring

1. In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until softened.

2. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low until the sugar is worked into the butter.

3. Add the vanilla and 3 tablespoons of the yogurt. Beat the frosting on high until it's soft and fluffy.

4. Add food coloring and mix it into the frosting until you achieve the desired color. Then, if necessary, beat in more yogurt, a tablespoon at a time, until you achieve your desired consistency.