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Basics for Making Molded Cookies

Molded cookies, made from stiff dough, are shaped by hand or in a mold before baking.

Hand-Molded Cookies

Cookies can be hand-shaped into wreaths, crescents, canes, logs, and balls.

Balls are sometimes shaped further, either flattened with the bottom of a glass, mashed lightly with a thumbprint, or pressed with a fork in a crisscross pattern (as for peanut butter cookies.)

Some cookies, such as hermits or biscotti, are molded into large flattened loaves and later cut into smaller cookies.

Almond crescents, shortbread, madeleines, snickerdoodles, thumbprints, and biscotti are classic hand-shaped cookies.

Cookies Formed in Molds

You can also shape cookies using cookie molds, mold pans, cookie stamps, or a specialty rolling pin (a Springerle rolling pin) – each created with designs to be pressed into the dough. Designs can be simple or intricate, often producing edible works of cookie art.

The Elf's Top Tips for Molding Cookie Dough

  • If dough is too soft or sticky, cover and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes before shaping and baking. Scrape down the side of the bowl before chilling the dough.
  • Don’t allow the dough to become too cold or it will be hard to shape.
  • If dough is too cold, allow it to sit at room temperature until easy to handle.
  • To create uniformly-sized hand-molded cookies, scoop the dough with a spoon, melon ball shaper, or a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism.

How to Mold Dough That Is Too Sticky

Cookie Baking Tip #31 for molded cookies with The Cookie Elf

If the dough is too sticky to handle, try one of these options.

1. Refrigerate dough until it is slightly chilled and stiffer.

2. Dust your hands with flour, powdered sugar, or cocoa powder to prevent sticking.

3. Rinse your hands in cold water to cool your hands and prevent sticking. Wash your hands periodically between rolling cookies to prevent further stickiness.

How to Mold Cookies Into Balls

To form dough into balls, grasp a heaping teaspoon of dough with your fingertips. Roll the dough between your palms until it forms a ball. Roll the balls quickly and only 3 or 4 times between the palms of your hands. If the dough is rolled too much, it will become too soft and cause the cookies to not hold their shape while baking.

How to Coat Molded Cookies With Toppings

You can layer shaped cookies with a coating to modify the appearance, flavor, or texture – or all three. Finely chopped nuts, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, decorative sugars, nonpareils, or sugar sprinkles are often used to coat cookies.

Roll or dip shaped cookies in water or egg whites to allow coatings to adhere evenly to cookies. Place a small amount of the coating in a shallow pan or pie plate. This way, each cookie will have a fresh coating and crumbs will not sully the rest of the toppings. Add just a few cookies at a time to the pan. Gently shake the pan back and forth to roll cookies and coat them.

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