French pâtisserie shops are both delicious and a feast for the eyes. Éclairs, chocolate religieuse, mini lemon tarts, tuiles and canelés, are all perfectly lined up in glass cases making it difficult to choose just one. Part of the appeal of these desserts is the obvious care that goes into their preparation and decorating. Their identical size makes presentation straightforward and almost calming for customers (calming in the only way you can be while faced with life-changing pastry decision making).
Presentation in cooking and baking is just as important as the taste. Even for the most basic and humble dessert, uniformity adds to the appeal. Indeed, cookies are not immune to presentation needs. Older baking books will advise bakers to drop cookie dough by the teaspoon or tablespoon full. This results in various sized cookies of lopsided proportions as well as sticky hands. Enter, the cookie scoop, which, is the same thing as an ice cream scoop but has a handy release mechanism that drops the dough onto the pan without needing an extra spoon or urging the dough out with your fingers. The cookie scoop allows the baker to reach precision in both the size and shape of the cookie.
Cookie scoops come in various sizes as well. My recommendation is to have several sizes on hand. Consider the following sizes when purchasing a cookie scoop:
- Teaspoon: When preparing cookies for children or as part of a larger plate (think of a Christmas cookie tray), I would recommend a teaspoon sized cookie scoop. This allows for little hands to pick them up (and not waste them) and for delicate presentation.
- Tablespoon: for cookies that you bring into the office, where people do not want to commit to a huge cookie before tasting it but are likely to come back for seconds.
- Extra large (like a ¼ cup): If you are following Christina Tosi from Momofuku Milk Bar (she recommends a 2 ¾ ounce or 78 gram scoop for her famous compost cookies) or are preparing cookies for a bake sale.
Apart from measuring and shaping cookie dough, the cookie scoop can also be used for muffin batter, meatballs or items that you want a uniform size and without getting your hands dirty. Of course, you could use it twice in one day- once to scoop cookie dough and a second time to scoop so ice cream on top of the freshly baked cookie.
Once you have all of your baking ingredients and equipment on hand, follow these steps towards making perfect cookies
- Read the recipe before starting. Determine whether ingredients should be cold, melted or at room temperature.
- Measure out all of the ingredients (preferably using a scale).
- Follow the recipe exactly as written (no substitutions, otherwise, find a different recipe).
- Once the cookie dough is ready, use the cookie scoop to portion out the dough. Place onto a prepared baking pan or onto wax paper so that you place in the freezer for later baking.
- Let the dough rest, usually at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
- Bake according to instructions.
When baking with children, I do encourage you to allow them to put their hands in the dough. Roll the dough into a ball and place it on the cookie sheet. This is both fun and a learning opportunity so that they become familiar with textures and you give them permission to get sticky. However, when you’re making cookies for the office or a party, make the small investment of a cookie scoop and you’ll up your game.