Cookie dough for shaping and molding is buttery and pliable, yet tolerant of handling. It can be rolled, twisted, and formed into shapes, such as twisty pretzels or fluted cups, that are not possible to create with a cutter. This kind of dough also holds an impression. You can imprint it with simple linear patterns like the familiar criss-cross (see recipe for Sesame Fork Cookies), or mold it to produce a cookie with a handsome rope edge and center medallion (see recipe for Traditional Shortbread).
Shaped and molded cookies look best when all the cookies in a batch are similar in size and shape. Cookies will also bake more evenly if each is the same size. Take a little time to become familiar with this type of dough so you can develop just the right touch for each cookie, whether it's a delicate chocolate-dipped pirouette (see technique for Pirouettes) or a spicy coiled Cinnamon Snail (see our recipe). The steps for making balls and ropes from cookie dough as shown in the following steps demonstrate important basics that you will use throughout your enjoyment of cookie baking.
Divide the dough into equal portions of about 1 tablespoon each. Roll each portion between the palms of your hands until it is nicely rounded and smooth all over. Place the balls on lightly greased cookie sheets.
Pressing with a Fork
Leave several inches between the dough balls. Flatten the cookies with the tines of a fork, then create crisscross lines by pressing again with the fork tines perpendicular to the first marks.
Divide the dough log into 1/2-inch pieces. Roll each piece into a thin 8-inch rope by working it back and forth with your fingers on a lightly floured surface. As you roll the dough, work from the center out to lengthen it.
Although not a true pretzel shape because it lacks the twist shown in step 5, this shape is similar and is slightly easier to accomplish. Lay one rope of dough on the baking sheet. Form a circle by crossing one end over the other, overlapping about 1 inch from the ends. Bring the ends down to the opposite edge of the circle. Press gently to seal.