Thursday, May 3, 2012

How much dough do I need?

Let's see... A cool million should do it! What with college and weddings to pay for, a European vacation would be nice, no mortgage... Oh, sorry, you meant cookie dough. Good question!

If you're making cookies for fun, a batch'll do ya.  But, what's that?  You say you need 100 cookie favors for your best friend's wedding shower on Saturday?  And it's already Wednesday?  It would be in your very best interest to make enough dough in the first place, because your best friend is getting married, and you have a ton of other things to do for her, let alone stop everything to make more.  I used to just guess and hope for the best, but I've had enough late night dough emergencies to not want to go there ever again.  2AM dough is usually missing something... like vanilla.  Or it has too much of something... like baking powder (not good!)  Not that I've ever had those kinds of disasters, of course... just waiting for the butter to soften when you're half asleep is torture enough! 

Anyway, unless you are a really good guesser, there are a few things you can do to figure out how much cookie dough you need.  First step is to know how far your dough will go.  Kind of like your household budget - the batch of dough is your paycheck, and the cookies are your bills.  A single batch for me is about 29oz.  If I have used a cutter previously, I already know what it weighs  - every time I use a cutter for the first time I weigh the cutout & keep a pile of post-its fancy shmancy spreadsheet to keep track.   For instance, rolled at 3/8" thick, my 1" square cutter is  .33oz of dough, so if I needed 100 of that cookie I would need (at the very least) 33oz of dough.  One batch of my dough would not be enough! (I would have guessed that it would have been... so there ya go - a dough emergency for sure!)  

I also try to keep a little spare dough (like 10X 5X re-rolled-dough) in the fridge just for this purpose: I can cut one out & weigh it, re-roll the dough & back in the fridge it goes - for a while anyway - you know, dough only lasts so long...  (What's that?  Yeah, that's true, since you have to make at least one batch anyway, you could just cut one out of that to see how much more to make - duh brilliant!) 

But sometimes I don't have spare dough and I am impatient, and like to plan ahead.  Way ahead.  Like, I want to know last week how much time I need to spend making dough tomorrow, and to be sure I don't wind up on a 2AM flour run. So, since I am impatient and may not have any spare dough, I developed a very scientific way of figuring out how much dough to make.  My friend Lisa over at 148 Cookie Street thinks I'm crazy (she's one of those good guessers, so she thinks lots of things I do are crazy!), but it works for me.  Ready?  I trace the cutter onto grid paper (the kind with 1/4" squares) and then count the squares.   The 1" cutter is 16 squares, and weighs .33oz -  therefore, one square is approximately .02oz.  That means if my traced cutter is, say, 75 squares, the cutout will weigh 1.5oz and if I need 36 of that cookie, I will need (at least) 54oz of dough.  Sounds complicated, but it really only takes a minute to do.  In the name of science I have tested this method and have found that it is accurate to .003oz on square and rectangle cutters.    As we all know, not all cutters are created equal... they ranged from .017 - .02oz per square so I use the .02 as my norm.  For odd shaped cutters, I guesstimate (yes, I actually do sometimes...!) the partial squares - like two half-ish squares equal one, an almost full square counts as one, and barely-there squares don't count at all.   It seems to work well - because after I cut the actual dough out, I weigh it for my post-it stack spreadsheet so I'll have it for next time, and so far I've been pretty accurate! (After re-reading this paragraph, I'm beginning to think Lisa might be right about me!)

Now, I know the question you are dying to ask me is... So why not just make a lot of dough & so what if there is some left over?  Sure it's nice to have extra dough, but I will tell you...  I have a 5QT mixer, and making a single batch is no biggie.  To save time, I can do a double batch, but it isn't quite as easy - it's no fun trying to keep all 6 cups of flour in there & not all over me the kitchen!   So, if I can get away with  making 1 batch over 2, or a double batch over 3, you can bet that's what I'm gonna do!    Of course I add some to my "calculation" so that I can make extras in case any cookies get accidentally eaten prematurely broken, burnt, dropped, or should any other tragedy befall them.  And I haven't been short on dough in a very, very long time!

So, there you have it.  I'm crazy a planner.  I hope you don't mind too much 'cause I plan to tackle that list from my first post over the next few weeks.  You know the one - buy, measure, mix, chill, roll, cut, bake, plan, measure more, mix more, color, flood, detail, clean... yep, that one!  So, please come back & visit soon! 

Disclaimer:  I do need to point out that if you don't use some kind of guide (rings, dowels, dough board etc.) or if you roll a different thickness each time, all of these methods are pretty much completely useless.  In which case I hope you are a good guesser...



  1. Awesome organization and planning here! Now, I'm bookmarking this post to come back and re-read after having my morning coffee! :)

  2. I love the idea of using the grid to guess how much dough you'll need! Very smart. I may have to try your method sometime!

  3. You've inspired me to get organized! I'm currently a guesser, and not a very good one! Great idea to weigh your cutouts.

  4. @ Janine - thanks! Enjoy your day : )

    @ Debbie - Thanks - it really does help a lot!

    @ Jaclyn - Thanks! I love knowing how much they weigh already - I also note how long to bake & it really saves time!

  5. Michelle:
    Love your blog and it is very informative...I never thought to measure my might be something I will have to try...


    1. Thanks Roxanne! Love the name "Sugar Fairy" by the way... sprinkling love and magic on your cookies : )