INSIDE: Maximize your time in the kitchen with my 3 tips to simplify cookies — including the versatile recipe for cookie bars that works with all your favorite cookie doughs!
Our entire family loves “goodies” (as 3-year old Simon officially coined all sweet treats several years ago.)
Cookies, bars, cakes, pies, fudge, brownies, ice cream, and more are welcome additions to our menu plan all year long.
Although we don’t always have dessert with every meal, I like to keep a variety of goodies in the freezer for last-minute company, when I bring meals to others, or to surprise the kids with a special after-school snack.
Cookies are definitely the kids’ go-to goodie of choice…
But I rarely feel like making cookies at the last minute because I need to haul out my mixer and all the ingredients, scoop out dozens of individual cookie dough balls, and dutifully rotate cookie sheets every 8 to 12 minutes so the cookies don’t burn.
I suppose the easy (and more calorie-friendly solution) would be to give up cookies… but that would never fly with my family!
Instead, I simplify the cookie-making process!
This means we get to enjoy eating and sharing hundreds of cookies throughout the year in less time and with less mess (and I resent the process less too.)
Then keep reading. 🍪
3 Ways to Simplify Cookies
1. Bake a bunch of cookies at one time and freeze them.
This option is the least messy because you make the dough, bake the cookies, and do all the cleanup at one time.
It’s also really nice to have a selection of already-baked cookies in the freezer, ready to go at a moment’s notice (they defrost in less than 20 minutes).
NOTE: If you have limited freezer space, you should consider that frozen cookies take up more space than frozen cookie dough (they are also more fragile than cookie dough).
2. Freeze balls of cookie dough.
I LOVE having a freezer stuffed full of cookie dough balls!
It’s a little more work upfront because you need to flash-freeze the cookie dough balls (see instructions below), and you’ll eventually have cookie sheets to wash whenever you decide to bake the cookies.
However, cookie dough balls take up much less space in the freezer and they allow us to enjoy the taste of fresh-from-the-oven cookies with very little effort.
I usually make 4 or 5 types of cookie dough in one day, do all the cleanup at one time, and then have a variety of cookie dough balls to choose from for months and months.
It’s so fun to effortlessly surprise the kids with a fresh-from-the-oven cookie after school.
Other times, I simply ask everyone what type of cookie they’d like after dinner, pop a few different varieties on a cookie sheet, and let them bake while we eat (you’ll want to increase baking time by roughly 2 minutes for frozen cookie dough).
QUICK TIP: When freezing cookie dough balls, “flash freeze” them on a cookie sheet before transferring them to a zip-top bag or storage container so they don’t stick to eachother.
3. Make cookie bars instead of individual cookies.
If you love your favorite cookie dough but don’t have the patience to scoop individual cookie balls and rotate cookie sheets every few minutes, try cookie bars instead.
Simply scoop a bunch of cookie dough (roughly 4 to 5 cups) into a 9″ x 13″ pan and pop it in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
I can fit SIX 9″ x 13″ pans in my oven at one time, and I get 2 to 3 dozen bars per pan, so this is a fantastic way for me to make a massive number of “goodies” for a fraction of the time and effort!
Cookies bars are SO easy to make — I’d almost say you don’t need a recipe.
In fact, I never use a formal recipe — I just press my favorite cookie dough in whatever pan I want to use, filling the pan roughly 1/3 to 1/2 full of dough (similar to how full the pan is for a batch of brownies).
However, since I know most people want a recipe to follow (especially the first time) I made a point to measure how much cookie dough I use for various pans — along with the time it takes to bake cookie bars in my oven.
If you’re short on time (or if you just don’t have the energy or patience for individual cookies), treat your family to cookie bars instead!
- 3-6 cups of your favorite homemade or store bought cookie dough (see notes below)
- some sort of rimmed baking pan
- Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Grease the bottoms and sides of whatever pan you want to use.
- Make or buy your favorite cookie dough (or defrost cookie dough from the freezer)
- Press cookie dough into greased pan, filling roughly 1/3 to 1/2 full.
- Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes (for a 9" x 13" pan), or until the edges are slightly browned.
- Cool completely before cutting into bars.
The center of the dough will seem giggly when you remove it from the oven -- this is OK, they should set up nicely as your cookie bars cool.
If the center is fully set when you remove the pan from the oven, your cookie bars will most likely be crumbly and dry. If this happens, you can crumble them fully and use this recipe to make cookie crumb truffles (they are AMAZING and perfect for over-baked cookies)
NOTES on Pan Size and amount of dough to use:
- 9 " x 13" pan = 4-5 cups of dough
- 9" x 9" pan = 3-4 cups of dough
- 9" glass pie pan = 3 cups of dough
- Pizza pan = 6+ cups of dough
Keep in mind this all depends on how thick you want your bars, how your oven bakes, and what type of pan you're using.
If you want very thin bars, use less dough and bake for a shorter amount of time.
If you want super thick bars, use more dough and bake longer. You might also want to reduce the baking temp to 325 and cover with foil for the last 10 minutes or so, to prevent browning.
If your oven bakes "slow" or "fast", watch your bars the first few times and adjust the baking time accordingly.
If you use glass pans you'll need to bake the bars for a few minutes longer than if you use non-stick or coated pans.
Personally, I just use my best judgement (I never actually measure the dough). I fill the pans roughly 1/3 to 1/2 full -- similar to what I would do for making brownies. Then I keep an eye on them for the last few minutes of baking time, and I never have any issues!
Try cookie “cake”, “pie”, and “bread” too!
I usually make my cookie bars in a 9″ x 13″ or 9″ x 9″ pan because I have several pans in those sizes, many of which have tight-fitting lids.
HOWEVER, you can bake cookie dough in ANY size pan.
If you have more dough, use a jellyroll pan and add a few minutes to the baking time.
If you have less dough, bake it in a bread loaf pan (don’t fill more than 1/2 way full otherwise the middle won’t set before the outside browns).
If you want a “cookie cake”, use a cheesecake pan, a round cake pan, a glass pie pan, or even a rimmed pizza pan for a huge “cookie cake” or “cookie pie”.
Dave’s mom has done this for the kids a few times and apparently, eating cookies that are cut into wedges like pizza (with frosting) makes it that much better!
Whatever size pan you use, I’m sure they’ll be a hit!
These 3 cookie-making tips will allow you to regularly treat your family and friends to lots of “goodies” without spending all day in the kitchen scooping individual cookies — that’s a WIN in my book!
Give it a try!
If you need a few cookie dough recipes to test out these 3 cookie tips… keep scrolling!
Our Favorite Cookie Dough Recipes:
All of the recipes below can be made into cookie bars. Store-bought cookie dough also works wonderfully!
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Extra Chocolatey Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
- Funfetti Cake Mix Cookies
- Monster Cookies
- Spiced Molasses Cookies
- Peanut Butter Reese’s Cookies
- Snickerdoodle Cookies
My Favorite “Bar” Recipes:
- Blondie Bars
- Brownie/Cookie Bars
- Easy Layer Bars
- Cereal Bars
- Chocolate Caramel Brownies
- Chocolate Peanut-Butter Cookie Bars
- Chocolate Easy Layer Bars
- Oatmeal Caramel Bars
- Oatmeal M&M Bars
- OREO Blondies
- Pecan Lemon Bars
- Rice Chex Bars
Visit my virtual recipe box for more simple, family-friendly recipes.
Are you hungry yet!?!
Have you ever made cookie bars?
Feel free to share your favorite cookie dough recipe in the comments below (especially if you have a link!)