There are as many ways to prepare cookies as there are ways to produce cakes and pastries—and then some. The standard American categories are:
- Drop cookies, formed from a soft dough that is portioned by spoonfuls onto the baking sheet, where they spread out during baking. Chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies are examples.
- Cut-out cookies, formed from a stiffer dough that holds its shape. The dough is rolled out and portioned with a cookie cutter; baking sets the cookies in their original shape. Sugar cookies and butter cookies are examples.
- Hand-shaped cookies, formed from batters that are stiffened by chilling and then carefully piped or molded for baking. Examples are ladyfingers and madeleines.
- Bar cookies, shaped after baking, not before. They’re cut from the thin cake-like mass produced when the cookie batter is baked in a shallow pan. Date and nut bars and brownies are examples.
- Icebox cookies, formed by slicing cross-sections from a premade cylinder of dough kept in the refrigerator for use when needed. Many cookie doughs can be treated this way.