Monday, December 21, 2009

Headache Free Holiday Baking--Tip 4--Time Travel

In this post I outlined some of my tips and tricks for simplifying holiday baking. Today, I'm going to talk about how we implemented tip 4:

Time Travel

By doing as much as possible in advance you can spread out the work. My favorite trick is one I learned this can freeze cookie dough! This is one of those revelations that once you hear it, sounds completely obvious, but in all the time I've been baking, it had never occurred to me.


After some experimentation, here's the scoop:

You can freeze the dough either as balls (great for baking small batches of cookies on demand) or in "logs" (great for batch baking).

To create dough balls, drop your cookies onto a baking sheet and pop into the freezer for about 15 min. Once the dough sets up, toss into a ziploc bag, label, and freeze. Anytime you feel like cookies, preheat your oven to the proper temp for the type of cookie, throw your dough balls on a baking sheet and bake straight from frozen. Add a few min to the bake time. The hubby and I love this because we can bake 4-8 cookies at a time instead of overdosing on a single type of cookie trying to eat them all before they go bad.


For batch baking, drop 12 teaspoons of dough onto a piece of saran wrap. Roll the saran wrap around the dough, place in a ziploc bag, label and freeze. When you want to make the cookies, let the dough defrost and then scoop onto your baking sheet and bake normally. This allows you to easily know how many cookies you are making (each log is one dozen) and also means you don't have to spend several hours rotating cookie sheets in and out of the freezer to get dough balls. (Especially if you have a small freezer like ours).

The cookies come out wonderfully. They don't taste of having ever been frozen, and it's an easy way to always have fresh, warm from the oven cookies on hand for guests. The one thing I did notice is that the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies didn't spread as much as they usually do. The photo on the left shows fresh dough that was baked, the right shows frozen dough that was dropped after freezing. The pumpkin cookies, however, didn't show that tendency, perhaps because the dough was smoother?

Fresh vs Frozen

Another huge plus to this method is that should find yourself with several occasions that you want to bake for, you can make up one huge batch of dough and then just bake as necessary. For instance, the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for the holiday plates and for our housewarming party were all made from dough we made just after Thanksgiving.

But making up dough isn't the only thing you can do in advance, you can also:
  • Make frosting
  • Prep ingredients (ex: chop chocolate or nuts)
  • Clear off the counters and wash the dishes (okay, so it's not as fun, but clear counters are a must when you are baking lots of cookies)

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