My Favorite Cookie Baking Hack for the Holidays (and the Rest of the Year)
If I’m being honest, I spend a significant amount of time around the holidays (and the winter in general) trying to figure out ways to make people want to hang out at my house. I don’t want to brave the cold just to sit in a crowded bar and pay for expensive drinks and eat food that is, let’s face it, usually worse than what I can make in my own home. So I keep the vibe at my house extremely cozy by being able to whip up a fresh batch of cookies without breaking a sweat or passing an hour.
I pull this off by keeping my freezer stocked with cookie dough. Every time I bake, I’ll make a double batch, form the cookies and place them on a sheet tray like I’m going to bake them. Then, instead of baking, I’ll freeze them solid ( which usually takes about 12 hours) then transfer the frozen dough balls to a bag and keep them tightly wrapped and ready to be deployed for optimum hospitable coziness.
This technique works well for drop cookies (cookies that you drop onto a baking sheet, like these decadent Chewy Chocolate Molasses Cookies, these Crisp Pecan Cookies or or these Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies). It also works well for slice-and-bake cookies, like these Peppermint Pinwheel guys or these cut out shortbread cookies. For slice-and-bakes, don’t even bother to slice. Simply roll the dough into logs and freeze, tightly wrapped in plastic, until the moment of cookie-need arrives. When you’re ready to bake, simply use a sharp knife to cut the frozen log.
For cut-out cookies, like these Ginger Stars, I like to roll and cut them out, then freeze them in their final shape. Be more careful about storage for cut-out cookies, especially in intricate shapes, since the dough is brittle once frozen and the corners can break if tossed around carelessly. All cookies can be baked directly from frozen, so don’t fuss with trying to defrost them. Instead, follow the baking instructions from the recipe. Sometimes frozen cookies take 1-3 minutes longer than the recipe calls for—don’t be afraid to use your senses to tell you when they’re done, and don’t forget that baked goods continue baking a bit even after being removed from the oven.
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I use this move a lot around the holidays, when it is appealing to spend all weekend inside, creaming butter and sugar and listening to Christmas music. It’s helpful because that kind of marathon baking usually leaves one with a large quantity of sweets that won’t get eaten fast enough to enjoy before they go stale. By freezing cookie dough, I get to enjoy the satisfaction of a long day of baking, without being wasteful. I also find that this technique is helpful for when you want to give cookies as gifts. Simply bake off whatever you need without worrying that the cookies are going to be stale by the time you’re ready to wrap them up and gift them off. I’ll also say, while we’re here on the subject, that people sure do love to receive a bag of pre-portioned cookie dough as a gift, labeled with the cookie’s baking instructions. That said, I stick by this as an all-year trick, too. Because, as we all know, cookies have no season