Monday, December 17, 2012

Freezing Cookie Dough for Baking

I love baking for the Holidays.  Well, I love baking in general, but I love that the Holidays give me an excuse to do tons of baking.  What I don't love is the stressful marathon baking that seems to happen every year to get everything done on time.  Between the mixing, baking, sorting, and decorating I usually get burned out about halfway through my baking and just want to be done.

This year I'm going to start early to help alleviate some of the stress.  I'm not a fan of freezing baked cookies because something about it just doesn't seem right to me.  Cookies are meant to be freshly baked (and preferably still warm from the oven)!  Instead of baking then freezing cookies, I'll be mixing up the dough then freezing the dough so it is ready to be placed on the cookie sheet then popped in the oven.

I've tried freezing the dough once before with excellent results.  The best part is you can keep some frozen for yourself then cook up half a dozen at a time to avoid being tempted to eat the entire batch in one sitting (not that I've ever done that...).

For this tutorial (if you can even call it that), I'm using this recipe for Mint Chocolate Cookies, but any drop cookie recipe should work.

A tablespoon cookie scoop is ideal for this method.  You can roll the balls of dough with your hands, but getting a cookie scoop is going to save you tons of time and it is pretty much life-changing if you do a lot of baking.  I don't know how I survived without one before.

This is similar to the cookie scoop I use for all of my cookies (1 Tablespoon).  It's the perfect size for a normal cookie, but you could get a larger scoop if you want jumbo cookies.

Items needed:
Cookie scoop (optional - you can use your hands to roll cookie balls)
Wax paper (optional - you can use just a nonstick cookie sheet)
Cookie sheets (nonstick or use wax paper)
Gallon Freezer ziploc bag(s)
Sharpie marker
Cookie recipe & ingredients
Freezer with enough space to put your cookie sheets

I suggest putting a layer of wax paper down on your cookie sheets before adding the dough.  This step is optional, but some of the more gooey cookie dough might stick to your pans and using wax paper will save you an extra step of washing the pans between each batch of freezing.

Prepare your cookie dough like normal.  Preheat oven only if you're going to make yourself a batch for sampling.  Quality control is very important, you might need to make a half dozen or so just to make sure it tastes okay ;)

Use your scoop to put the cookie dough balls on the wax paper or your cookie sheet.  Make sure they aren't touching or they will stick together and might be hard to take apart.

Fill your cookie sheet(s) to use up all the dough.

Place cookie sheet(s) in the freezer for about an hour, or until dough is no longer sticky.  Note: if you're like me and forget them in there for 2-3 hours, don't panic; the dough will still be OK.

After your dough is put in the freezer, it's a great opportunity to do all your dishes, bake up any sampler cookies, and possibly start the second batch of dough if you're doing more than one recipe.  Definitely use this time to prepare your ziploc bag for putting the dough balls in.

Take your ziploc bag(s) and sharpie pen.  Write the cookie name, date, cooking temperature and original cooking time on the bag.  For one single batch of cookies, you'll only need one bag and for a double batch you may be able to squeeze them all in one bag, but it might be a tight fit.

For cooking time for the frozen cookie dough, you may need to add an extra 2-3 minutes onto the regular cooking time, but it might not always be the case, so I like to note the original cooking time on the ziploc bag and just remember to check the first batch when baking and add a couple minutes if I need to.

After about an hour, take the cookie sheets out of the freezer (use potholders so you don't freeze your fingers off) and put the frozen cookie dough balls into the prepared gallon ziploc bag.  Put the bag back in the freezer and you're done!

Cookie sheet without using wax paper - lots of dough stuck to the  sheet that I'll have to clean off

When you're ready to cook the dough, place the frozen balls on an ungreased nonstick cookie sheet (unless your recipe states otherwise).  Use the original temperature called for in the recipe and start with the original cook time, but you may need to add an extra 2-3 minutes to the cook time.  Different recipes may be unique and may cook differently when frozen, but this will give you a good guideline to get started on freezing cookie dough.

This works great for impromptu visits from family or friends, last-minute parties, or for when you really want a couple cookies but don't want to bake up a whole batch.

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