There is any number of reasons why you might want to stash some cookie dough in the freezer. Maybe you like having treats on hand in case company stops by. Maybe the cold weather kick-started your holiday baking gene. Maybe you want a special treat to give your son or daughter at college, or a friend who just had a baby. (Side note: Give new parents frozen cookie dough and you win. Forever.)
But we're friends here, so let's be honest. Frozen cookie dough in our freezer means warm, gooey, fresh-baked cookies any time we want one. Or three. No judgment. Here are the best ways to freeze your favorite cookies for later.
For the purposes of freezing, let's divide cookies into three main categories: chunky cookies, tender slice-and-bake cookies, and cut-out cookies.
Chunky cookies like chocolate chip and oatmeal-raisin freeze best if you portion out the dough beforehand. Scoop out the dough just as if you were about to bake it, but then freeze it instead. Once frozen, the little balls of dough get sealed up inside a plastic freezer bag -- when you need a cookie fix, just grab as many as you want to bake.
By slice-and-bake cookies, I am referring to any fairly smooth, fairly tender cookie, like shortbread or sandies. These get pressed into logs, wrapped in wax paper, and frozen solid. They can be crumbly right out of the freezer, so when you're ready to bake, let them warm for a few minutes before slicing. If you can plan ahead, letting the logs thaw in the fridge for a few hours is even better.
Last but not least, we have cut-out cookies like sugar cookies and many holiday cookies. The dough for these cookies can be frozen in disks like pie crust. When ready to bake, thaw until pliable and continue with the recipe. Freezing the dough for cut-out cookies is a little less of a time- and labor-saver than the other cookies, but it's handy to break up the work of a big cookie-baking project or if you start a batch of cookies and get interrupted in the middle.
Most frozen cookies will need an extra minute or two in the oven. Otherwise, prepping and baking the cookies is exactly the same as in the recipe -- you're just giving them a freezer vacation in the middle.
Very Good Reasons (Excuses) to Freeze Cookie Dough:
--Instant cookies, any time of day
--Bake only a few cookies at a time, as needed
--Prep for a bake sale, upcoming holiday, or a busy time of year
--Cookies on hand when company stops by
--Gift for students, new parents, an elderly parent, or anyone you love. Cookies equal love, as we all know.
How to Freeze Cookie Dough
1 batch cookie dough
Parchment paper or Silpats
Freezer bags or other freezer containers
Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat. Prepare the dough as usual, then portion out the cookies onto the baking sheet. Since we are freezing and not baking the cookies, you can crowd the cookies close together, but do not let them touch.
Freeze the portioned cookies on the baking sheet until solid, at least 6 hours or overnight.
Once solid, gather the portioned cookies in a plastic freezer bag or other container. Press out as much air as possible, label the bag, and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat. Remove as many cookies as you'd like to bake and space them a few inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake as directed by the recipe, adding on an extra minute or two to the baking time.
Freezing Slice-and-Bake Cookies:
Prepare the dough as usual. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and shape into one or two logs (whichever fits in your freezer bag or container).
Wrap each of the logs in wax paper and tuck in the ends.
Transfer the logs of dough to a plastic freezer bag or other container. Press out as much air as possible, label the bag, and store in the freezer for up to three months.
Baking slice-and-bake cookies: Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat. Unwrap the log of cookie dough and let it warm on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes. It should still be cold to the touch and firm, but slightly pliable. Slice the cookies into thick disks with a very sharp chef's knife or a serrated bread knife. Space the cookies a few inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake as directed by the recipe, adding on an extra minute or two to the baking time.
Freezing Cut-Out Cookies:
Prepare the dough as usual. Shape the dough into two disks roughly 1 inch thick.
Wrap the disks in plastic or wax paper and transfer to a plastic freezer bag or other freezer container. Press out as much air as possible, label the bag, and store in the freezer for up to three months.
Remove one of the disks from the freezer and let it warm up at room temperature on the counter. When pliable, roll into a 1/8-inch thick disk, cut out the cookies, and bake as directed.
(Emma Christensen is recipe editor of TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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THE KITCHN: How to freeze cookie dough
Cookie dough. (Emma Christensen / November 27, 2013)