During the holiday season, that overworked oven has a lot to do, like churning out batch-after-batch of Christmas cookies. Instead of freezing dough and stressing on the big day, get the hard work out of the way now and enjoy the baked fruits of your labour all season long. Follow these simple steps for bars and cookies and you’ll never get (freezer) burned again.
To set yourself up for success, it’s best to stick to sturdy cookies and bars — no architectural spun sugar flights of fancy here. A big batch of classic chocolate chip, shortbread or even gluten-free cookies will keep you stocked for future cookie exchanges. Bars, on the other hand, are generally pretty low maintenance to begin with, and often feature a solid shortbread crust, so you’ve got more options to let your imagination run wild.
Contain your excitement
Whether using a serviceable plastic container or a sparkly snowflake cookie tin, the key to storing cookies and bars is keeping them air tight. Even a plain resealable freezer bag (or two, to double-bag) is fine, as long as you get the air out first — oxygen is your enemy when trying to avoid freezer burn or staleness. Fill containers to the top, and use a straw to suck out the air from bagged cookies to avoid crushing your creations.
Give yourself space
On bake day, make sure you have enough room on your counters or tables to cool your baked goods properly — before the first batch even hits the oven. Ensuring cookies and bars are sufficiently cool avoids taxing your freezer, and prevents soggy, broken pieces.
If your freezer is packed, a little shuffling before bake day to give yourself a nice, flat surface for freeze your cookies will make your life much easier. If you’re using freezer bags or soft-sided containers, don’t just toss your creations carelessly into the freezer. Try chilling the cookies or bars first on a baking sheet in the freezer, then transfer them to their final packaging.
Think about how you’ll be bestowing your baked goods on friends and family, and portion accordingly. Have a friend who can’t stand pecans but is nuts about shortbread? Assemble their package before it goes into the freezer, rather than trying to sort cookies and find a gift tin on the day you see them. Thinking of having guest-ready assortments handy for your open house? A little planning means you’ll have a perfect plate ready to pull out of the freezer when guests arrive.
Line ‘em up
Parchment paper, wax paper or aluminum foil are all good choices to layer in between cookies or bars to prevent them from sticking when storing. Give yourself a two-inch overhang on each side of the container it easier when lifting cookies or bars out.
All the hard work is done — now, all that’s left is the taste test. If you can’t wait to thaw your creations, slip them frozen into a preheated 300°F oven for a few minutes to reheat. Otherwise, you can thaw them out easily: although, depending on the ingredients, cookies and bars may have varying thaw points, a general rule of thumb is six to eight hours, to overnight on the counter, covered lightly. Watch out for cookie thieves, though…you may come down in the morning to an empty plate and an innocent looking, crumb-covered family.
Want to get started on this year’s cookie and bar stockpile? Try our Top 101 Holiday Cookies and Squares.