Dear Home Ec 101,
When should one begin their holiday baking if they want to give out cookie platters the week before Christmas? Last year I did all my baking in 2 days and it nearly killed me, but I don’t want to do it too far in advance or the cookies won’t be fresh. I tried freezing cookies once but they ended up all ice crystally and didn’t taste right.
~Cracked My Tooth on a Cookie
Typically, cookies with high butterfat content will stay fresh for about a week at room temperature. Cookies that can be frozen should last 3 -4 months if undisturbed at 0°F.
The storage method all depends on the type of cookie. Remember, do not attempt to package any cookies for storage until they have cooled completely.
Soft cookies typically do not freeze well. Store them in an air tight container. If the cookies begin to dry out, add a slice of fresh bread or 1/2 of an apple to the container to help balance the moisture.
Crisp cookies freeze well. You can use freezer bags, just slide a sheet of waxed paper between each layer. Thaw at room temperature. If you live in a dry climate, just cover the cookies for short term storage. If you live in a humid one, you’ll need an airtight container. Crisp cookies may be recrisped in an oven for 3-5 minutes on an ungreased baking sheet.
Cookies containing meringue cannot be frozen. Well, they could, but you’ll be left with a nasty weepy cookie.
Brownies freeze very well in an airtight container or freezer bag.
Decorated cookies typically do not freeze well due to the moisture content of the frosting. (Those decorated with sprinkles should be OK) After the frosting has hardened store these cookies at room temperature in an airtight container with a sheet of wax paper between layers.
Cookies that contain dairy products, such as cream cheese, with the exception of butter need to be refrigerated.
Cookies with moist centers, should be stored in a loosely covered container. These typically do not freeze well.
Lowfat cookies do not freeze well, it’s due to their higher water content.
Now, about that cookie dough.
Do not freeze dough containing only egg whites. It is too delicate for the freezer. If the dough has whole eggs, it should freeze well.
For drop cookies, mix up the dough and drop by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased baking sheet (or a similar flat surface if you have a small freezer). Place in the freezer until frozen solid. Remove from the tray and place in a freezer bag. Be sure to remove as much air as possible before returning to the freezer. Using this method, you’ll be able to remove as few cookies as you would like for small batches. Thaw in the refrigerator and bake according to the directions. (You may need to add a minute or two)
Rolled cookie dough can be rolled out into sheets that will be ready to cut when thawed. Depending on the directions roll out to 1/2″ or 1/4″. Place on a floured baking sheet and freeze. When fully frozen, layer in shallow container or freezer bag, with wax paper between the layers. Remove as needed from the freezer and allow to thaw in the refrigerator. Cut the cookies and bake according to the recipe’s directions.
Cookie dough will last 3 – 4 months if frozen in air tight packaging.