How to Freeze Cookies for Holiday Baking Do-Aheads

The following post is from Shaina of Food for My Family and Olmanson Photography:

source: Food for My Family

One thing I always tell myself I’m going to do to get a head start on the holiday baking extravaganza is to go at it slow and steady. It’s what my grandmother did; baking a few batches here and there, mixing up dough and then freezing it to use later or to pull out of the freezer completely baked and ready for the holiday tray.

The thing that stopped me for so long, though, was that I was worried how that would change the outcome of the cookies. Would frozen dough bake differently? Could intricate Christmas cookies stand up to the frozen box?

Once I figured out a few general rules and how to properly freeze the cookies, however, I was set. The cookie-making became easier, and I am no longer up baking cookies until midnight the night before the Christmas festivities.

When you are deciding whether to freeze the dough or bake the cookies and freeze them, first consider how the cookie will be baked. In general, doughs that are a bit firmer freeze better. Most rolled, cut and drop cookies are all examples that freeze well. A dough that is wet and doesn’t hold shape well on its own is probably best off baked first and then frozen.

How to freeze the dough.

  • If freezing drop cookies, scoop cookies out onto a parchment-lined sheet and freeze the balls. Once they are frozen, collect them into a zip-top bag and label and freeze the bag.
  • For dough that will be rolled and cut later, form the dough into a circle. Wrap it tightly in saran wrap,  and then place it into a labeled zip-top bag and freeze.

How to freeze baked cookies.

  • Baked, undecorated cookies should be completely cooled first. Line the bottom of an airtight container with parchment, wax paper or freezer paper and make a single layer of cookies. Follow with another layer of your paper separator of choice and another layer of cookies until the container is filled. Secure the lid, label and freeze.
  • Baked, decorated cookies should be lined up in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. First freeze the cookies until they are firm on the baking sheet, and then transfer them to the airtight container using the same method as for the undecorated cookies above.
  • If you are planning to make cookies that are sandwiched together with a filling, freeze them first without the filling using the above directions for undecorated cookies and fill them after you have thawed them.

How to thaw.

  • Place frozen dough in the refrigerator the day before using to allow plenty of time to thaw completely.
  • To thaw baked cookies, place them in a single layer for 1-2 hours or until completely thawed. Completely thaw before decorating or filling.

When do you start your holiday baking?

Shaina Olmanson is the freelance writer, photographer, and home cook behind Food for My Family. Cooking daily with and for her four kids and husband, Ole, drives her desire to inspire other families to do the same. Shaina is also the author of Desserts in Jars and contributes regularly to a variety of online sites and traditional print magazines.