I see all of you getting ready for the holiday cookie season and one of the most commonly asked question right now is: Can you freeze cookies?
The short answer is: HECK YES. But there are some important factors to consider, so let’s dig in.
Most cutout cookies can be frozen at many stages: as dough, as a baked naked cookie, as a fully decorated and heat-sealed cookie. Some people freeze cookies in-between layers of decorating: I don’t recommend that unless if you *have* to because it’s so much more work than it’s worth.
Let’s break down each stage and discuss the nuances. But first a disclaimer: Every dough recipe is different. Each person’s equipment and environment *will* impact your freezing process and the only TRUE way to find out if freezing works (like any other process) is to do a test yourself. There is so substitute for actually mimicking your equipment, environment and technique because no two people have identical situations.
First off: I do have a dedicated freezer just for my cookies. This ensures that there is reduced chance of cross contamination (with other food or especially SMELLS). I always tell the story of a cookie friend whose hubby cut up a bunch of onions to freeze and threw them in the same freezer as her frozen, naked cookies: can confirm that those cookies took on the scent of the onions and her labor was wasted. Not the end of the world and we all got a good chuckle out of it, but had it been a situation where the cookies were needed for an order… it would have been much less funny.
In many cases, frozen roll out cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container and frozen for 3-6 months at a time. This is usually the easiest thing to do and has very little room for error. I like to wrap my dough in plastic wrap and then place my discs into a gallon freezer zip lock bag and freeze. I take out what I need, when I need it. I put my frozen dough in the fridge the night before I want to use it, and by the next day, it will have gradually defrosted. If you use leavening in your recipe, make sure it does not expire for the length of time it’s frozen as otherwise it won’t do its job as well.
As a baked, naked cookie
How your naked cookies freeze depends heavily on your desired bake/texture. When freezing naked cookies, your cookies will be stored in an airtight container. This means that whatever texture differences that were originally there (i.e. crisp exterior and soft insides) will be lost. This is because the texture will be homogenized throughout during the storage process. This tends to mean that your cookies will be softer, and not stay crisp (if that’s what you like).
After your cookies have completely cooled, store batches of your baked cookies in either airtight containers or gallon freezer bags. Separate each layer with parchment or plastic wrap: this is particularly important if you have a soft cookie. If you do not separate your layers, your cookies will stick to each other when you freeze them and we’re all going to be terribly sad.
When ready to use, take your cookies out of the freezer and let them come to room temp IN ITS AIRTIGHT CONTAINER to avoid condensation from building up on the surface of your cookies, potentially ruining them. Decorate as usual.
Fully Decorated, Dried & Heat Sealed/Packaged
This is my favorite way to prep for a pop up in bulk – by freezing fully decorated treats. And yes, you can freeze at multiple stages if you need to (ie as a dough, as a baked cookie). Freezing has such a bad reputation, but many bakers swear by the process to help homogenize (and often improve) the texture of their baked cookies. Fresh is not *always* better. To freeze fully decorated cookies: make sure your icing is fully dry, then heat seal them for freshness (airtight is key) package into your final packaging whether that be a box or just the cello.
If you’ve done painting or airbrushing work on the surface of your cookie, brush a bit of corn starch on your cookie so help soak up any excess moisture from the “ink” before packaging to reduce how much it may *potentially* stick to your cello bag if not totally dry when packaging.
It’s usually safe to put heat sealed cookies directly into the freezer, but unless if they have a box outside of them, I prefer to add another layer of protection but putting them in gallon freezer bags and setting in the freezer.
I have personally frozen cookies for clients up to 2 months before an order pickup: sometimes my availability doesn’t line up with their event, but they trust my process and prefer I freeze it and store it for them. I have frozen and eaten personal cookies for up to 8 months. My friend ate a 18 month old cookie from the freezer. I do not recommend that and it did taste a bit like freezer burn, but nobody got sick and somehow the texture was preserved. Freezers, when used correctly, can be magical.
When ready to enjoy, take your cookies out of the freezer and let them come to room temp IN ITS AIRTIGHT CONTAINER or whatever packaging layers it had going in to the freezer to prevent condensation from forming on your icing and ruining your icing.
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