Thanks to you, my readers, I am weeks ahead on my holiday baking. Why I didn't figure this out before I'll never know but after a lot of research I have discovered that the very best way to get ahead on cookie baking is to make the dough one day, bake a few "test" cookies and freeze the dough for later baking. Now I'm anxious to share the techniques and recipes with you.
You can freeze the dough by packing it tightly into a freezer-safe container OR you can actually shape the cookies on a plastic-lined cookie sheet (I use my faithful cookie scoop), pop the shaped cookies into the freezer for a couple of hours to "flash-freeze" them and then put them into a freezer quality plastic bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Frozen batter will keep well for three to six months but shaped cookies that have been frozen should be baked within six weeks.
To work with previously solid pack frozen dough, thaw it for several hours or overnight before working with it and then shape and bake according to recipe instructions. Dough that has been shaped and flash frozen can be removed from the freezer as you start to preheat your oven and it should be ready to bake as soon as the oven reaches the required temperature. These can go from freezer to oven immediately but will take about a quarter longer than the recipe calls for to bake.
Cookies that are already baked should be completely cooled before you place them into a rigid container or freezer safe bag. Wrap the baked cookies as tightly as possible in plastic wrap (or a freezer bag) to keep out as much air as possible. Put layers of plastic wrap or waxed paper between each layer of cookies to keep them from freezing to each other.
Ready to start baking just as soon as you clean up after Thanksgiving Dinner? The Dover Church Women United are sponsoring their annual Cookies for Prisoners project and they will be packing up the cookies on Dec. 4 at Christ Episcopal Church that volunteer cookie bakers (like you and I) can bring to the kitchen there on Dec. 2 and Dec. 3 between 9 a.m. and noon. These gracious and thoughtful ladies ask that you do NOT use any nuts or peanut butter in your cookies and that you pack them in sturdy containers between layers of wax paper to prevent breakage. Two or three dozen cookies (or more!) would be a wonderful contribution.
I shamefully confess that for years I said to myself "Prisoners don't deserve homemade cookies" and then a still, small voice reminded me of these words from Matthew 25:40, "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "
Page 2 of 3 - I've already made up and frozen the dough for this project and I hope you'll plan to participate, too.
Brown Sugar Cookies with Ginger
(adapted from www.mykitchenintherockies.com)
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone pads; set aside. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment mix together butter and brown sugar, beating for six (6) minutes. Add the egg and mix well. In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking soda and spices. Slowly add flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture just until blended. Distribute tablespoon (or slightly smaller)-size dough drops onto the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. (I used my faithful cookie scoop.) Bake for 8 to 12 minutes. Let cool on wire rack for a chewier cookie or on the baking sheet for a crunchier cookie. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
Andes Crème de Menthe Chunk Cookies
(recipe from the back of a 10-ounce bag of Andes Crème de menthe baking chips)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
1 (10-ounce) package Andes Crème de Menthe baking chips*
2 2/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour
*Look for these in a green bag near regular chocolate chips OR in special holiday baking displays.
Blend butter, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and eggs until well blended. Mix in baking chips and flour, small portions at a time. Chill in the refrigerator for at just about one hour. Raise oven rack to one level above the middle. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Form dough into 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheets and slightly flatten. (Again I used my cookie scoop and I did not flatten the dough.) Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until cookies are firm when touched. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes before moving to wire racks to cool completely. Makes at least 4 dozen cookies.
Lemon Hissy Fits
(recipe adapted from Gooseberry Patch Best-ever Cookies cookbook)
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature
Juice and zest of 1 large lemon (should have 3 tablespoons lemon juice)
Page 3 of 3 - 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup white chocolate chips, chopped
With an electric mixer on medium speed, blend together butter and granulated sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs, lemon juice and zest and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl combine flour and baking powder. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix just until combined. Fold in white chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for one hour. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Form dough into one-inch balls. Place on lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, just until edges are lightly golden. Remove to a wire rack; dust with powdered sugar while still warm. Cool completely. Makes about 6 dozen cookies.
To reach Judi Leaming, email firstname.lastname@example.org.