One of the challenges of giving cookies for Christmas is keeping them fresh in time for gift giving.
Many of my friends solve this problem by baking all their Christmas cookies in a single weekend. But, for those of us familiar with county fair cookie competitions, we know there’s a better and easier way of keeping those Christmas cookies fresh without driving us insane with an all day baking marathon.
Most cookies can be baked and frozen ahead, and then thawed out in time for Christmas gift giving or cookie exchanges. Properly sealed and packaged cookies can last up to four to six months in the freezer and will often taste as good as the day they were frozen.
How to freeze cookies
There’s more to freezing cookies than just tossing them in any old plastic bag before placing them on the shelf of the freezer. Freezing cookies successfully starts with the right kind of cookie, the right kind of wrapping techniques, and the proper freezer container. Here’s how it’s done:
1. Remember that not all kinds of cookies can be frozen. Certain foods just don’t freeze well, and the same goes for cookie varieties.
While most mainstream cookies do freeze just fine, cookies made with cream fillings, soft frosting, and meringues will change in texture during the freezing and thawing process. Creams and soft frosting will turn mushy and meringues become rubbery, resulting in a product that’s less than satisfactory.
Something else to avoid are freezing cookies that have been made with artificial vanilla extract. Freezing causes the artificial vanilla extract to become stronger and more bitter tasting. Fortunately, cookies made with pure vanilla extract freeze just fine without any change in the intensity of the vanilla.
2. Remove from the oven when slightly soft and let cool thoroughly before freezing. One county fair secret for making prize winning cookies is to remove cookies from the oven while they are still slightly soft. Soft cookies don’t dry out as quickly, and will have a much better flavor than cookies that are over baked.
Also important to remember is to let the cookies cool completely before sealing in a freezer container. Warm cookies release steam which will turn to ice crystals in the container, and then back to water when thawed. This results in a soggy cookie which looks as bad as it tastes.
3. Use the right kind of container for freezing . Frozen foods belong in freezer containers for optimal freshness and protection from the elements. Containers that work well for freezing cookies include freezer bags, a plastic freezer boxes, or vacuum packaging.
While some of us tend to freeze cookies in tins or Tupperware products, I’ve noticed that the thawed product doesn’t taste quite as fresh when there’s excess air in the container. The freezer bags or vacuum bags do a much better job of locking out air and odor, and keeping the Christmas cookies oven fresh.
To properly pack cookies, they should be arranged tightly in the container, using freezer paper to separate the layers. Once the container is filled, it should be sealed tightly, labeled, and gently placed on the freezer shelf.