Make-and-freeze cookie dough: For cookies when you need ’em

The sun sets early these days. When I leave work at 5 p.m. I step into a world of inky darkness broken only by the row of lights in the parking lot, and maybe the cold glow of a distant crescent moon.

Cold and darkness may be unwelcome to some of you, but to me, they signal the real heart of the baking season. In July, spending hours in a hot kitchen is something to be avoided; in December, it’s comforting. I turn on the oven, and feel its heat gradually chase away the dampness and chill. My well-worn recipe book opens automatically to the special Christmas cookies I make every year, and the never-fail fudge. I sigh happily, and start opening cupboards, assessing my holiday supplies. Cookie cutters? Check. Flour, vanilla, colored sugars? Check. Baking sheets, parchment, cookie scoop… check, check, check…

I bake my mom’s and grandma’s Christmas recipes. But I don’t bake EXACTLY like they did. I streamline every process I possibly can. Modern conveniences? Love ’em. Not for me a simple wooden spoon and bowl. Nah, I get the stand mixer and food processor and bread machine all going at once, making brownie batter and pie crust and yeast dough while I grease pans and slice apples and read again how to shape a fan-tan roll… I’m so used to multi-tasking every day at work, it’s an easy segue from desk to kitchen counter.

So, starting in early December, I make drop cookies and freeze them, unbaked, ready to pop in the oven at the last moment: for the office Christmas party, or when friends drop by after shopping. Here’s what you do: Make your cookie dough–your snickerdoodles, chocolate chippers, peanut butter cookies, whatever those special cookies are you bake and give every year. Use a TEASPOON cookie scoop to drop balls of dough, very close together, onto parchment-lined baking sheets, as many as can fit in your freezer at a time. Freeze the dough balls solid–this will take about an hour.

To freeze cookie dough for baking days or weeks later (I’m freezing dough for Sparkling Cranberry Gems here), use a cookie scoop to drop dough balls onto your parchment-lined pan. Place them close together, as pictured, then freeze. When frozen, throw ‘em in a plastic bag and keep frozen till you’re ready for fresh, oven-warm cookies.

Remove from the baking sheet, pack them airtight in plastic bags, label, and store in the freezer. When you’re ready to bake, remove them from the freezer, space them on your parchment-lined baking sheets, and turn on the oven. The dough will thaw as the oven gets up to temperature, about 20-25 minutes. Bake and serve to an appreciative audience.

Now, why a TEASPOON cookie scoop? In fact, why a cookie scoop at all? First, there’s nothing like a cookie scoop to SAVE TIME and produce perfect balls of dough (read: perfectly shaped cookies). Never mind trying to scrape dough off sticky tablespoons… or your fingers. The cookie scoop just plop-plop-plops balls of dough onto your sheet. And using a teaspoon scoop at the holidays is a great way to add variety to an array of gift plates: instead of each recipient getting, say, a dozen normal (2 1/2″) chocolate chip cookies, you can make small (1 1/2″) cookies with a teaspoon scoop, and treat your friends to half a dozen each sugar, oatmeal, peanut butter, fudge drop, molasses… whatever your specialties are.

So that’s my first holiday tip: Make cookie dough, use a teaspoon cookie scoop to shape it (for more, smaller cookies, perfect for gifts), and freeze. You’ll thank yourself round about December 22…

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. hazel

    What a wonderful idea! I’m a once-a-month cook, who makes up various mixes ahead to save time, but for some reason I never tried freezing cookie dough! I’m going to do it today, though, after I mix up my cheesy bread sticks while waiting for them to rise.

    Reply
  2. Stacy

    With family coming to visit and staying at a hotel, this is a nice way to sweeten their stay. We are making a batch of each person’s favorites so all are happy and satiated and they can take some back to their hotel room. It isn’t just for the holidays!

    Reply
  3. Victoria

    I’ve read that cookie dough can be frozen, but haven’t seen anything addressed for pressed cookies dough. Will that also defrost and still bake a nice pressed cookie? Thanks!

    Yes, Victoria, in fact dough for piping or pressing cookies, since it usually has less water and more fat, freezes very well. PJH

    Reply
  4. Shirley

    Are there certain types of cookie dough that take more / less kindly to being frozen?

    Since you mention chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, as well as piped cookies, those seem amenable to freezing. Any to avoid? Thanks!
    Hi Shirley,
    You are right, and most cookie dough does freeze well. In fact, most baked cookies freeze well too. Just be sure to add any icings and decorations after you thaw the cookies, otherwise the icing gets runny and the decoration colors tend to bleed.
    Have fun! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  5. Jackie

    I have froze dough in the past and it has worked out well. What would the difference be in the cookie if you bake the cookie undecorated and freeze ? I see where most people prefer to freeze the uncooked cookie dough over the baked cookie ?
    You can certainly freeze baked, undecorated cookies without any loss of flavor or texture. Just thaw on the counter and decorate as usual. Molly @ KAF

    Reply
  6. Clara Hirose

    What a neat idea for King Arthur Flour for us to be able to “talk” to someone when we have questions. Thank you very much.

    Reply
  7. Sarah

    Wow!

    I use the Baker’s Companion very, very often and I don’t *think* that this tip is in there, but it should be!

    I would like to freeze dough for peanut butter blossoms, sour cream cashew cookies, and toffee butter cookies. Would those work? I know I would still have to do the frostings and hershey’s kisses afterwards, but it would still be so much easier.

    Hurrah for freezers (and parchment paper!)

    Sarah, don’t see why any kind of drop cookie wouldn’t work just fine – as you say, you’ll probably want to finish them right when you bake, but definitely “drop” and freeze the dough balls ahead… PJH

    Reply
  8. Beth

    When making cookies like Snickerdoodles, would you coat them in the cinnamon sugar before freezing them or after they’ve been defrosted?

    I’d do it before, Beth; they should be fine in the freezer, and it’s easier to do it while they’re moist, than waiting till they’re thawed, and then handling, IMHO. PJH

    Reply
  9. Pauline

    How long can you safely store the frozen cookie dough balls for?

    Pauline, they start to deteriorate, flavor/texture-wise, after about 3 months in the freezer, so best not to leave them longer than that, OK? Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  10. Kate Thomas

    What are your thoughts about freezing entire batches of cookie dough in airtight containers? Will it work as well as the scoop-and-freeze method?

    Absolutely; the only difference is you’ll need to use the entire batch once it’s thawed, rather than use part and refreeze. I like to scoop first so I can bake exactly how many cookies I want, but if you intend to bake the whole batch at once, go for it. PJH

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You may roll in sugar and press with a fork before freezing. Go right from the freezer to the oven. Easy! Elisabeth@KAF

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