Plan ahead cookies you can use - safely

Making holiday cookies is a wonderful tradition, these tips will help you make batches safely to keep on hand in your freezer.

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, that giant count down has started for the holidays! Michigan State University Extension knows that many people find themselves dividing their preparations into smaller tasks during a busy week to get more done. Have you ever considered doing this with your cookie baking?

Think about breaking your project into several steps if you are strapped for time or to help manage your time a bit better. Make your selection from family favorite recipes or new recipes, keeping in mind that just a few batches will add variety to those platters you are envisioning or cookie exchanges in which you will be participating. Next, begin your master list, look in the spice cabinet and cupboards, make sure your ingredients have not expired and that you have enough of everything to create your special treats. This eliminates extra trips to the busy stores. Once you have assembled your complete list of ingredients you can make the decision as to whether you will prepare and bake or prepare and freeze. Yes, freeze!

Most cookie doughs can be frozen by following these simple steps:

  • Prepare the recipe as directed
  • Double wrap all the dough in plastic, resealable freezer bags for protection
  • Label and date the outside of the freezer bag
  • Place in your freezer for up to three months

Another option is to place rounded spoonfuls of dough onto a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper or parchment, as if you were going to bake them. Place the cookie sheet into the freezer and freeze until firm. You are making individual cookies to be used within three months. Once the portions are frozen, place them into a resealable freezer bag. Label and date the bag so you know what is in it. To bake, place the frozen cookies on a baking sheet and bake as directed. It may take a little longer than the original baking time due to the frozen state, so watch them closely to make sure they do not burn. To thaw the large quantity of dough, pull from freezer and allow to thaw in the refrigerator two to three days. Do not thaw on the counter.

If you decide to bake early, cookies may be frozen once they are baked, usually for up to two months. Tips to make this version successful include: making sure the cookies are completely cooled before putting in containers to freeze, use airtight containers lined with foil or plastic food wrap to protect from damaging air (for even better results, individually wrap cookies in plastic food wrap). Cookies that are frosted, drizzled or glazed; do not freeze because of moisture issues; frost or glaze once they are thawed. To thaw cookies, place the container at room temperature, if any cookies are to be crisp once thawed, remove them from the container.

Most cookie dough can also be mixed one day, covered and refrigerated and baked within two to three days. Because eggs and other possible potentially hazardous ingredients may be used, it is very important that the dough is stored in the refrigerator if it won’t be baked immediately.

The Michigan State University Food Safety Team also recommends that bakers wash hands and work areas before they begin preparing food, after cracking eggs and if they are interrupted in their task by coughing, sneezing or anything that would take them away from the task at hand.

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