Freezing Cookies

by Elizabeth Skipper | January 9th, 2013 | Ask the Chef

I took part in a cookie swap this Christmas. I ended up giving away a good amount of them, as there were far more than my family and I could eat. Next year, I would like to save some, if possible. Can cookies be frozen? Are some cookies better for freezing than others? Any tricks for packaging?

Absolutely, cookies can be frozen. Only a few, like meringues or cookies with creamy fillings or frostings, suffer from it. And I’ve found it invaluable as a way to keep myself from pigging out on the largesse at times like Christmas. Out of sight, out of mind, first of all … and then you have to (usually) wait for them to defrost before consuming them … together it all adds up to reasonable cookie consumption.

I say, “usually wait for them to defrost” because there’s a particular cookie in our family tradition known as the “speed bump.” Who’d name a cookie something like that? And why? My mother-in-law always used the garage, which was attached to the house, as a second refrigerator/freezer in the winter, particularly handy when the whole family was visiting at the holidays. That’s where the Nutmeg Cookie Logs were one particularly frigid night when my brother-in-law raided them, and unable to wait, tried biting into one. “These things are like speed bumps!” he howled, and that’s what they’ve been ever since. We still like them semi-frozen.

Baked cookies, after they’re thoroughly cooled, can be frozen in any airtight container between layers of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Soft or shaped cookies should be frozen on a tray before packaging; drop cookies, balls, or other fairly firm ones can be packaged and then frozen. Don’t freeze different kinds of cookies together unless they’re wrapped separately; the flavors and odors will intermingle, to their detriment. However, if each is properly sealed, different kinds can be stored in the same container.

For best results, wrap each cookie individually, then package in a plastic box or freezer bag. This is particularly true for bar cookies, the cut sides of which tend to dry out.  Boxes are better, if you have the room, for preventing breakage; and a long box is better than a tall one. Don’t freeze in cookie tins or anything else metal; it will rust. Separate layers with wax paper, freezer paper, or aluminum foil. Fill up the container to eliminate excess air.

Properly wrapped and stored, most cookies can be frozen up to six months without adverse affect. Take into account whether they’re going into a self-defrosting freezer (like the one in your refrigerator) or not. The ones in your fridge freezer won’t keep as long. Some purists insist that a month or two is the longest a cookie may be frozen without deterioration of quality. I can tell you that a speed bump in July does taste stale, but it also depends on how long they’ve been around before you freeze them.

An advantage of wrapping cookies individually is that you can take out just what you want at a time. However, as the container empties, there will be more air space; so either crumple up some paper or foil to fill the void, or move the remaining cookies to a smaller container.

You mention freezing cookies after Christmas, but it’s also convenient to freeze them before. As a baker yourself, you can make them at your leisure well before the holidays, and tuck the finished product away until it’s time to share. Especially if you enjoy making traditional cookies that are time-consuming, this is a real stress-reliever at a busy time.

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