This is an easy way to ensure you always have treats on hand.
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Baking cookies is a holiday tradition for many, but it's easy to overestimate the amount you actually end up needing. If you've made a few too many for your annual cookie swap and are wondering what to do, turn to your freezer. "Freezing cookies is a great time saver and it never hurts to have cookies on hand," says Molly Wenk, food stylist, baker, and host of our Frosted video series. You can freeze already baked and unbaked cookies, as well as the dough itself, but there are a few things to consider before doing so, including the type of cookie you're trying to freeze and how to properly store them.

vanilla-bean sugar cookies
Credit: Alpha Smoot

How to Freeze Cookies 

If you plan to freeze cookies, Wenk says to make the dough and bake the treats as you normally would, then let them cool completely. If you're baking sugar cookies, wait to decorate or pipe them with icing until it's time to serve. That same rule applies for sandwich cookies—think thumbprints and Linzer—that are filled with jam or ganache. "For cookies that are rolled or dusted in powdered sugar, like Mexican wedding cookies, you should hold off on the powdered sugar until it's time to serve," she explains. Once the cookies have cooled, freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet or another flat surface until they're firm (this will take about an hour); once they're completely frozen, the cookies can be stacked in an airtight container or zipper-sealed plastic storage bag with a piece of parchment or wax paper between each layer. After baking, they will last up to four months in the freezer.

Cookies That Freeze Well 

According to food stylist Jason Schreiber, author of Fruit Cake: Recipes for the Curious Baker ($18.68, amazon), sturdy cookies are best for freezing. Shortbread, biscotti, gingerbread, and drop cookies like chocolate chip or oatmeal are all examples of sturdy cookies that hold up well once frozen. "They can stand up to the cold temperatures and won't be damaged when you mindlessly rummage through your freezer," he explains. Additionally, Wenk says that undecorated sugar cookies and other cut-out shape cookies can also be frozen. "Since shaped cookies are flat, they're easiest to stack so you can fit a lot in your freezer at once," she notes.  

Cookies That Don't Freeze Well

Avoid freezing any delicate cookies with thin batters, such as lacey tuiles, pillowy meringues, and pizzelles. "The delicate textures won't survive the freezing and thawing, and the change in temperature is likely to cause moisture damage or melting," Schreiber says. Cakey cookies, like madeleines, also don't freeze well, according to Wenk, as they "begin to lose moisture no matter how tightly they're wrapped." It is possible to resuscitate them with a few minutes in the oven after thawing, however, but Wenk notes that they won't taste the same. You should also avoid freezing cookies that are decorated with sprinkles or colored sanding sugars because they won't freeze as well and will likely bleed as they thaw.

How to Thaw Frozen Cookies

To ensure cookies don't become soggy when they thaw, you'll want to minimize the risk of any condensation. "It's best to take your cookies out of the container or bag they were being stored in and place them on a paper towel-lined tray or plate in a single layer, to thaw completely and avoid any condensation," Wenk explains. Thawing should be done at room temperature, but you can bake them for five to ten minutes at 325 degrees, which may be necessary for cookies that need softening, like ones with chocolate chips. 

How to Freeze Cookie Dough 

If you have the option, Schreiber recommends freezing the dough instead of already baked cookies. "You'll be happy to have fresh-baked cookies at the end rather than freshly thawed," he explains. Schreiber notes that drop cookies, like chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, are the easiest to freeze. To do so, he says to place portioned dough in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until firm, then you can transfer the dough to zipper-lock bags. For cutout cookies, place the cutouts on parchment-lined baking sheets. To save room in your freezer you can layer the cutout dough, but Schreiber warns that you should place two sheets of parchment between each layer of the cookie dough, or they'll freeze together. He says to then wrap the entire baking sheet in plastic wrap before freezing. Cookie dough for slice and bake cookies should be wrapped with plastic in log-from and frozen until solid.

How to Bake Frozen Cookie Dough

For the most part, cookie dough can be baked from frozen. For drop cookies, Schreiber says to separate the frozen dough balls onto baking sheets and bake per the recipe's instructions. Keep in mind that frozen dough may not spread like fresh dough does—to remedy this, you can loosely cover the tray with plastic and set aside until the cookies come to room temperature before baking. However, for cutout cookies, Schreiber likes to bake the dough straight from the freezer, so they keep their shape. If the sheets are uncut, you should thaw them in the refrigerator until they're soft enough to cut, then bake. Logs of dough should be moved to the fridge the night before you plan to bake the cookies, then slice and bake as usual. No matter what type of dough you're working with, Schreiber notes that you may need to increase the baking time slightly for the cookies to spread nicely and bake throughout.

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