The holidays might mean lots of extra baking for gifts or serving to guests. But rather than staying up until dawn to finish the last batch of cookies before your party, do some of your baking now and freeze for the festivities later.
Freezing baked goods is a great way to spread out the cooking duties of the holidays and minimize the "kitchen stress" that can build before a big holiday meal.
I'm not the only one thinking about baking ahead. I received several calls before Thanksgiving asking about freezing baked goods, and I've already had a few calls last week inquiring about baking and freezing holiday treats.
Many baked goods freeze and thaw beautifully. But the key to doing it successfully is following recommended procedures.
The first rule is to cool baked goods completely before wrapping for the freezer. This will prevent moisture condensation from the warm food making it soggy after thawing.
When cool, package the baked goods carefully to maintain the quality or freshness of the food. Use heavy-duty foil, airtight freezer bags, freezer paper or air-tight containers.
Cakes and cupcakes should be cooled, wrapped and frozen without fillings, which make the cake soggy. Some frostings will not freeze well either, but confectioners sugar and fudge frostings can be frozen satisfactorily. Place the frosted cake in the freezer to harden the frosting before covering. Thaw frosted cakes overnight in the refrigerator; unfrosted cakes can be thawed at room temperature.
Cookies seem to have the edge over cakes or cupcakes when it come to freezing ease. Cookies can be frozen either baked or unbaked. You can shape dough in a roll, wrap and freeze, or chill dough in the refrigerator, then slice and freeze. Drop-cookie dough can be frozen in freezer containers. Before baking, thaw dough in the refrigerator until it is soft enough to drop with a spoon. Another option is to drop cookie dough in mounds onto a tray covered with wax paper and freeze solid. Pack into a container or freezer bag when firm. Bake cookie mounds without thawing at 400 degrees for approximately 10 minutes.
Baked cookies can be cooled, packaged in a rigid container to prevent breakage and frozen.
Yeast bread and rolls should be cooled completely, then wrapped in tightly sealed packaging. Bread baked at a temperature of 400 degrees for approximately 45 to 50 minutes is less crumbly and more desirable for freezing than bread baked at a lower temperature.
Most baked-quick breads freeze well, too. Follow the basic guidelines for cooling and packaging tightly.
You can also freeze baked pecan pies and baked or unbaked fruit pies. The crust of an unbaked fruit pie might absorb juices from the filling and become soggy. However, unbaked pies retain a fresher fruit flavor.
Baked pies also should be completely cooled. Place them unwrapped in the freezer and freeze until firm. Pies are easier to wrap, and there is less breakage of the crust after they are frozen.
To bake unbaked frozen pies, unwrap, cut slits in the top pastry and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking for 45 to 60 minutes or until the center becomes bubbly.
If your pie is already baked, allow it to stand at room temperature for a short time, then pop it in a 325-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until just warm.
Custard pies, cream pies and pies with meringue topping do not freeze well.
There is some disagreement on the success of freezing pumpkin pies. One of my references suggests freezing baked pumpkin pies but not unbaked ones, another says either will work. Another reference says pumpkin pies should not be frozen at all. Based on the conflicting recommendations, I think it might be safer to freeze the fruit and pecan pies ahead and bake the pumpkin pies fresh to avoid problems.
For specific advice on freezing other baked goods, ask for the Extension fact sheet on "Freezing Baked Goods" at the Ellis County Extension office, 601 Main, Hays, or find it at www.ellis.ksu.edu.
Linda K. Beech is Ellis County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.