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

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Jean, we don’t know all the details of your recipe, but any drop cookie dough should work well in the freezer. Happy baking! Kat@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Looking for a recipe for Butter Tarts, Theresa? If so, look no further — we have the perfect recipe waiting for you here. If you’re looking for something else, feel free to give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE(2253). One of our friendly, experienced bakers would be happy to help you find what you’re looking for. Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      They should spread beautifully in the oven, Lobna. If you made particularly large cookies, say using a Scone and Muffin scoop, those can sometimes need to be pressed down half way through the baking. The easiest way to do this is to spray the bottom of the measuring cup with pan spray, and gently push down on each cookie to give them a little help flattening in the middle. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  1. Jennifer J Ott

    Just mixed up and froze two different flavors of cookies (in regular cookies scoop form). I have my 5 yr. old granddaughter Tuesday through Friday after school so I made 6 dozen cookies balls to bake up a few fresh cookies every day, (I have a counter top oven so this is easy). I’m diabetic so I don’t like having baked cookies sitting around, too much temptation to just grab one but this way if I want a cookie, I can bake just one. I’m going to try peanut butter ones next. One site said not to roll in sugar first, is this actually a problem?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That must be a lot of fun for the two of you to do together, Jennifer! Rather than rolling your cookies in sugar before freezing, we’d suggest freezing them without the sugar. When preparing to bake, thaw the cookies for 5-10 minutes, or just long enough to soften them very slightly, and roll them in sugar before baking. Hope this helps! Mollie@KAF

  2. Ted Fichtenholtz

    I’m baking rolls for the holidays? Can I freeze roll dough? A very simple dough, not enriched except for some sugar.


  3. L Edwards

    I freeze balls of chocolate crinkle cookie dough without rolling them in the powdered sugar prior to freezing. Would you advise rolling the cookies
    In the powdered sugar prior to freezing. It would save time.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Although it might save time, we’d recommend sticking to the method you’re using now: freeze without rolling in sugar first. Otherwise, the sugar might melt and become sticky as the dough thaws. If you want the best appearance for your crinkles, then roll in sugar just before baking. Enjoy! Kye@KAF

  4. Coleene Davidson

    I know drop cookies can be frozen with good results, however, I have been baking a lot of bar cookies. Would like to make ahead and bake as needed. Would freeze in 9×12 pan then package for freezer.

    Have not seen anything about this on any site. Can you help

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Coleene,
      The general consensus from the bakers here in the pod is that this should be just fine. Contrary to frozen cookie balls though, you’ll want to thaw the bar cookies in the pan before baking to avoid over-baked edges and under-baked centers. ~MJ

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