December 18, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food: Bake-in-advance tips & tricks

Copy editor/baker extraordinaire Eric bakes and freezes these free-form hand-decorated sugar cookies in advance. (Eric Henrickson / The Detroit News)

To save my husband from obesity, I have been pawning cookies from The Great Cookie Swap adventure off on neighbors and daycare workers. Nonetheless, today I’m debating bringing part of the second batch of my fudge — this time, experimenting with orange extract replacing the vanilla — to the cookie swap at work to stockpile yet more goodies.

Such confections may not last past the church Christmas party we’re hosting, or my husband’s family coming for the holiday. But if so, I may actually have to think about freezing cookies — at least the ones that won’t seem too season-inappropriate come January.

My friend Eric, though, doesn’t consider freezing cookies a last resort; it’s actually part of his holiday baking status quo. Eric’s a copy editor who’s a fantastic sweets baker/designer on the side, and in my opinion an expert at free-form hand-decorated sugar cookies (you should have seen his statue cookies when we worked Oscars together).

In general, he says, he tries to keep baking as fresh as possible. But if scheduling requires, he’ll take time off or block out a weekend to make cookies for family, friends or clients, then thaw them for the big event.

“Even clients have told me they couldn’t tell,” he said.

That’s so smart, methinks; I’m way too big on trying to bake immediately before an event, taking my stress to an 11. So when Eric told me about how he makes and freezes decorated holiday cookies in advance — and that the sugar cookies taste just as good once thawed if you freeze them within a day or so of baking — I asked a little about the method behind his madness. In his words:

“With this type of decorated sugar cookie, I do two layers with a sheet of wax paper in between. I use the heavier-duty freezer bags and do think the Ziplocs are better than the Meijer brand. The plastic is thicker, and I like the way it seals better. But maybe it’s psychological. I carefully try to squeeze out as much air as possible. (I’m considering a vacuum sealer.) If freezing for more than a couple weeks, you might want to individually wrap the cookies and/or put the bag in another container.

“Personally, I’ve frozen these, spritz cookies, shortbread, undecorated sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies. The icing on these is the hard royal icing. I don’t know if regular frosting would freeze well.”

So if this weekend is your last call for holiday baking and you want those cookies super-fresh for Christmas munching, give Eric’s tips a try. Or, if you want to squirrel away some dough to bake cookies fresh later, check out these tips for freezing dough for chunky, slice-and-bake and cut-out cookies.

As for me, I’m out of the making and into the packaging and distributing holiday treats for this season, I think. Still, I’m far done with the admiring part; just the pictures of Eric’s cookies gave me a little holiday lift.

Do you have bake-in-advance tips and tricks? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but they’re easy to sign up for, and free. Over the next few days, Detroit News Food Editor Maureen Tisdale will respond to comments or questions. You also can follow her on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!