Find Time to Bake for the Holidays (Here’s How)
Between shopping, wrapping, decorating, sending out cards, and partying, you may feel you don’t have the time or energy left to treat yourself to one of the sweetest tasks of the holidays: baking cookies. We can help!
All it takes is a bit of strategizing. “I would never let a season pass without baking cookies, no matter how busy I am,” says Lauren Chattman, a former pastry chef in Sag Harbor, New York, and author of “Cookie Swap.” Chattman turns out hundreds of cookies every year for entertaining, as gifts, and just to enjoy. Her tips can help you make time for this tasty and heart-warming tradition.
The key? Break up cookie baking into doable chunks.
Phase 1: Get Rolling
Don’t wait until mid-December to get into the spirit. Instead, put on your cookie-baking thinking cap in early December, if not sooner. Chattman begins planning the cookies she’ll make the Monday after Thanksgiving. That’s when she picks her recipes and jots down her ingredient list. After that, she’ll shop for everything she needs so that it’s all on hand.
Phase 2: Do Up the Dough and Freeze
In your free time, make batches of dough, and then freeze them. “With almost every kind of cookie I bake, I freeze the dough before I bake it,” Chattman says. For drop cookies, just scoop out balls of dough, drop them onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and freeze them for 15 minutes. Then, place the cookie dough balls into a plastic bag until you’re ready to bake them.
For cut-out cookies such as gingerbread men, roll and cut out the dough or run it through a cookie press. Then freeze the cutouts or pressed dough on cookie sheets. Chattman wraps cookie sheets with rolled-out dough in plastic wrap and freezes them—cookie sheet and all—so that cookies are ready to be baked. Cookie dough can be frozen up to two months. If you don’t have room in your freezer, store dough in your refrigerator for up to two days.
Phase 3: Decorate and Bake
When you’ve got an extra half hour or so, just pull your cookie dough balls or cookie trays out of the freezer and pop them into a pre-heated oven. According to Chattman, most cookies can be baked directly from the freezer. She doesn’t recommend freezing holiday cookies after they’ve baked, though, because they don’t taste as fresh as frozen dough that’s been freshly baked.
Frosting and piping icing on sugar cookies and embellishing them with sprinkles can be time consuming, but you can skip this step by incorporating decorations into the baking stage. For example, use raisins and red hots to adorn gingerbread men before they’re baked. Another option? Sprinkle sugar cookies with colorful sanding sugar before popping them into the oven.
If you want to frost and decorate sugar cookies, consider buying pre-made dough and baking and decorating the cookies when you’ve got a moment. Better yet, host a cookie decorating party!
Phase 4: Enjoy
Overall, cookie baking is one more thing to do for the holidays, but it should be fun. The recipe for success? Make baking a priority, get organized, and execute the stages of your plan when you’ve got a spare hour at night or on the weekends. “There’s no spontaneity when it comes to making holiday cookies,” Chattman says. “It’s a battle plan.”