Many Questions About Freezing Cookie Dough

I want to save some time and pre-bake and freeze my cut cookies. A few questions:

1. How many days can I leave dough in the fridge before baking?

2. I heard I should cut the dough; then freeze it?

3. How many days can I freeze cut dough? 

4. How long do I wait when pulled from freezer before I decorate?

5. How many days should the cookies be good for? Before colors bleed?

Thank you very much for your help.

Original Post

@Kimi Party Majors Hi! Great questions, though I think you'll find some of them already answered in various other forum posts. Here's a link to all the posts that come up when you search the forums for "freezing dough": http://cookieconnection.juliau...agination.sort=SCORE

This post does a particularly good job of explaining the effects of freezing cookie dough on spreading (which can help with some recipes and not with others): http://cookieconnection.juliau...8#371155709058071478

But, briefly, to answer your question from my point of view:

(1) Depends on the recipe; some are more prone to perishing than others, like those with eggs and high in butter fat. And, depending on how well the dough is wrapped, it could dry out at different rates. I wouldn't use my recipe after more than 5 or so days. Even though I double-wrap it in plastic and then foil, it eventually dries out a little and picks up odors from the fridge.

(2) This is largely hogwash, IMO, if the idea behind the freezing is to diminish spread. If a recipe is well formulated to prevent spreading in the first place, freezing after cutting will have little effect on the dough spread. (I have a new gingerbread video on YouTube on this very topic.) If it isn't, then chilling can solidify butter fat, which can help to prevent spreading. So every recipe will respond to freezing differently. But, the primary reason I challenge this statement is: why take up valuable space in your freezer by cutting out shapes and then freezing them? When I want to make dough in advance for later use, I simply freeze the mass of dough; then roll off portions and bake to order as I need it. This saves a ton of freezer space, yet I still have the advantage of having made the dough in advance.

(3) Again, depends on the recipe and how you've packaged the cut dough. I freeze blobs of dough for up to three months, but it is tightly wrapped in plastic and then foil (and sometimes even bagged) to prevent freezer burn and drying.

(4) I don't understand this question. Frozen cookies would, of course, have to be baked before decorating. If you meant, "how long do you wait before decorating a frozen already-baked cookie?", then I'd also say "it depends". The cookies need to be completely thawed out and at room temperature, as the moisture from the thawing process could interfere with the setting of the icing and contribute to colors bleeding. Thawing time depends on the size of the cookie, ambient temperature, how the cookie are laid out (or not) to thaw, etc.

(5) Again, depends on the recipe; they all have different staling properties. I like to eat highly spiced doughs within a week of baking for maximum freshness and flavor; others can be pushed longer depending on your palate.

Sorry to sound vague, but, truly, much of the above depends on the recipe you use and ambient conditions, such as temperature and storage methods. I always advise people to look for sensory cues, especially when baking and thawing, rather than just exact times. Also, it's important to taste your particular cookie recipe over time to determine when you personally begin to sense a deterioration in flavor and texture. Nothing can determine this better than your own palate, as freshness is so subjective anyway. 

What I like to do is make my dough in large quantities and divide it into 1kg portions. I flatten the dough into about 1" thick blocks and then wrap them up with plastic wrap really well and then freeze. When I do cookies, I take the dough out of the freezer and put into the fridge the night before. The next day, I take the dough out of the fridge for a few hours so that it's easier to roll but not too soft. I've never cut my cookies and froze them for the long term, before.

I've never kept sugar cookie dough in my fridge longer than a week, but even then it was still great. 

I also like to chill my cookies in the freezer on cookie sheets after I cut them - for about 15-30 minutes. I find that it helps with spreading since the dough is now all the same temperature (since I roll out coolish dough, and some of it gets warm after a few rolls).

I like to bake my cookies the night before I decorate, too. After decorating and drying, I individually package and heat seal them and they stay good for atleast a few weeks. I've had people forget about them after a month and they said they STILL tasted great. They also freeze really well, individually packaged. 

One time, my parents forgot about a cookie from the Christmas before (and we were already nearing Christmas again a YEAR later) and I decided to take a bite. It didn't taste the freshest BUT I didn't die. Lollll. Totally wouldn't recommend storing them for a year, but... just wanted to share that useless bit of information.

Julia M. Usher posted:

@Kimi Party Majors Hi! Great questions, though I think you'll find some of them already answered in various other forum posts. Here's a link to all the posts that come up when you search the forums for "freezing dough": http://cookieconnection.juliau...agination.sort=SCORE

This post does a particularly good job of explaining the effects of freezing cookie dough on spreading (which can help with some recipes and not with others): http://cookieconnection.juliau...8#371155709058071478

But, briefly, to answer your question from my point of view:

(1) Depends on the recipe; some are more prone to perishing than others, like those with eggs and high in butter fat. And, depending on how well the dough is wrapped, it could dry out at different rates. I wouldn't use my recipe after more than 5 or so days. Even though I double-wrap it in plastic and then foil, it eventually dries out a little and picks up odors from the fridge.

(2) This is largely hogwash, IMO, if the idea behind the freezing is to diminish spread. If a recipe is well formulated to prevent spreading in the first place, freezing after cutting will have little effect on the dough spread. (I have a new gingerbread video on YouTube on this very topic.) If it isn't, then chilling can solidify butter fat, which can help to prevent spreading. So every recipe will respond to freezing differently. But, the primary reason I challenge this statement is: why take up valuable space in your freezer by cutting out shapes and then freezing them? When I want to make dough in advance for later use, I simply freeze the mass of dough; then roll off portions and bake to order as I need it. This saves a ton of freezer space, yet I still have the advantage of having made the dough in advance.

(3) Again, depends on the recipe and how you've packaged the cut dough. I freeze blobs of dough for up to three months, but it is tightly wrapped in plastic and then foil (and sometimes even bagged) to prevent freezer burn and drying.

(4) I don't understand this question. Frozen cookies would, of course, have to be baked before decorating. If you meant, "how long do you wait before decorating a frozen already-baked cookie?", then I'd also say "it depends". The cookies need to be completely thawed out and at room temperature, as the moisture from the thawing process could interfere with the setting of the icing and contribute to colors bleeding. Thawing time depends on the size of the cookie, ambient temperature, how the cookie are laid out (or not) to thaw, etc.

(5) Again, depends on the recipe; they all have different staling properties. I like to eat highly spiced doughs within a week of baking for maximum freshness and flavor; others can be pushed longer depending on your palate.

Sorry to sound vague, but, truly, much of the above depends on the recipe you use and ambient conditions, such as temperature and storage methods. I always advise people to look for sensory cues, especially when baking and thawing, rather than just exact times. Also, it's important to taste your particular cookie recipe over time to determine when you personally begin to sense a deterioration in flavor and texture. Nothing can determine this better than your own palate, as freshness is so subjective anyway. 

Thank you so much Julia for your time in responding. I will definately try pre-making the dough and wrap in smaller bundles and wrap well as you do. I read so much about you have to cut the dough and then freeze it. Yes, this takes me so much time and space in my freezer. I will experiment with recipes to decrease the chance of spreading. Happy Baking,,,,,, Kimi

I take my extra cookie dough, roll it out, wrap in plastic ic wrap and chill it.  After chilled I double ziploc bag the dough.  I save it for a project or small gift.  I think the dough is much better fresh, but I'll use it for experiments in decorating.  Personally I enjoy making dough and rolling it out,however, I stopped taking cookie orders.  It's too hard on my shoulder.

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