Experiments with Cookie Dough, Part 2: Freeze Then Bake

Experiments with Cookie Dough
Experiments with Cookie Dough

This post idea started out in the usual way — think of a tasty treat and make it. And I did start to make something yummy until I realized I was too full from dinner to enjoy dessert. In an effort to avoid wasting fresh-baked goodies, I decided to stop in the middle of my cookie preparations.

However, I stalled out wondering what I should do with my prepared cookie dough. Previously, I had worked with baking and then freezing cookies (see The Great Cookie Freezing Experiment.) Now I guess I needed to jump in and try my hand at freezing and then baking the dough itself.

To start, I grabbed my batch of cookie dough and a cookie scoop that made 1.5 tablespoon balls. I portioned the dough out onto small parchment paper lined baking pans. The pans were then placed in the freezer for over 1 hour for the dough balls to become firm. Once solid, the dough balls were put in a large zip-top freezer bag which went into the freezer.

The next day I was pondering again, but this time I had different questions. Did I need to defrost the dough balls? At what temperature should the oven be set? How long should I bake the cookies? Should I bake all the cookies now, or save some for later?

An internet searched came up with the answers, thanks to Handle the Heat. “You can bake from frozen. Here are the steps…

  1. Preheat the oven to about 20 degrees lower than the original recipe temperature. 
  2. Remove however many balls of dough you need from the freezer and place on a parchment-lined baking pan.
  3. Bake the cookies for 2 to 5 minutes longer than the original recipe instructions, or until the cookies are golden at the edges but still slightly ‘wet’ looking at the very center.”

Using the advice above, I did a test of six frozen cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet in an oven set to 355F instead of 375F. I baked them for 5 minutes more than the recipe stated because I felt my cookies were a little larger than those in the original recipe. My cookies were beautiful golden brown on the bottom and they flattened with minimal dough spread. They were gorgeous, and also delicious.

frozen cookie dough
frozen cookie dough

The tips above even helped answer the question on how many cookies to make. I learned that the dough could be frozen for up to 6 weeks, so I realized I should bake some now but save some for a future cookie craving.

By now are you wondering what cookie I baked? The pictures give a hint, but you will have to wait until next week for the recipe.

Until next time, happy baking!

How to Stop Your Cookies From Spreading

Spread Cookies image courtesy of crypto on flickr.com

Spread Cookies image courtesy of crypto on flickr.com

Here in the Decadent Vegan Baker’s kitchen I have whipped up my fair share of cookies. I always want them to look good for pictures, and for bragging rights, so I did some research on how to avoid the dreaded cookie spread. You know — when the cookies turn into unsightly blobs or, worse yet, fuse into each other. Here is what I found out …

A tip I got many years ago was to be sure to cool baking sheets down before placing the next batch of raw dough on them. That’s easy enough to do in the winter as I just prop them on the wall near an outside door. In the summer I have to wait patiently while the sheets cool off, but that time can be well spent engaged in the next piece of advice.

My second item of advice is to place the dough in the fridge prior to baking the cookies. “Chilling the dough solidifies the fat in the dough, meaning that it will melt more slowly under the heat of the oven and result in taller, thicker cookies,” say the chefs at Food52. Dough that is too warm can make cookies that look like flat blobs.

On the King Arthur Flour website they recommend two things for attaining the perfect cookie: lowering the baking temperature while also extending the baking time. For a recipe that called for cookies baked at 350°F for 14 minutes, they “dropped the temperature to 300°F, and extended the baking time: 22 minutes for chewy, 30 minutes for crisp.” They explained that “the fat in cookies is a big part of their structure, prior to baking…Once those cookies hit the oven, though, the fat starts to soften and melt. And the hotter the oven, the more quickly it melts. If the oven’s hot enough, the fat melts before the cookies set. And since their flour/liquid matrix hasn’t yet had a chance to harden, the cookies spread.”

A final trick offered by Food52 is that “when a recipe calls for room temperature butter, you should be able to make a small indentation easily with your finger without the area sinking under its weight. If the butter is too cold, you’ll have to do more mixing to get it to properly incorporate.” Unincorporated butter leads to airy dough that leads to cookies that fall in the oven, and that leads to the ugly blob.

If you find that you have tried all of my recommendations and still produce unsightly cookies, do not worry. Send the cookies to my house and my husband will dispose of them properly … for dessert.

Baking Bread at High Altitude

breadYeast scares me. When a recipe includes yeast it also includes hours of time until you actually get to eat. Instant gratification is much better. I can go from gathering ingredients for cookies to eating them in less than 1/2 hour. But I understand that many people love the meditative qualities and joy of baking bread. In order to help those bakers out, I have delved into the science of bread baking at high altitude.

According to Taste of Home, “High altitude (over 3,000 feet) affects bread baking because the lower air pressure allows the yeast to rise 25 to 50 percent faster, and the drier air makes the flour drier. If the dough over-rises, the results might be a heavy, dry loaf or misshapen or collapsed loaf.” The lower air pressure and dryness affects all baking but may have a more drastic effect on bread. I would eat a dry chocolate cookie, but dry, leaden bread … never!

Cultures for Health includes other specifics that affect high altitude bread baking, including adjustments to time. Increasing baking time is important. “The amount of extra time depends on the exact elevation. The easiest way to judge when a loaf of bread is finished baking is to use a thin-tipped instant-read thermometer inserted into the bottom of the loaf. A temperature of 195°F is a good goal, but temperatures all the way up to 205°F should be fine.”

They mention that proofing time should also be changed. “Rising time decreases as altitude increases. Keep in mind that the longer the rise time, the more complex the flavors will be, usually a desirable goal. Try rising at cooler temperatures and giving the dough a second rise. When the dough has doubled, punch it down and let it double again.”

These all seem like good tips to ensure a beautiful loaf of bread. I’ll stick with quick breads for now, but I’m hoping my favorite taste tester can use these recipes to create his perfect cinnamon roll. I look forward to being his taste tester.