Merry Christmas: Holiday Baking
The Christmas holiday season can be super busy! Shopping, parties and entertaining are added to our already crazy schedules. Baking cookies, cakes and pies is a strong holiday tradition and preparing them in advance is a great way to deal with the last minute holiday rush. If you or your friends are planning to bake this season and are looking for a method to prepare now and serve later, freezing is a great option. Freezing will not improve the quality of most foods, but when done properly can yield excellent results. For safety and best quality, frozen foods should be prepared using high-quality ingredients, while following methods specific to your recipe, and freezer temperatures should be maintained at 0°F or below.
The following recommendations detail freezing methods and materials for a few popular holiday treats. For more information see HGIC 3065, Freezing Prepared Foods.
Prepare and bake as usual in layers or a in a loaf pan. Cool. Remove from pans and wrap tightly. For best results, freeze cake and frosting separately. Thaw cake in wrapping at room temperature. Add icing and serve. May be frozen for 2-4 months.
Angel food, chiffon & sponge cakes - Bake thoroughly and then cool.
Frosted: Freeze before wrapping. Fudge frosting and powdered sugar icings made with fat freeze well. When time to serve frosted or filled cakes, unwrap and thaw in the refrigerator. *Cooked candy-type frostings may stay soft and creamy between layers but often crack and crumble on outside of cake. Do not use egg white frosting.
Unfrosted: Wrap and freeze. Place in container that will prevent crushing. Thaw in wrap on rack 1 to 2 hours at room temperature. If wrapped in aluminum foil, thaw at 300 °F for 15 to 20 minutes.
For best quality freeze Egg-white cakes for 6 months or less; Whole-egg cakes less than 4-6 months and Egg-yolk cakes for 2 months or less.
Prepare as usual. Cool completely before wrapping. Package. Thaw at room temperature (takes about 1 hour). If unfrosted, thaw in aluminum foil, 300 °F for 10 minutes. Cupcakes will retain best quality for 2-3 months in the freezer.
Cookies retain best quality when frozen for less than 6 months.
Baked - Prepare and bake per recipe. Cool thoroughly. Package in foil or a rigid container with two layers of waxed paper between cookies. Thaw in containers at room temperature. Remove from containers and serve.
Unbaked - Refrigerator cookies: Form dough into roll. Slice if desired. Package in moisture and vapor-resistant paper. Drop cookies: Drop on sheet or just package bulk dough. Thaw dough in refrigerator. Firm cookie dough may be sliced before completely thawed and baked.
Baked Fruit, Mince and Nut pies - Make as usual. Cool rapidly. Freeze before packaging. Pies are easier to wrap after freezing. Thaw in refrigerator or let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes, then heat in a 350 °F oven until warm, about 30 min. May be frozen 3-4 months ahead.
Unbaked Fruit, Mince and Nut pies- (unbaked fruit pies have a better fresh-fruit flavor than frozen baked pies, but bottom crust tends to get soggy). Make as usual except add 1 extra tablespoon flour or tapioca or ½ tablespoon cornstarch to juicy fillings to prevent boiling over when pies are later baked. Do not cut vents in the top crust. Steam and cool light fruits before making pies. Freeze in pan. Package. Fruit fillings may be thickened and cooled before adding to crust. Unwrap and cut vent holes in upper crust. Put pan on cookie sheet. Bake without thawing at 450°F for 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F for 20 to 30 minutes or until top crust is brown. For optimum quality freeze Fruit and Nut pies for 3-4 months or less and Mince pies 6-8 months.
Chiffon - Make with gelatin base. Freeze before wrapping to keep top from sticking to freezer wrap. Unwrap; thaw in refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. Best if frozen for less than 2 weeks.
Pumpkin - Prepare pie shell and filling as usual. Have filling cold before adding to unbaked chilled pie shell. Package same as fruit pies. Bake without thawing at 400°F for 10 min. Then reduce to 325°F to finish baking. Freeze for 4-5 weeks.
Fruit pie fillings - Make as usual. Package. Leave headspace. Thaw just enough to spread in pie crust. May be frozen for 6-8 months.