We know all too well how busy a time of year Christmas can be, with shopping to do, parties to attend (and host), decorations to hang and presents to wrap. This all leaves little time left over to bake for all of your holiday parties. We suggest starting early.

Sounds like a no-brainer, but you also don’t want your cookies to be stale or moldy by the time the gatherings come around. That’s why you can bake a big batch of cookies several weeks in advance then freeze them and take them out in time to thaw for the party.

Similarly, you can also pre-make the dough and just freeze that then all you have to do is roll it out, cut it into shapes and bake it. Or make it even easier by making the dough, having it cut into the shapes you want and freezing it in layers. Then you just have to bake the cookies for a tad longer than the recipe calls for since the dough will be frozen.

This latter option is one of our favourites because you get the hard part out of the way weeks before and can still bake them “fresh” for your guests who never need to know your secret. Plus, the aroma of freshly baked cookies will make your house even more inviting and ready for a festive evening.

Keep in mind that some cookies won’t lend themselves to freezing due to the texture, like macaroons and anything with egg whites. However, you can still make these types of cookies in advance and store them in airtight containers. They will still be fine when you decide to serve them.

If you want a variety of cookies for your festive plate but only have time for one large batch, you could do a cookie swap with friends or coworkers. This means you would make several dozen cookies in one variety and your friends would each do the same, then you’d swap cookies so you end up with a few different varieties, and again, no one needs to know that you didn’t bake them.

One of our favourite cookie recipes to make this time of year is this one for cranberry pistachio icebox cookies. They’re festive and work well as a pre-made frozen batch. Try for yourself!

Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup shelled pistachios (2 1/4 oz; not dyed red)
1/3 cup dried cranberries (1 1/4 oz)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup decorative sugar (preferably coarse)

Special equipment: parchment paper

To make dough…

Stir together flour, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter, granulated sugar, and zest in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until dough just comes together in clumps, then mix in pistachios and cranberries. Gather and press dough together, then divide into 2 equal pieces. Using a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper as an aid, form each piece of dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Square off long sides of each log to form a bar, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until very firm, at least 2 hours.

Slice and bake cookies…

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Brush egg over all 4 long sides of bars (but not ends). Sprinkle decorative sugar on a separate sheet of parchment or wax paper and press bars into sugar, coating well.

Cut each bar crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, rotating bar after cutting each slice to help keep square shape. (If dough gets too soft to slice, freeze bars briefly until firm.) Arrange cookies about 1/2 inch apart on lined baking sheets.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are pale golden, 15 to 18 minutes total. Transfer cookies from parchment to racks using a slotted spatula and cool completely. If desired, dip cooled cookies in white chocolate for and added touch.

Baker’s notes:

  • Dough bars can be chilled up to 3 days or frozen, wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil, 1 month (thaw frozen dough in refrigerator just until dough can be sliced).
  • Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 5 days.

Check out our other blog posts for more baking tips, tricks and recipes. Also, check out Kate’s Kause online and see where the efforts of our Christmas “Cookies for Kate” will be going towards. During Christmas, we’ll be selling Christmas cookies for $5 per dozen and $1 from every dozen will be donated to Kate’s Kause so that an all-accessible playground can be built in Elmira.

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