Making, baking holiday treats at different times
Make cookie dough in advance, shape and freeze for an easy-to-make treat around the holidays.
Toasted Almond and Vanilla Bean Sables
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped, pods discarded or reserved for another use
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 large egg yolks
13/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted and coarsely crushed plus more if desired.
In a small bowl, rub the vanilla bean seeds and sugar together until the seeds are distributed and aren’t sticking together in clumps.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, vanilla sugar, powdered sugar and salt until smooth, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the almond extract and the egg yolks and beat until combined.
Add the flour and sliced almonds and continue to mix on low speed until the flour is just incorporated.
Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times until it comes together as dough, taking care not to overwork it. Cut in half; roll each half into a log about 9 inches long.
If freezing, roll the logs in plenty of plastic wrap and place gently on a flat surface in the freezer. These will last up to a month.
If you want to bake these soon after making the dough, refrigerate the logs for at least two to three hours, or up to two days.
To bake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If the log is frozen, let soften slightly. Slice the dough into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
Bake about 13 to 15 minutes (it will be on the longer side if baking from frozen), until lightly golden around the edges.
Updated: November 29, 2012 8:52AM
There is something to be said about having the ability to serve warm, home-baked treats to guests without so much as dirtying the mixer.
The answer? The freezer.
With the upcoming holiday onslaught, it’s not a bad idea to get ahead of the game by freezing doughs, cake batter and even fully formed pies before putting them in the oven. There’s no shorting the quality, freshly baked treats are ready as needed, and with the aroma of baking in the air, your guests will be none the wiser.
The whole freezer-to-table thing has other benefits, too.
Take a fruit pie, for example. The biggest challenge when baking this fresh is keeping the bottom crust from getting soggy, which happens when the juicy filling soaks the base before it cooks. With the pie already frozen, however, the bottom crust starts to bake before the filling has a chance to penetrate it, resulting in flaky, bronzed dough.
Though some fillings won’t work quite as well — custard pies and those with meringue toppings don’t hold up well in the freezer — most nuts, berries, juicy stone fruits, apples and pears will do just fine.
Freezing a pie once it’s already baked doesn’t have quite the same effect. The crust will lose the flaky appeal that’s the hallmark of this dessert.
Baked cakes do slightly better, but the crumbs will begin to dry out soon after landing in the freezer. Better to stop at the batter stage, once it’s in the baking pan and ready to go.
Whether it’s for a last-minute breakfast, holiday brunch or dessert, a dense sour cream coffee cake will do particularly well straight out of the freezer — crumb topping and all.
Both of these desserts require extra time in the oven to bake from frozen, and in the case of the pie, a different baking method to get the bottom crust cooking.
Then of course there is frozen cookie dough. If life is feeling too hectic, I at least try to have a bag in the freezer filled with pre-shaped chocolate chip cookies.
Once the dough is made, use a small ice cream scoop to dig out balls of the dough. Line them up side by side on a cookie sheet, and stick the whole thing in the freezer for 30 minutes tops. Then peel them off and freeze the cookies in a container or self-sealing plastic freezer bag. Pull out just as many as you need, and they’ll be ready — and warm, and gooey — in less than 15 minutes.
Slice-and-bake cookies are also perfect for freezing. Dough can be frozen in logs, which will last up to a month in the freezer, and sliced just before going into the oven.