Friday, November 03, 2006

Tips for Holiday Baking and Freezing

You don’t always have time to bake elaborate desserts during the holiday rush. But what if I told you that some scrumptious sweets can be made ahead and frozen; and no one would ever be able to taste or see the difference? Yum

Of course there's no time better than the holidays to have homemade sweets on hand—no time busier, either. But, happily, lots of sweets can be baked early, stowed in the freezer, and pulled out at party time, their taste, texture, good looks, and power to delight completely intact. Here's how to get it right—plus a few no-fail recipes for bake-and-freeze desserts.

Begin with butter
Pound cakes, tight-grained loaf cakes, sturdy Bundts, brownies, cookies—all the butter-based sweets—freeze best.

Freeze pies raw
Fruit pies make fine freezables, but you should get them into the freezer right after they're assembled. Then, pull out and bake.

Don't freeze creams
Meringues, puddings, custards, creams, mousses, and whips don't freeze well—some break down, some weep, and they all lose their lovely textures in the defrosting process.

Cool first, freeze second
A sweet isn't really finished until it's cooled—cooling is what sets the texture and gives the flavors time to blend.

Pack it airtight
Oxygen is what causes freezer burn. There are fancy freezer containers on the market, but old-school twist-tied plastic bags or plastic wrap is most effective. Because the seal should be snug, draw together the top of the bag, then suck out as much air as possible before shutting it tight with a twist tie.

Label everything
Put the name of your goody on the bag (mystery cakes are as frustrating as mystery meat), and mark the date that you made it.

Defrost slowly
It's best to put the frozen dessert—still in its wrapping—in the refrigerator to defrost overnight, then bring it to room temperature before serving. If you're in a rush, go directly from freezer to counter. Never defrost frozen desserts in the microwave. That's a sure-fire way to cook or melt them.

Exerpted from Hot Freezables By Dorie Greenspan

Dorie Greenspan is an award-winning cookbook author. Her latest, Baking: From My Home to Yours, will be published by Houghton Mifflin in November.

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