First it was banana bread, then sourdough bread, then baked oats. The next baking trend to come out of the pandemic might be professional-level cut-out cookie decorating, a hobby I picked up a few months ago after taking a course from Sarah Grace Roberts, a Collinwood, Tennessee-based baker who teaches virtual and in-person cookie decorating courses through her company Sarah Grace Cookie Co.
Besides learning proper technique for mixing royal icing, filing piping bags, flooding your cookies, and more, I picked up a hack for actually baking the cookies for decorating that has been a game changer. Ready for this? Instead of refrigerating your dough, roll it out into large rectangles right after mixing it up, then stack them on top of each other with sheets of wax paper in between, wrap in plastic and freeze. Then, when you're ready to bake the cookies, simply pull out a sheet of dough and let it thaw on the counter for about 15 minutes before going to town with your cookie cutters. Need more convincing to try this roll-and-freeze method? Here are four advantages.
No more sore arms.
If you've ever tried to muscle your way through rolling out a ball of chilled cookie dough, you get it. When the butter solidifies, the dough can be as hard as a rock—meaning you'll have to let it warm up on the counter for some time before you can work with it. Because warm cookie dough tends to spread (more on that below), you'll have to chill your cutouts again after cutting them before baking, which only tacks on more time to the process.
You can work ahead.
Whether you're a cookie decorator selling treats professionally, a busy mom who has to plan far ahead or simply someone who likes to be as efficient as possible, making a big batch of cookie dough, rolling it out and freezing it in sheets is the way to go. Because the sheets are flat, they won't take up a ton of space in your freezer, but doing it this way will save you lots of time. (Plus, you'll only dirty your mixer and measuring cups once.) You can simply pull out one or several of your dough sheets out whenever you need them. As long as they're tightly wrapped, they'll last about three months in the freezer.
Cookies hold their shape.
Do your flower cutouts turn out more like a wavy blob after you've baked them? This could have happened for a couple reasons: First, your dough was too warm going into the oven, leading the butter to melt more quickly in the heat and therefore distorting the cookie's shape. Cookies hold their shape while baking much better when they go in frozen or cold. Second, if your dough was too warm when you cut the shape, it could have resulted in edges that weren't smooth, or the shape getting distorted when you transferred it to your baking sheet. When trying this freezer hack, you can cut out your cookies and bake them as soon as your dough sheet has thawed for 15 minutes, and they'll hold their shape.
Cleanup is minimal.
Once you've done all the hard work of mixing up and rolling out your dough, the process of actually cutting out and baking the cookies is easy. Because the sheets have been pre-rolled and frozen, there's no need to sprinkle your counter with flour—and your dough doesn't even have to touch your counter, if you leave the wax paper on the bottom sheet while you cut out shapes. Saving time during this stage means more time for putting TLC into decorating your cookies, too.