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Wilburn: Planning on baking for the holidays? Chill out

POSTED: March 21, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Instead of baking to a frazzle this holiday season, try chilling out. Bake ahead and freeze foods to avoid last-minute hassles. Here are some guidelines to help you start.

If you’re in doubt about whether a food will freeze well, it’s always a good idea to give it a trial run. Try making and freezing a small batch earlier in the season and see if you’re satisfied with the results. Or, experiment with a small amount this year and apply what you learned next year.

Remember: Commercial manufacturers have equipment and ingredients not available to home bakers and can successfully freeze many products you can’t. Also, commercial products contain preservatives that permit longer storage both in the freezer and at room temperature.

Be on the lookout for next week’s column, which will feature information on freezing pies.

Freezing specific foods

Quick breads (coffee cake, fruit, nut breads)

Note: Traditional low-fat muffins and biscuits are best right out of the oven. Quality decreases when they are frozen.

Method: Prepare and bake as usual. Cool, package and freeze. Thaw at room temperature in original wrapping. Slice fruit and nut breads while partially frozen to prevent crumbling. Foil-wrapped coffee cakes may be reheated in foil in a 325 to 350 F oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until hot.

Suggested freezer storage time: 2 to 3 months

Yeast breads (rolls, sweet rolls, bread, coffee cake)

Method: Make as usual. Cool, package and freeze. Thaw in original wrapping at room temperature. To serve warm, reheat in foil-covered container or in foil wrapping at 300 F for 15 to 20 minutes; 5 to 10 minutes for rolls.

Suggested freezer storage time: 3 to 6 months

Cakes

To prevent crushing, place wrapped or bagged cakes in sturdy containers in the freezer. If you freeze slices of cake, put a double layer of freezer wrapping between slices. Avoid cream-type fillings as these often decline in quality when frozen. Cakes may be frozen unfrosted or frosted.

Unfrosted: Wrap UNFROSTED cakes BEFORE freezing. Frost AFTER cake is thawed. Thaw UNFROSTED cakes in their original wrapping at room temperature.

Frosted: The best frostings for freezing are fudge frostings and uncooked powdered or confectioner’s sugar frostings made with fat. Cooked frostings, seven minute frostings and other egg-white-based frostings don’t freeze well. Freeze FROSTED cakes BEFORE packaging to prevent the wrapping from sticking to the frosting. Thaw FROSTED cakes in the refrigerator. Remove the immediate wrapping so it won’t stick to the frosting as the cake thaws. Thaw the unwrapped cake on a serving plate in its protective container or a cake keeper. This prevents possible cross-contamination from other foods and accidental damage to the delicate frosted surface as you add and remove refrigerated items. If space limitations force you to thaw a frosted cake completely uncovered, place it on the TOP shelf of the refrigerator. Choose a location where cross-contamination and bumping, etc., will be avoided.

Angel food, chiffon, sponge, layer, loaf, cupcakes

Method: Prepare and bake as usual. Cool. Wrap tightly and then store in a sturdy container. Angel, chiffon and sponge cakes are very delicate; store on top of other foods as an added precaution to prevent crushing.

Suggested freezer storage time: Varies, about 2 to 3 months should be satisfactory for most cakes

Cookies

Method: Prepare and bake as usual. (NOTE: Meringue-based cookies and cookies containing beaten egg whites, such as macaroons, don’t freeze well. Also, fragile cookies don’t freeze well.) Cool thoroughly. Pack in a rigid container to help keep them from breaking. Place moisture vapor-resistant freezer wrapping between layers. Remember, too much air in a container can lower the quality of a food. If you don’t have enough cookies to fill the container, you might place the separated layers of cookies inside a large plastic freezer bag or surround them with freezer wrapping within the container. Thaw in original wrapping at room temperature.

Suggested freezer storage time: 3 to 6 months

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension Service. Contact: 770-535-8290.



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