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Archive for Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Baking ahead reduces last-minute hassles

December 7, 2005

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Q: I'm wanting to bake and freeze some foods for the holidays. Can you tell me which foods freeze well?

A: It's a good idea to 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 whether you're satisfied with the results. Or experiment with a small amount this year and apply what you learned next year.

Please 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.

Quick breads

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 coffeecakes may be reheated in foil in a 325- to 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until hot.

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

Yeast breads

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

Cookies

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 keep them from breaking. Place moisture-resistant freezer wrapping between layers.

Remember, too much air in a container can lower the quality of 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.

Pies

Meringue toppings toughen in the freezer. Custard and cream pies get watery after thawing and aren't recommended for freezing.

Choose a pan suitable for the freezer, such as the disposable aluminum foil pie plates found in many supermarkets, or rust-proof metal pie pans. Freezer/oven-proof glass also might work but needs to be handled with more care.

If you're using an aluminum foil pie plate, compare its capacity to that of your regular pie pan. An easy way to obtain a general idea of differing volumes is to fill your regular pie pan with water, then pour the water into the foil pan. Measure the amount of liquid left in your regular pan; reduce the amount of filling by about that much.

A soggy crust can be a problem with frozen filled pies. Brush the inside of the bottom crust lightly with melted butter or margarine before adding the filling to help prevent a soggy crust. Because filled pies are higher in moisture content and take longer to cool, heat and reheat than many baked goods, pies can be trickier to freeze than many foods. The best advice: Do a trial run.

Candy

Make as usual and freeze. Most candies freeze well. One notable exception is chocolate-covered cherries. The filling may expand during freezing and break open the candy. Wrap candies individually in freezer plastic wrap and place in a rigid container to prevent crushing. Thaw, wrapped, at room temperature. A whitish fat "bloom" may appear on the surface of chocolate during freezing; it should disappear after candy is thawed.

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