Last week we talked about panicking at the holidays. Today, we stop panicking and start planning. Today, we’re going to lay down a groundwork for getting the most from your refrigerator at the Holidays.
Hopefully you’ve done the prep work. Like eaten the ice cream out of the freezer, and the two half full salsa containers from the fridge. You know: to free up space. So let’s move on.
You need to plan your menu.
No, I don’t mean turkey, we all know turkey. You need to decide on the peripherals. Pie or Cheesecake? For pies, what type and how many? Will you be serving rolls? And most importantly, what can you make ahead and freeze to keep that valuable refrigerator space open. After you write all this down, or enter it onto your tablet, you can start to make your holidays a whole lot less stressful, beginning now with a little pre-baking.
First Things First
Cheesecakes, pie dough and (if you feel you have to) fruitcake will last the longest in the freezer. So you want to make or bake these items first. Cheesecakes and fruitcakes are stored after baking. Pie dough can be frozen stored in a pan or rolled out and stored between parchment paper, depending on how much room you have. If you make a cheesecake, don’t put the topping on now. Wait till right before serving for that addition.
Tinfoil: Not just for conspiracy theorists
And label your items. I’m a tinfoil and black sharpie guy myself. You can choose any color you want. Yes, the marker wears off in about 6 months, but this stuff won’t be in your freezer for six months, so don’t worry. And what all looks so clear today will be a jumbled mess on Nov 20, so tin foil and sharpie!
Phase two of the operation
Now it’s time to move onto the less durable freezer items, like cookies, pie fillings and rolls. For drop cookies, I add an extra step before freezing, and scoop out the individual cookie. Freeze the drops on parchment paper supported . Once frozen, I move them to a more convenient storage container, like a bag or a pan. Many drop cookies can come right out of the freezer and go straight into the oven. That’s convenient.
Roll out cookies can be rolled in advance, and then frozen, but truthfully, I’ve had no where near the luck with going from freezer to oven with rollout cookies, even in simple shapes. So I usually thaw the night before, then roll, cut and bake on the next day
You’ll also want to shape biscuits or scones before freezing, as they can go straight to the oven as well.
Practice makes perfect
Here is where having a good working knowledge of your recipes can be invaluable. As Thanksgiving gets closer, you have to decide what to pull out, thaw, and bake. Some cookies keep longer than others. Bake the most durable cookies, like Hermits, first. I try and put off my pies as long as possible, but figure they have an easy 2 day shelf life. (Three days if you’re going A La Mode!) Biscuits and scones, that’s strictly a day-of affair. Same with thawing the cheesecake.
Leave the fruitcake in the freezer.
Remember all that ice cream that you, out of the goodness of your heart, ate to make room in the freezer? As the cookies, and pie doughs come out, stock up on more ice cream for the pies. And get some more salsa too, people love salsa. And chips. And the tiny sliced rye bread loaves that you only find at the holidays, and some ham.