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JME
JME
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What should I look for in a recipe if I want to make it ahead of time and freeze? Or what ingredients should I avoid freezing? Items like cookie dough, or baked cupcakes/muffins for example. What makes a recipe ok to freeze?
Wednesday, April 17 2013, 05:56 PM
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Accepted Answer

Mattie
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Monday, April 22 2013, 08:11 PM - #permalink
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Great question JME!

When I had a baking company years ago I found that I could make large amounts of dough and bake half of it while I froze the other half. This sped up my production but I found that the frozen half resulted in cookies with a tougher dough that didn't rise as much. As I progressed I began to realize that there is definitely a difference in the way most frozen and fresh doughs behave and end performance definitely depends on what you're baking as well. I ended up abandoning the freezing of my cookie dough because it just wasn't giving me the texture I wanted in my cookies.

The short answer is: it's usually a bad idea to refrigerate or freeze certain dessert types either pre-baked or post-baked.

The long answer is: desserts that require chemical leavening (baking powder/soda) or whipped air/steam leavening will usually have little leavening if any if they have been frozen first. Yeast based leavening is the exception here.

Baking Powder based leavening
These days, baking powder is known as double acting because half of the leavening happens when the ingredients are mixed and the other half happens when the batter is exposed to heat. When you're refrigerating or freezing, you're losing most of the first leaven. It's coming and going while the batter is sitting and passes right before the freeze.

Whipped air/steam leavening
Whipped air and steam leavening isn't usually common in vegan baking but I'll include it here anyway. This type of leavening results in air being trapped in bubbles. These bubbles fill with steam and enlarge when exposed to heat which causes leavening. Freezing usually destroys the membranes that creates the air bubbles. In this case, freezing causes ice crystals to form which act like little knives, piercing the bubble walls.

Yeast-based leavening
Regarding yeast leavening, overnight refrigeration can be good for these types of doughs because natural enzymes in the flour called amylase break the starches into more easily digestible, smaller sugars that the yeast prefers, resulting in more flavor and sometimes better rise. I do this with my pizza dough for optimal flavor. Freezing the dough doesn't allow the amylase to do its job but will not majorly affect the yeast. I usually do a 12 to 24 hour refrigerated fermentation on a double batch of pizza crust, then separate them into individual one gallon freezer bags and toss them in the freezer. I just remove one from the freezer in the late morning to let it thaw if I'm making pizza for dinner for example. Yeast probably figured out how to survive freeze/thaw cycles as they evolved which is great for us!

Refrigerating or freezing batters and doughs are also usually going to cause the gluten to become relaxed and the flour to hydrate more fully. I take advantage of this in a Nine Grain Whole Wheat Bread recipe where the increased hydration softens the grains and the bran particles of the whole wheat flour to result in a softer, lighter loaf.

Doughs that usually freeze well are cookie doughs that don't need to be excessively leavened or be light in texture. You should be able to freeze gingerbread cookies, sugar cookies, frostings, and possibly brownie and blondie batters and short doughs such as shortbread and pie crusts with acceptable results. The more cakey a dessert is, the more I'd steer clear of refrigerating or freezing it. Cakes, muffins and madeleines are things I'd avoid refrigerating and freezing.

Freezing after baking
Freezing after baking generally isn't a good idea the more a dessert is on the caky side. It usually won't ruin your cake but it can result in a reduced amount of softness. After you bake a cake, the gluten and starch has absorbed water and fats and has turned into an almost semisolid network inflated by rising gas bubbles. This semisolid mesh will have some of the water squeezed out and displaced when freezing occurs, resulting in a slightly more mealy texture and less softness that is similar to being slightly stale. Note that staling is similar because it results in these starches recrystallizing over time and wringing out the water like a towel is wrung out when its water is removed. This is why you never want to refrigerate a cake or bread; it actually accelerates staling because it promotes starch crystallization.

I freeze many of my breads and muffins after baking because the need for convenient long term storage outweighs the slight degradation of crumb quality. But if I were baking a cake for someone and I wanted to present the best cake I could make, I'd avoid freezing for the above reason.

Hope this helps!
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  • Accepted Answer

    JME
    JME
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    Friday, May 03 2013, 03:46 PM - #permalink
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    Great information. Thanks for your help!
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