Back in the days when June Cleaver was our role model, stay-at-home moms eagerly greeted their offspring's arrival home from school with fresh-baked cookies. But in the current vernacular, "Ain't nobody got time fo' dat!"
So what's a busy modern parent to do? (News flash: dads can bake cookies, too!) Yes, you can use store-bought slice-and-bake cookies, but it's even better to make your own version so the cookies still have that homemade taste. However, those DIY slice-and-bake cookies don't translate well for all cookie doughs such as chocolate chip.
Most recipes suggest creating balls of cookie dough, then freezing them on a sheet. Well, here's what I think of that:
The ingenious, space- and sanity-saving solution for this obvious problem is to use egg cartons. Not only is this a truly creative recycling idea, but also it utilizes far less space in your freezer.
Line the bottom halves of 2-3 used egg cartons with plastic wrap, making sure to leave at least 4 inches of extra plastic wrap on one side. As you drop the dough balls into the divots, it weighs down the plastic wrap, which can leave you with insufficient plastic wrap to cover your last couple of holes. If you end up not having enough, don't fret: just tear off a small extra piece and add it on.
Using a teaspoon, cookie dough scoop, or even a melon baller, drop balls of cookie dough into the plastic wrap-lined divots. Don't worry if they don't drop down: the top of the egg carton has enough clearance for balls that rise above the lip of the bottom half. Repeat until all of your dough is used.
Stack in your freezer, and freeze for about 2 hours.
After 2 or so hours, get a gallon zippered freezer bag and drop the balls into it. Do this fairly quickly so that the balls don't have a chance to start thawing. Place the dough-filled bag into the freezer; cookie dough balls can be frozen for at least 3 months (and maybe more, depending on how well-sealed your bag is and what is in the cookie dough).
Now whenever you want hot-from-the-oven treats, just take out as many balls as you need cookies and bake them according to the original recipe instructions with an additional 2-3 minutes of baking time (this will depend on the density of the cookie dough: the more "stuff" in the dough, the more extra time they will need). Note that from-the-freezer cookies are going to be chewier than fresh baked, but some of us prefer them that way anyway.
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You can use this method of freezing cookie dough with almost any recipe for drop or molded cookies; I used my own variation on Ina Garten's salty oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies (note: I sprinkled the salt on the balls before I baked them, but after they came out of the freezer).
So whether you want to make two cookies or two dozen, you can look like you're a fantasy '50s hausfrau while actually being a real modern mama who balances treating her family with managing her own valuable time.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this ingenious idea actually came from my own mother, so thanks very much, Mom!