Holiday Entertaining: Your Most Commonly Asked Questions

Teresa C. Hunsaker with the USU Extension, Weber County, Family and Consumer Science Education answers the most common questions she gets asked this time of year.

Q: COOKIES: How to freeze, which freeze well, can you freeze the dough….etc???

Most cookies freeze well. Good to know, as many of us try to get a jump start on the holidays to save us at least some stress at the last minute. The key to freezing cookies is not in the cookie, but in the wrap.

• Each type of cookie you are planning to freeze will need to be considered for its storage container. Some can be stacked in short stacks (like in a Pringles can), some need to be kept flat in rigid containers, and others will do fine in plastic bags.

• Double-wrap the cookies securely with a good quality plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, and write the date and the type of cookie on the outside of the package or container.

• When you are ready to eat your frozen cookies, just let them come to room temperature with the package partially opened for “breathing”, or, for you impatient types, pop them in the microwave on high for about 30 seconds. (Times will differ depending on the size of cookie you’re defrosting.)

• Baked cookies will keep in the freezer for up to 3 or 4 weeks.

• Even cookies with frosting can be frozen.

Most cookies dough freeze extremely well and can be kept frozen for up to 6 weeks

• Double-wrap dough in plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn and absorption of odors from your freezer

• Write the type of cookie dough and the date it was frozen on the outside of the package.

• When you are ready to bake, let the dough defrost in the refrigerator. We do not recommend (for food safety reasons) leaving the dough out at room temperature for more than 30 minutes to defrost, so plan ahead.

Even bar cookies, like brownies and lemon bars, can be frozen, once baked. Shortbreads, Tea Cookies, and frosted sugar cookies freeze quite nicely too.

Q: CANDY: How do I adjust my candy thermometer for higher altitudes?

Many folks are not aware that adjustments in candy temperatures need to be made according to atmospheric pressure and altitude, so they wonder why there candies are not turning out. This may not be the only answer to candy problems, but it is certainly a big one. Recipes are designed for sea level, so at our altitudes we must decrease the cooking temperature on candy. On the day that you are making cooked candies, place your candy thermometer in a pan of boiling water. Allow it to reach temperature. If that temperature of boiling water that day is 203 degrees, subtract that amount from sea level boiling water temperature of 212 degrees F. EXAMPLE: 212-203= 9 degrees. Now, subtract 9 degrees off of your candy recipe’s temperature, and that is the temp you use for your candy.

Another way to figure it if you do not want to go to that bother is to lower the cooking temperature given in the recipe by approximately 2 degrees for every 1,000 foot of elevation. EXAMPLE: 4500 ft. X 2 = 9 degrees.

Note: Some days atmospheric pressure changes things a bit too, so the water boiling test is a touch more accurate.

Q: PIES—Can I freeze my pies ahead of time? Do they do better to pre-cook then freeze, or can freeze them unbaked?

Good news to those questions, most pies freeze quite well either way. Again, the trick is in wrapping it well. Here are some pointers:

Fruit filling preparation—add a tablespoon extra cornstarch or 2 tablespoons extra floor to the filling whether you are baking before freezing or freezing unbaked. Frozen fruit fillings have a tendency to go a little runny when frozen, so the extra thickener helps.

Suitable Packaging—the best material for freezing pies is heavy-duty aluminum foil and/or freezer-grade plastic wrap. I like to double wrap mine.

Storage Time at 0ºF—baked fruit and pecan type pies-6 months; pumpkin-2 months; fully prepare chiffon pies-1 month; baked pie shells-4 to 6 months; unbaked pie shells-2 months.

Thawing baked pies—leave baked fruit and pumpkin pies in their wrapping and thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes, or uncover and warm them in a 350ºF oven for a few minutes. Unwrap baked pie shells and thaw at room temperature. Thaw unbaked pie shells at room temperature, or bake them (frozen) for 8 to 10 minutes at 475ºF. Thaw chiffon pie at room temperature for 1 hour prior to serving.

Baking unbaked frozen pies—fruit pies and pumpkin pies frozen unbaked can be taken straight from freezer to oven. Take the frozen pies from the freezer and place it in a 450 oven for 20 minutes. Then reduce temp to 350 for about 40 minutes—depending on pie—check at 30 minutes. Protect pie edges if getting too brown with strips of aluminum foil wrapped around edges.

One thing you definitely do NOT want to do is put a cold glass, pyrex or ceramic pie dish into a hot oven. If the dish is cold, then you must start in a cold oven.

Pies that do not freeze well—custard pies, meringue pies and cream pies. They will be watery and separate after thawing.

Note: Pie dough can also be frozen—it keeps beautifully for a number of months if well wrapped. Just roll it in balls(size depends on pie size needed), wrap, and freeze.

Q: QUANTITIES: How much of what do I plan on when feeding a crowd?
This is probably one of the biggest puzzlers for most folks when the “family gets together”. Here are some pointers:

• Generally a meat serving is 3-4 oz. of cooked meat—without bone.

• Figure ¾ pound per person when deciding how much whole turkey to buy, so if you are serving 25 people you would figure you would need about a 19 pound bird. This will not leave you much meat for leftovers, so if you want more leftovers, figure a pound per person.

• Cooked veggies or veggie side dishes will be about half a cup.

• For salad greens plan on at least 1 cup.

• For fruit salad or Jell-O salad figure half a cup.

• 5 to 6 9-in. x 13-in. pans will serve approximately 100 people as a side dish—when 1/2 to 2/3 full.

• 10 9-in. x 13-in. casseroles will serve approximately 100-120 people as a main dish

• 8 gallons of a drink = 100 10 oz. servings

• 10 lbs potatoes(or sweet potatoes) for serving 25 people

• 4 16 oz cans cranberry sauce will serve 25 people

• Plan on 4-6 pieces person on appetizers

Q: CANDLES: How do I get candle wax out of fabric?

It happens to the best of us, no matter how careful we think we are being with burning candles, but somehow someone gets melted candle wax on our tablecloth, table runner, or clothes. So, with a warm iron and some layers of paper towels, melt out as much of the wax as you can—keeping replacing the paper towels at they absorb the melting wax.

Next, make a detergent paste with your powdered or liquid detergent and a little Borax or Washing Soda. With a soft toothbrush work the paste into the stains. Wash in a regular load, but add 1 cup washing soda to the detergent and water. If stain persists, repeat washing again with added soda. If you do not have washing soda, baking soda works pretty well too.

You can contact Teresa at the Weber County Office of the USU Extension Agency at

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