How Frozen Bread Dough Can Make Your Thanksgiving Even Easier

The holiday's best-kept secret is hiding in the freezer aisle.

Making sourdough bread
Photo: Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images

Let's just admit it: We all wish we had the time and skills to effortlessly mix, proof, and shape all the delectable buns, breads, and pastries our families crave at the holidays. But there's no shame in admitting that we don't.

Instead, what you need is an easy stock up from the frozen foods aisle that will take you halfway to freshly baked bliss. Frozen bun and bread dough, sweet dough, and puff pastry give you high-quality starting points for creative holiday baking. Nobody needs to know!

If you've never bought frozen bread or roll dough or puff pastry, you need to get in on this labor-saving trick. The holidays are the perfect time to use frozen dough so you can focus on nailing the turkey and cranberry sauce — and relaxing with your guests.

A well-stocked grocery store will have a good selection of frozen doughs, and it is smart to keep a few in the freezer even beyond the holiday season. That way, you can decide on-the-fly to make breads and pastries. From breakfast or dinner buns to pastry treats that will make the family swoon, your favorites can emerge from the oven in less time than you think.

Frozen Bun Dough Is Fast and Flexible for Small or Large Groups

Frozen rolls are 1 1/4 or 2-ounce portions of yeasted dough and can be thawed at room temperature in 40 minutes. Because they are small and quick to thaw, they are perfect for the holiday meal.

Just place the desired number of frozen buns on a sheet pan, and let them thaw while you make the rest of the meal. You can also remove the number of buns you need from the bag, re-seal, and thaw the buns in the refrigerator overnight. Be sure to place them on an oiled pan or in an oiled storage tub with plenty of room between them, so they can expand as they thaw.

Few things are as comforting as a basket of warm buns, and you can customize yours with herbs or cheese. Since the dough is already made, it's hardly any effort to shape each bun to make a twist, snail, or filled spiral. For Thanksgiving, herbs like sage, thyme and rosemary are good picks for a dinner bun.

For a burst of holiday flavors, try dipping the buns in melted butter, rolling them in sage and thyme, and placing them in a baking pan so they will rise and bake into a pull-part, perfect for the holiday meal.

Frozen bun dough helps with all the meals and snacks that your family will need before and after the Big Dinner, too. The little dough portions are easy to shape into mini pizzas, calzones, or flatbreads, and can be combined to make exactly the size you want. Just press one or two together and roll into a ball, and you have a four- or six-ounce piece of dough.

Frozen Bread Dough Bakes up Fresh in Less Time

A fresh loaf of bread is so much more special than grocery store bread, and it's within your grasp with frozen doughs. Time it so that you eat a few slices while they are still warm, then save the rest for toast and sandwiches. Don't limit yourself, though. That pound of dough can be shaped and transformed.

If you have a recipe that starts with making a dough, you can figure that any recipe that start with with ¾-1 cup water and about two to three cups flour will make a pound of dough. Just skip the dough making, and use your one pound frozen loaf instead.

Loaf bread dough is perfect for making stromboli, calzones, dinner rolls, pizzas, darbey bread, pretzels, and more. They may not be on the menu for the big holiday meal, but it's nice to have some variety in the meals leading up to the feast.

Frozen Sweet Dough Saves Breakfast or Brunch

The holidays are a perfect time for sweet treats like cinnamon rolls or sweet bread slices as toast. Sweet dough, enriched with eggs and butter, is versatile enough to use for braids, turnovers, even doughnuts.

To win breakfast, thaw sweet dough, then shape into cinnamon rolls, or simply place frozen sweet dough in a buttered loaf pan for an easy pull-apart bread. Spray plastic wrap with oil, and cover the dough, and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, let the dough come to room temperature and bake.

Frozen Puff Pastry Forms Regal Desserts Effortlessly

The process for making homemade puff pastry is "project baking" and involves layering butter in a dough, then chilling, rerolling, and chilling again — but frozen dough is ready to go, and most frozen puff pastry is excellent quality.

It's best to thaw the puff pastry dough in the refrigerator overnight, but in a pinch, you can leave it out on the counter for 40 minutes, then unwrap and cover with a towel on the counter for 30 minutes more, until flexible enough to shape. Puff pastry should always feel cold while you are working with it, so if it gets too warm, put it back in the refrigerator.

A sheet of puff pastry can be cut into squares for individual treats or baked as waffles. The squares can be folded over a filling for turnovers, or pressed into ramekins or muffin tins to fill with sweet or savory fillings. Puff pastry around warm brie forms a delectable crust.

To make a pre-baked puff crust or individual crusts, you can score the sheet. Simply line a sheet pan with parchment, and place either a full sheet or squares of puff pastry on the parchment. Use a paring knife to score about halfway through the dough about half an inch from the edge, creating a border. Brush the pastry with lightly beaten egg, and pierce the inside rectangle with a fork in several places. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 15 minutes, until puffed and golden. Cool on a rack, then spread fillings like jam, pastry cream, pudding, or chocolate in the crust, then top with berries or pie filling. Be creative!

Savory puff tarts, spirals, and turnovers are easy to make with your favorite shredded cheese, herbs, and egg. For a fast holiday appetizer, unfold the sheet of puff, cover with shredded Cheddar or Swiss cheese, a handful of chopped parsley, and chopped pecans. Then, roll up the cheese-topped pastry like a cinnamon roll. Slice in thin slices, and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan, brush with egg, and bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Serve warm.


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