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Sep 25, 2011 05:16 PM

Cookies for 200 people - questions

I am in charge of making cookies for 200 people for dessert. The dinner will be in a barn and served banquet style. It is a harvest party and will be very rustic and casual. The powers at be decided dessert will be cookies so this is a cookie specific discussion with no ability to switch to any other type of dessert.

First, how many cookies should I plan on making per person?

Second, can you recommend any recipes that can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and frozen?

Third, do you have any time saving tips? (I have a couple of small children that make it difficult to devote large chunks of time to baking)

Any advice will be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

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  1. 3-5 cookies per person depending on the size cookies you make of course. Did you mention how much time you have before the party? Is that the 2 weeks in advance reference?

    If so, I would suggest selecting cookie doughs that are better when the dough is made and chilled in advance; a dough log, and then sliced and baked. This speeds up the process. Dozens of cookies can be made this way. Brownie styled cookies can be made this way. Are you baking alone? Do you have room in your freezer to bake ahead?

    I think create the doughs, slice & bake over 3 days before the party or slice & bake immediately and freeze until you need to thaw for party day is the way to roll 200 cookies out the door. Since a good deal of slice & bake cookies yield 24-48 approx cookies 200 isn't that hard to knock out.

    Here's a simple concept with two examples; one slice & bake dough done two ways--another great timesaver. Use a basic cookie dough and change up the add ins and flavorings.

    and the folks over at Land o Lakes know their slice & bake cookies. This recipe file for slice & bake is a real keeper!

    2 Replies
    1. re: HillJ

      I'd actually disagree. You can easily bake the cookies ahead of time and stick them in the freezer and just defrost at room temp. Rolling everything into logs just seems like one extra step. If you can get one, a small old fashioned ice cream scoop is a time saver when it comes to scooping out cookie dough.

      1. re: Dcfoodblog

        hi Dcfoodblog. If you re-read what I wrote above you'll see I did suggest that baking ahead and sticking them in the freezer (if the OP had room in the freezer) was one way to go. I like making dough into logs, keeping them in ziplock bags and slicing and baking as I need cookies. I also scoop cookies from time to time with small and medium scoops (the spring load type) but never seem to think to use an ice cream scoop as you mention.

        Either way, we do agree on some things. Either way my intent was to support the OP's question and join in the cookie making fun. So, we do agree on two things, yes.

    2. Hello birdmonkey....I have very successfully prepared and frozen cookie dough many times. Once that dough is prepared, frozen and defrosted, you can make them in whatever quantity you have time for, at your convenience. I'm linking you to a write-up you may find helpful.

      As far as pieces per person, I tend to go on the high side rather than risk not enough. I think 3 per person after a full dinner would be safe.

      1. I like the idea of freezing dough and making dough logs.

        Another idea would be spoon cookies. They are best when made ahead and stored in airtight containers. I've stored them that way for weeks. The flavor and texture both improve.

        The recipe calls for you to fill them with a jam filling. But I just skip that and make them plain because they have fantastic flavor and I think the jam would actually detract from that. They're called spoon cookies because you put dough in a teaspoon or tablespoon and then push the dough off the spoon onto the cookie sheet. So they're fast to do. They look like spoon ends and are kind of rustic that way.

        Here's the recipe:

        1. This is sorta right up my alley. I used to make cookies for my husband's office once a week and there are usually about 160 people to be considered.

          I used to do about 12 dozen cookies that were 3" or 4" in diameter. If the cookies are the only dessert I'd probably do twice as many. Some people will pass altogether. Some will want a second one. 288 cookies sounds about right to me.

          My schedule worked this way. For a Friday morning delivery I would pick my recipe and do my shopping on Tuesday. One Wednesday I'd mix up my batter and store it in the fridge in an airtight Cambro tub overnight. On Thursday I'd bake. I used 12"x17" pans to do about 20 cookies/pan at a time, baking 2 pans together. Remember to halve the baking time so you can rotate the pans top to bottom and back to front halfway through.

          Don't worry! It sounds like a lot but it's about 8 oven loads of cookies and that shouldn't take you more than a couple hours -- 3 tops for each day of your production. Using an ice cream scoop speeds this up -- a #30 is a good size. And if you precut parchment to the size of your cookie sheet you can load up one piece ready to slip onto the next empty pan while a batch of cookies bakes. Two full sets of pans speed things up greatly because you want to always be loading a piece of parchment with unbaked cookies onto a *cool* cookie sheet. Don't worry about a fresh sheet of parchment for each load -- you can use a sheet 2 or 3 or probably even 4 times, no sweat.

          Make sure you have a couple generous sized cooling racks that mean you can simply slide a whole sheet of baked cookies from the pan to a rack.

          Now there's the business of *what* cookies you want to bake. I assume you'll want to simplify this by choosing one recipe. Can I suggest this one? Peanut butter cookies are classic. The chocolate chunks add some flavor punch. The dough is soft and easy to scoop out even after a day in the fridge. It is easily doubled so you can get 4 dozen cookies out of a stand mixer load and just have to repeat the dough construction 6 times. And it doesn't spread all that much so that you can maximize the number of cookies per load. A final thought, when I was doing big batches of these cookies I used half butter and half butter-flavored Crisco to cut down a bit on the expense.

          Alternatively, the Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe is scaled for a massive amount of cookies and they're also excellent. You can find that all over the net if you don't already have it.

          The potential issue about this MS peanut butter cookie recipe is allergy. You can easily leave the chocolate chunks out of one batch but peanuts could still be an allergen for some. Consequently, if you could talk someone else into doing a double batch of oatmeal cookies that would be excellent. And, peanut allergies being what they are, it will help anyone who's allergic if you can tell them that the alternative cookies were not baked in the same location.

          Now, the next issue is storage/serving. When I did massive batches, I sent them in with my husband in large, shallow baskets. These things are pretty affordable at import stores. You're not talking a lot of weight so you can choose the cheapest, flimsiest thing offered. Just get a couple of them so you can separate the the variations and distribute to so many people from a couple different spots to keep the circulation working for you.

          Mine got served outside. You may have similar sanitary issues in a barn. I got cheap gauzy curtains and hemmed them to a size with about 3" of drop around each side of my baskets. I sewed stacks of beads or buttons onto each corner to weight the fabric down. Then people were able to "see" the cookies, reach in and grab one conveniently and replace the "screen" to keep the cookies protected.

          Good luck with it! It's actually more do-able than it may seem and it's a very satisfying thing to do. You'll be amazed how appreciative people can be for home baked cookies! ;>

          2 Replies
          1. re: rainey

            Re cool pans when baking in volume, what I have always done when I need another pan is to run the hot/warm sheet pan under cold water and dry it with a dish towel, then slide the ready sheet of parchment loaded with cookies onto it. Works like a charm. I do agree that the OP would be well served by having double the number of pans that will fit the oven at once, but cooling pan quickly with cold water allows you load them up right away.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              I've never had to do more than maybe 4 sheets in succession, usually 2, but I use the opposite approach. Carefully (deftly haha) lifting the sheet of parchment with the hot cookies off the cookie sheet, I lay it right on my counter. Then *immediately* place a pre-filled parchment (raw-dough-balls) onto the HOT cookie sheet and pop it right back into the oven. Less waste of energy. The baking sort of begins as soon as the raw dough hits the sheet, so the cooking time is shorter than the 1st batch--but I figure that's good. It works well for me. By the time the 1st batch has firmed up on the counter, been put on a plate, and the "dirty" parchment has been re-stocked with raw dough, I can get the hot cookies out of the oven and repeat.

          2. when I've made volume cookies, I found it efficient to make all the dough first and then bake them all at once. I would concentrate on drop cookies or ice box cookies, leaving all those hand-formed fancy cookies for a smaller group. This type of plain cookie should freeze well.