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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.

    http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/12/a-s...

    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.

    http://www.landolakes.com/recipe/cate...

    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.

      http://whatscookingamerica.net/Q-A/Co...

      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:

        http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

        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? http://www.marthastewart.com/349092/p... 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.

            1. right up my alley... i'm in the process of making 2500 dozen cookies for an upcoming show. i'm not sure i don't want to die, but i digress...

              is there a strict definition of cookie? ie must they be round discs, or are bars okay as well?
              are you making more than one variety?

              if you're making more than one kind, i'd consider
              chocolate chip
              Magic layer or Nanaimo bars or blondies or brownies
              Oatmeal Raisin
              Peanut Butter w/ or w/o chip
              No Bake cookies of some ilk
              (don't make all, just pick a few...)

              i agree with others about pre-making and freezing dough, then baking off closer in. take out your ingredients way ahead of time, so everything is ready to go when you are... esp with the kids.

              depending upon size and variety, my suggested count will vary.

              if you're making one cookie, and it's one DAMN GOOD cookie, i'd allow 4 per person (assuming they're normal sized, and not brobdingnagian behemoths). this accounts for the guy who pockets a few to take home, and the non-eating dessert curmudgeon.

              if you're making a few varieties, i'd make 200 of each.

              ...but my name is overkill.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Emme

                "right up my alley... i'm in the process of making 2500 dozen cookies for an upcoming show. i'm not sure i don't want to die, but i digress..."

                You're making 30,000 cookies??? My god...I hope you have a professional kitchen. That sounds nightmarish.

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  i do... there aren't enough hands on deck or hours in the day...

              2. I love Laura Bush's Cowboy Cookies (easy to google) made with Butterscotch chips, instead of chocolate chips. (It's how my auntie made her cowboy cookies, so I carry on.....). The recipe is HUGE, says it makes 36 but I get 5 dozen using an ice-cream scoop portion.

                They are very rustic, includes pecans, large flake oats & coconut.

                I would get a willing adult plus the kids to do assembly line cookies the weekend prior to the party. Mix the dry stuff in a baby bathtub (clean, of course) or other large container. Mom does the egg/sugar bit, dumps the wet into the dry & stirs like mad. The kids scoop the dough into balls with ice cream scoops. The other adult cleans the floor :-) Freeze cookies in layers once they are cooled in a large box, separated with wax paper.

                1. I recommend either "normal" sized cookies or even on-the-small-side cookies because it's more fun to try 2 - 3 (or more) diff cookies than to have one large one. That said, ditto all the suggestions for slice-and-bake. You can gussie them up by sandwiching them with jam, ganache, etc, or by half-dipping in chocolate, with or without sprinkles. Anything that can be portioned with a scoop or pressed out of a cookie gun will also allow you to make large quantities, very quickly. Save the shaped cookies (roll-and-cut, and sorry to disagree with karykat, but also spoon cookies--I've made them and it takes quite a bit of time to to form them quickly enough to fill a sheet). All of these will survive freezing nicely.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: Erika L

                    Awesome call on the cookie gun-if the OP owns one. A cookie gun can knock out 200 in record time and agreed-the doughs can be prepared all different ways or decorated after baking well in advance of the party. These pack well too. Wonderful recommendation by Erika L.

                    1. re: HillJ

                      Yes, I've started to think the spoon cookies would be too hard to make in a gigantic quantity. I make a recipe batch quickly, but you're talking more than that. It's just that I love them so much!

                      What are the cookie guns? Are those like spritz?

                      A heavy duty ice cream scoop would work well. You can get them in a range of sizes. Get a good one that will hold up and last.

                      1. re: karykat

                        Yes, like the holiday spritz. I use mine for all kind of slice and bake cookies not just the cutouts that come with the cookie press set.

                        http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_nos...
                        examples

                        1. re: HillJ

                          I've done non-holiday (ish) cookies with a cookie gun/spritz press, with the "ribbon" attachment that makes corrugated strips. I make them 1 1/2 - 2" long then, after baking, half-dip in dark chocolate and immediately sprinkle with sugar that I've buzzed in a food processor with lemon or orange peel. You get sparkles and flavor, all in one. I've also ripped off a recipe from I believe the late, lamented Gourmet and spiked the dough with cardamom, then drizzled the finished cookies with dark chocolate and and a powdered sugar/espresso icing. Another version had almond extract in the dough and then dipped in dark chocolate and chopped almonds. I've done these assembly-line style and, while not quite as fast as slice and bakes (which I vary by making some logs square, rectangular, or triangular) they are pretty darned fast.

                          1. re: Erika L

                            Good point the ribbon attachment (although some people find that one hard to get the hang of) will def. make a wide cookie from which you can go wild.

                          2. re: HillJ

                            HillJ and Erika --

                            I've never thought of using a cookie gun for nonspritz. HillJ -- do you use yours without any of the little templates to make plain round cookies? How does that work?

                            And can you make cookies that are non-spritz-like in flavor and texture? I imagine you can make any kind of butter cookie?

                            1. re: karykat

                              I use all sorts of doughs in the gun, not just the one that appears on the box for example. There is a thread on CH somewhere during the last holidays season where a bunch of us discussed cookie presses in detail. I'll try to help you find it. Wilton (one company example) has plenty of recipes on their site. I even use an adapted brownie dough sometimes. Regarding the templates I make my own out of plastic sheets; including one that creates rounds without a design, just the shape to help guide the gun to the baking tray. So, btwn the options of dough, flavorings, decorations and templates you can create thousands of cookies in a day.

                              1. re: HillJ

                                Is there any kind of dough you would NOT use the dough gun for? I imagine doughs with texture like things that have nuts or chocolate chips?

                                What about something like oatmeal?

                                Anything else that wouldn't work?

                                1. re: karykat

                                  Well if you finely chopped nuts, herbs, mini chips, small mixins with a circular handmade template there's no issue or slice & bake cookie dough that's off the table. That includes cracker recipes. Oatmeal, I would blend a sec or two to finely split. But it's the softer doughs that don't firm up with a quick or overnight chill that might present an issue or cookies that you prefer or should work free form, dispensed by spoon or scoop for the same reason (very soft) that will only frustrate you using a press during an entire batch (tray to oven). So yes, I would recommend sticking with slice & bake doughs and save the rest for other methods of dispensing. Still tons of ideas to experiment with. Last year we tried a peppermint and chocolate bits swirl thru a press and it was fantastic. Def. repeating it this year.

                          3. re: karykat

                            Actually, I didn't really mean an ice cream scoop but a heavy duty spring loaded cookie scoop like what HillJ was talking about. I have them in a few sizes for different things. Is fast and makes things look uniform.

                            1. re: karykat

                              yep, those are great. I recommend buying smaller than you think you need. I have two sizes and need a smaller one. Should just toss the big one, I never make cookies that big.

                              1. re: danna

                                I use my largest scoop for muffins and cupcakes--it's smaller than an ice cream scoop but still too large for cookies.

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  Thanks much.

                                  I have a slice and bake cookie with chopped pistachios, dried cherries and spices that might be fun to try. I

                                  Your peppermint and chocolate ones sound great -- anmd pretty.

                                  1. re: karykat

                                    Oh that's a great combo, karykat. I happen to love pistachios and dried cherries. Have fun with it!

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      me too! I do a biscotti with those add-ins at Christmas and it's certainly a festive color combo + tasty.

                        2. Wow! I sure did ask the right group of people for advice. This is great. I feel much less worried. I feel like I can get a game plan going now. Slice and bake some now and freeze and then maybe some cookie bars or cookie gun a few days before. I will pick up some baskets to move and serve them in. All this advice is wonderful and I am thankful for every comment!

                          1. It depends on the size of the cookies. 2" diameter, allow 4 per person. 3" diameter, allow 2-3 per. Giant (5-6"), one per.

                            I use mini muffin tins for making brownies, blondies, or tassies. A brownie recipe for an 8-9" square pan will make 24 mini brownies. I use a small ice cream scoop to make scooping uniform, fast, and neat. 15 minutes at 325 makes brownie bites that are crisp on the outside, with a soft center. Besides faster baking and more edges, this is a crumb/crumble-free method, and well-suited for freezing.

                            1. You may want to make just a few varieties. People have a tendency to want to try one of each. They will eat more if there are many varieties that they want to try.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Christnp

                                Agreed! The more kinds of cookie, the more people will eat.

                                I would absolutely do a bar cookie. Sooooo much easier than any individual cookie. I made 300 Mexican Wedding Cookies for a friend's wedding at her request. You have to roll each cookie in powdered sugar, individually, TWICE. I thought those cookies were easy to make up until the day I made 300 of them. Never again.

                              2. I have an easy no bake cookie recipe that is to die for! I get tonnes of requests every Christmas (and birthdays and any party actually). They are super easy to make and they freeze extremely well. I've pasted it below. I would make about 2-3 of these per person since they are sweet. I also recommend making them on the smaller side (1in x 1in x 1in) because they are decadent and I find people break them in half anyway if I make them much bigger than that. This recipe doubles very easily. When you freeze them, I would put waxed paper in between the layers.

                                Chocolate Macaroons:

                                1/2 cup butter 3 cup quick cook rolled oats

                                2 cup white sugar 1/2 cup coconut (shredded—sweetened or unsweetened is fine)

                                1/2 cup milk/soy milk 6 tbsp cocoa

                                1 tbsp vanilla

                                Directions:

                                Boil butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla and take off heat. Let cool for a few minutes while stirring occasionally. Make sure you let it cool enough or it will be a big mess when you go to spoon it out. If you let it cool too much, reheat a bit and then let cool again. Then add the oats and coconut. Add cocoa and mix until all covered in chocolate. You may have to add more oats if it is too runny but add the cocoa first! Then spoon out onto waxed paper and let harden. Usually takes 2-3 hours to fully harden (I leave them overnight). Makes ~4 dozen.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: cndbaker

                                  Do you harden this at room temp or in the fridge? I may want to make these for an event tomorrow -- I won't have time to let them harden overnight, so I'm wondering if it's OK to harden them in the fridge even if that's not what you usually do.

                                  1. re: jessinEC

                                    Hi JessinEC, they harden at room temperature. I've never put them in the fridge to harden. But if you make sure your mixture is not too liquidy (you may have to add up to another half cup of oats--go by the looks. You want everything to look moist but if there is too much chocolate at the bottom, add more oats until there are no chocolate "puddles" on the bottom AFTER you put the cocoa in), they will harden faster. They start to harden almost immediately after you spoon them out, so you should be fine even if you only have 1-2 hours to wait. Good luck and let me know how it goes =).

                                2. Definitely bar cookies - I use mark bittman's butterscotch brownie recipe and it turns out beautifully any time. I add chocolate chips and toasted nuts - it's stellar. I bet you could double the recipe, and a 9 x 13 pan would yield about 50 cookies. two at a time in your oven, and that's 100 cookies in about a half hour - including baking time. They taste even better when left out, so if that's one of your varieties you could do it the evening before in two two-pan batches.

                                  1. I strongly encourage you to bake one kind of cookie per day starting immediately and freeze the fully-cooled cookies. We are still eating the last of our last Christmas cookies and they taste freshly made.

                                    I support using a cookie scoop.

                                    I would add a gingersnap for variety. A spritz for sure. An oatmeal one for something earthier. Maybe a nut biscotti for a more sophisticated note.

                                    1. too hard to read all these on my phone so...
                                      my suggestion was to use a dough that you could pipe onto the sheet like a meringue.
                                      plus again having not read any of this it's probably been addressed. not 200 cookies, 200 people... cookies for 200 = about 800 cookies need to be made.
                                      also hope you have neighbors who's freezers you can borrow + their ovens too.