Keeping 'em fresh comes down to moisture control.
While the holiday season is filled with no shortage of delicious food traditions, the sweetest of all is undeniably the parade of cookies that is likely to flow through your dough-scented kitchen throughout the most wonderful time of the year.
As holiday cookie season rapidly approaches, it’s time to unearth the tree-shaped cookie cutters and break out the gingerbread and thumbprint recipes. But once your snickerdoodles and sugar cookies are complete, the most frustrating part of the process can be keeping your big batches fresh well into the season—and in their prime for when Santa shows up.
There’s no bigger holiday party pooper than stale or soggy cookies, so this season be sure to use these life-saving—or at least cookie-saving—storage tips to keep your biscotti and crackle cookies looking and tasting fresh, so that you’ll stay on the big guy in red’s nice list for another year.
First Things First
The first (and likely most frequently violated) rule of cookie storage is to be sure to let your batch cool completely before being tucked away in a tin or Tupperware. If you attempt to pack up your cookies while still warm, the condensation from the heat will linger in the container, making your baked goods turn soggy in no time.
If storing or sending cookies in layers, be sure to include parchment between each layer in order to prevent cookies from sticking together and being damaged in transit.
Don’t Mix and Match
The cardinal rule of cookie maintenance is to avoid storing soft cookies in the same container as crispy cookies, as the higher moisture content of the one will make the other turn soggy.
When storing soft cookies, opt for airtight plastic containers that will limit the airflow and keep your cookies moister longer. Crispy cookies are best stored in a glass container, like a cookie jar, which lets a little bit of air in to keep your batch crunchy. As a rule of thumb, plastic bags shouldn’t be used to store cookies, unless they’re headed into the freezer.
Similarly, cookies with contrasting flavors shouldn’t be stored side-by-side—despite how nice all of your holiday cookies look in a gift tin together. While assorted cookie tins are a good idea in theory, the different flavors and moisture levels can change the taste and texture of the batch as a whole, and often a dominant flavor—like mint—will end up changing the flavor of every cookie in the box.
When making cookies with a filling of some sort, like jam-filled thumbprints, store the cookies sans-jam and fill at the last minute before serving, so that the moisture in the filling doesn’t turn your cookies soggy.
And if your crispy cookies have already gone soft, don’t fret. You can re-crisp them in the oven by baking for 5 minutes at 300 degrees, and letting them cool on a wire rack.
Add a Layer of Protection
To avoid your batches drying out before the festivities have even begun, one of easiest methods is to include an object which will do the heavy lifting when it comes to absorbing the dry air, keeping your cookies fresher longer.
One of the simplest and cheapest methods for air absorption is to include a slice of plain white bread in your tin or Tupperware, which will magically dry up and harden while leaving your cookies as soft as the day they came out of the oven. Or, opt to tuck an apple wedge in with your cookies, which will work similarly. When one wedge dries up, simply replace it with another for as long as necessary.
Another fuss-free method, which is particularly effective while packing cookies in layers, is to slip tortillas in between each row. When packing cookie tins as holiday gifts, tuck a tortilla between two sheets of parchment and place it between each individual layer. Like the bread slice, the tortillas will bear the brunt of the dry air in the container.
On the flip side, in order to keep cookies crisper longer, use a device that will wick the moisture out of the air, leaving your baked goods perfectly crunchy. As blogger Jenny Can Cook points out, one simple hack requires no more than baking soda, a coffee filter, and a stapler. Simply fill a coffee filter full of fresh baking soda and staple it closed at the top with two staples, leaving the sides open to allow air to circulate through easily. Place the filter in your cookie container, and let the baking soda do most of the moisture-wicking work.
Your Freezer is Your New Best Friend
If you have excess dough or cookies on your hands that you won’t be needing any time soon, freezing is a great option for both unbaked doughs and pre-baked batches.
When preserving your already-baked cookies, be sure to wrap the baked goods in freezer-proof plastic and store them in an airtight bag to prevent freezer burn and the absorption of other flavors. When you’re ready to serve your cookies—or hog them all for yourself—thaw them at room temperature for 10-15 minutes and they’ll be good to go.
If freezing unbaked cookie dough, make sure to note that different kinds of dough require different freezer treatments. Drop cookie dough should be rolled into balls and flash frozen for a couple of hours on a cookie sheet, and then bagged in an airtight container when completely hardened. Cut-out cookie dough should be shaped into disks and wrapped tightly in plastic wrap before being stored in a bag or container, and slice-and-bake dough should be rolled into a log formation and wrapped tightly in plastic wrap before entering the freezer.
When you’re ready to turn that frozen dough into cookies, no thawing is required for drop cookies. Simply bake your batch a couple of minutes longer than the recipe originally called for, and they’ll turn out perfect.
The exceptions to the freezer rule are more delicate, liquidy batters like Florentines, lace, and pizzelles, which don’t freeze well in dough or cookie form, and are best served fresh. Also note that bar cookies, blondies, and brownies should always be baked before being stored. If you want to freeze them, keep them in the container they were baked in, wrapped tight in freezer-safe plastic and covered in freezer-safe foil.
Follow these easy but effective cookie-saving tips and you’ll be feeling the sweet seasonal spirit even after the holidays have passed.