Nothing warms the hearts of out-of-town relatives and friends at holiday time like receiving a package from home. And when the parcel contains a pretty tin packed with home-baked cookies, their delight is undeniable.
To ensure the mouth-watering morsels are at their best upon arrival, review these packing pointers.
- Bake and completely cool cookies just before packing and shipping so they're as fresh as possible.
- Determine which cookies to mail based on their fragility. Many bars, brownies and drop, refrigerator and sandwich cookies are fairly sturdy and travel well. Some cutouts and shaped varieties are a little more delicate and more likely to break. Cookies requiring refrigeration are poor choices to ship because they'll spoil.
- To help cookies stay fresh and intact, wrap them in bundles of two (for drop cookies, place their bottoms together) with plastic wrap. It's best to wrap bars individually.
- Pack crisp and soft cookies in separate tins. If they're packed together, the moisture from the soft cookies will seep into the crisp cookies, making them lose their crunch. Consider shipping soft cookies by express mail so they'll be moist upon arrival.
- To help retain the best flavor, don't put strong-flavored cookies (like gingersnaps) and mild-flavored ones (like sugar cookies) in the same tin.
- Line a festive tin or box with crumpled wax paper to help cushion the cookies (popped popcorn in resealable plastic bags also work well). Snugly pack the cookies to within 1 inch of the top. Use crumpled waxed paper or bubble wrap to fill any gaps between the cookies. Add more waxed paper or bubble wrap over the last layer to cushion the cookies and prevent them from shifting during shipping. Close the tin or box.
- Place a layer of crumpled paper, bubble wrap or foam shipping peanuts in the bottom of a cardboard box that is slightly larger than your cookie tin. Set the tin on top, then add more paper, bubble wrap or shipping peanuts.
- Seal the box tightly with tape, label the top and sides of the package "Fragile and Perishable" and adhere a mailing label.
Creative Gift Containers
After you've taken the time to prepare an assortment of homemade foods for friends and family, why not take the extra step and package them in a unique way?
Some creative containers are merely clever conversation pieces. Others can be part of the gift itself to be enjoyed long after the goodies are gobbled up. (Recipes in photos are shown at right.)
- A Colander of Cookies. Instead of relying on an ordinary Christmas tin or wicker basket, fashion a container out of a colander! You may want to line the colander with a napkin to catch any crumbs.
- Clever Candy Dish. Looking for a way to butter up people this holiday season? Start by making a batch of fudge. Then cut a large piece of fudge to fit the dimensions of a new, clean butter dish. In keeping with the theme, include a butter knife for sweet slicing.
- It's in the Can! Surprise someone with a paint can brimming with homemade snack mix. Purchase a new can and lid (available in gallon or quart sizes) at a hardware store. Wash and dry.
Line the inside of the can with plastic wrap. Add some crumbled tissue paper if desired. Fill the can with your treats. Set the lid on top and gently tap with a hammer to close.
Wrap the outside of the can with festive wrapping or scrapbook paper. Or simply set a decorative wreath on top of the undecorated silver can. Another idea is to write or type a holiday greeting on a piece of paper and slip it into a small magnetic photo frame. Place the frame on the lid. And don't forget to include a clean paint-can opener so the recipient can easily unlatch the munchies inside.
- Great Frame Up. Inexpensive picture frames (measuring 5 in. x 7 in.) serve as unique trays that can be put to good use long after the cookies or candies have been enjoyed. Cut a decorative piece of paper to the size and place it inside the frame under the glass. Clean the glass and set a cellophane-wrapped loaf of bread or stack of cookies on top. Hold the frame and treat together with a wide ribbon.
- Dress Up a Disposable Pan. If you want to give away a coffee cake or other baked good as a gift but fret about getting your baking pan back, bake it in a disposable aluminum foil pan. Then dress it up! Look for pans that come with clear plastic lids. When the cake or baked good is cool, cover and wrap with sheer fabric. Attach a bow and a copy of the recipe.
- Special Snack Caddy. Transform an ordinary condiment caddy into a unique snack basket. Look in department and variety stores for two glasses and a condiment caddy that can hold the glasses and two soda bottles. Fill each glass with snack mix or another treat and cover with plastic wrap. Place the glasses and soda bottles in the caddy. Attach an ornament, gift tag or bow…and you're ready to go.