I’ve made all the mistakes when it comes to shipping cookies.
When my fiancé was working in Afghanistan I would experiment using just about every trick recommended, all so he could enjoy his beloved molasses cookies. I might not do it professionally, but if I can get cookies to arrive safe and delicious through international AND military mail one week later to the Middle East, I feel I’ve earned my street cred.
So what wisdom can I impart this holiday season for those looking to send cookies overseas or even just to loved ones the next city over?
1. Don’t pack them up if they’re still even slightly warm.
Nope. Don’t do it. Not even if you’re in a rush to make it to the Post Office before it closes. While I can totally relate to this predicament, shipping warm cookies is never a good idea. They will cause a layer of condensation to form in your bag or box, which is guaranteed to change their texture—so no more chewy or crispy cookies—but at its worst, the moisture will promote bacteria and mold growth. Yuck!
2. Only pack cookies in an airtight container.
Forget about being festive, and don’t bother being cute. If you want your cookies to arrive fresh, don’t pack them in anything other than an airtight container. I tried all sorts of beautiful boxes and holiday-themed tins. But the best—and really only option—for a delicious first bite is airtight. You see, an airtight container will keep cookies fresh the longest, and with the U.S. Postal service frequently delayed this time of year—whether it’s because of a snowstorm or overloaded holiday schedule—you don’t want to chance it.
3. Give cookies plenty of padding.
Broken cookies can still be eaten, but holiday cookies are meant to look great, too. Cookies need a snug pack job if they’re going to make it through the rough and tumble bumps and belts of the Post Office warehouses. Within the airtight container, alternate layers of cookies and wax paper until you get to the very top. This is not time to cut back on cookies—fit in as many cookies and as many layers as you can without cramming them. Then secure the lid and place that in a larger box filled with plenty of packing materials like bunched newspaper or bubble wrap. Just make sure there are no large open voids.
4. Forget about sending delicate cookies
If your dream is for your family to open up a box full of flawless lacey Florentine cookies, forget about it! Anything flakey or fragile just won’t make it in one piece. Save the delicate cookies for those living within a drive, and opt to send sturdy sugar cookies, thumbprints, gingerbreads, molasses, oatmeal, peanut butter, raisin, bar cookies, chocolate chips, or biscotti.
If you’re sending decorated cookies, make sure the royal icing is set before you pack them. Then, place two cookies back-to-back and wrap the set of two with plastic wrap, before placing in an airtight container.
5. Cookies stay best with bread.
It sounds weird, but it really works. Place a piece of bread in the bottom of your airtight container. The bread helps keep cookies soft and chewy by being an outside/extra source of mild moisture. When then cookies start to dry out, they’ll pull from the bread to reach an equilibrium. The bread will arrive rock hard, but the cookies will be delightful! White bread is best since it won’t transfer any unwanted flavors to your cookies.
This trick also works at home in the cookie jar—if your cookies last that long!
6. Splurge on speedy shipping.
You didn’t skimp on the sugar in your cookies, so don’t skimp on your shipping costs now! Most cookies can only take about a week in transit before they’ll start to lose their taste and texture. Don’t settle for standard delivery. Instead, ship USPS priority (this generally takes about 2 to 3 days) or UPS ground (which usually arrives in 1 to 5 days, depending on how far across the country your package is traveling).
7. Stack your containers heaviest to lightest.
If you’re loading up a big box with lots of smaller containers of different types of cookies, remember to place the heaviest cookies on the bottom and the lighter containers toward the top. Lightly fill voids with some crumbled paper towels, then put bubble wrap on top.