(Giant Mess of) Christmas cookie baking best practices?
November 5, 2011 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Each year we bake up a number of Christmas cookies to give to family, friends, service professionals we are grateful for, etc. Each year the list expands. This year we have vowed to get organized, make dough in advance, improve our packaging and presentation so that recipients don't get a box of crumbs, etc. What are your best practices?

Our problems include (but are not limited to):

- Organizing recipes, ingredient and shopping lists. We'd like to get this onto computer or iPad. Suggested apps or workflows?

- Cooling/storing cookies while they wait to be packaged and mailed (trays on every flat surface is getting old). Suggestions for collapsible baking racks or ways to improvise same?

- Packaging for mailing. We're actually going to attend a class (from the King Arthur people) that addresses this, but not sure in how much depth. This is complicated by the fact that we make many different types of cookies, in various shapes, sizes, and levels of delicacy. We have obtained foodsafe bakery boxes in the past, but found they were too deep (cookies had to be piled too much, causing breakage) and not wide enough (couldn't fit more than one large, showy cookie). Purveyors of shallow, wide foodsafe boxes that don't have to be bought in huge quantities?

(Please note that the scope of this question does not cover actual Christmas cookie recipes, as we've pretty much got that part covered. However, if you'd like to toss in a bonus recipe for a particularly giftworthy and mailable cookie, you won't hear any complaining from me!)
posted by Soliloquy to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
From Ms. Vegetable, an assortment of ideas:
- ziploc baggies as cushioning in cookie boxes - half-inflated
- or rubbermaid/ziploc containers/gladlock - the sandwich containers
- you can improvise layered baking racks with things like upside down ramekins to rest the trays on
- Cooks Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen might have ideas for collapsible cooling racks, too - they review all sorts of things
- I'd actually make one "base" cookie dough and then add in everything you want to each various batch - like mint chips, PB cups, etc.
- and I'd probably make sure they're pretty sturdy cookies, but you probably already do that
posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:48 PM on November 5, 2011

I've managed to ship baked goodies to my friends abroad using the disposable/reusable ziploc containers which either came in holiday colors which I decorated with stickers and fancy ribbons. Would that work? I would fill the dead space of the container with miniature marshmallows to prevent the cookies from shifting during transit.

To cool multiple batches of cookies, I have improvised in the past by making mutli-tier cooling rack system by using four lengths of rope. Basically work each rope into the four corners of the rack and tie them in a knot so that the rack is level and about 6 inches apart. I tied the four ropes together at the top and hung it from the pot rack I had in the kitchen. This worked really well when I had a very tiny kitchen and no counter space.

If these were helpful in any way, send me some goodies will ya? :P
posted by loquat at 3:49 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

This stacked cooling rack caught my eye in the latest King Arthur Flour catalog.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:58 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

The grandmother of a friend in college used to mail her cookies in garment boxes (the large, shallow kind they give you for free when you buy a shirt at Macy's) lined with parchment paper. Seemed to be pretty effective.
posted by phunniemee at 4:33 PM on November 5, 2011

I have these stackable/collapsing cooling racks from Pampered Chef. The little feet fit into the grid of the rack beneath, making it super stable. Not cheap, but worth it in a kitchen with limited counter space or for massive cookie efforts.
posted by donnagirl at 6:37 PM on November 5, 2011

if you have a Christmas Tree Shop near you, I bought a 3 pack of stackable/collapsable cooling racks, for $3.99. they are great! I think bed bath and beyond carries them as well.
posted by firei at 7:25 PM on November 5, 2011

For managing your recipes, I highly recommend Paprika for your iPad. It will make shopping lists, scale your recipes for you, has a timer feature, and most brilliantly, automatically downloads recipes for you right off the web! It comes with free cloud syncing and is more than worth its cost.

For cooling large batches of cookies, I use a stacked rack and clamp a small fan to the edge of my counter to rapidly and completely cool whatever is on the rack. Makes for faster cold stacking of cookies for me. I'd be surprised if the King Arthur class didn't cover all you could need to know on packing and mailing the cookies. Good luck!
posted by shinyblackdog at 7:31 PM on November 5, 2011

"Organizing recipes, ingredient and shopping lists. We'd like to get this onto computer or iPad. Suggested apps or workflows?"

This is what a friend and I did for a last minute party and shopping list: make a Google Spreadsheet with (alphabetized) list of recipes running down the side and (alphabetized) list of ingredients running across the top. For each ingredient, find some standard unit of measurement which makes sense (cups, teaspoons, whatever) and list the amount needed in the corresponding column for each recipe. To find how much is needed in total, just sum the column for that ingredient.

(Note: to make things easier and prevent potential problems: round up.)

Top row with list of ingredients (and appropriate units of measurement) + last row with totaled amounts = your shopping list.

(All of our recipes were online, so we just linked to them in the spreadsheet and printed them out when they were needed.)

We bought everything within an hour or two and revised the list several times as we went. Subcategories included: "stuff we probably have already," "screw it, let's just substitute something else for that," and "let's go to store A for this and store B for that."

Maybe not great for the environment but helpful for mise en place: if there are dry ingredients which don't have to be mixed with wet stuff right away (e.g. "whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder") measure them into plastic bags, carefully labeled with the contents and intended recipe.
posted by junques at 9:29 AM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this is helpful or not, but if you are using the fixed-price US postal boxes, I like to use fun-size packs of M&Ms as the filler packing material. If you are paying by weight, this makes the total box too heavy, but if it's the same price no matter how heavy the box is, my kids really liked the extra treats stuffed in all the cracks between the packed cookies.
posted by CathyG at 7:04 PM on November 6, 2011

I have two sets of these wire cooling racks, and LOVE them.

I've definitely done as junques has suggested and measured all of my flour/sugar/dry ingredients for several recipes at once into labeled ziplock bags.

I only have four baking sheets, so to cool them down quickly between batches (after I've transferred the cookies to the cooling rack) I'll stick them outside on my porch/balcony in the cool air.

I've found that my most-mailable cookies seem to be snickerdoodles. They hold up well and once they get to their destination a few seconds in a microwave will get them back to a soft and chewy texture.

For boxes, I like BRP Box Shop and their brown 10" x 10" boxes.
posted by alynnk at 8:13 PM on November 6, 2011

I'm surprised no one has mentioned filling up the empty spaces with popcorn. Yes, the edible kind, as it cushions the baked goods pretty well. Here's a link for more tips: Baking 911: how to mail
posted by Lynsey at 9:31 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older Help me relieve my boredom.   |   Advice for a recent college graduate dealing with... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.