in what order to bake these, and how to pack them?
December 19, 2017 11:36 AM   Subscribe

I plan to give Christmas cookies and candy to relatives this year. This will be onsite, not mailed. Although I've made cookies and candy many times in the past, I've only ever brought things to be eaten on the spot, and I'm not sure how best to pack these or in what order to make them.

I am going to make pecan divinity, Russian tea cookies, molasses cookies, nut brittle and possibly refrigerator cookies. I have no containers and will need to buy them, probably at Target. (Prettiness of containers is not really an issue.)

I will be making them on Saturday and Sunday for Monday. What order should I make them in? How do I pack them so they don't start getting stale/droopy? I don't understand! I will be giving everyone a container containing some of each, or that is the plan.
posted by Frowner to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would expect many people to be overloaded with holiday sweets at this time of year, and would consider packing them in freezer bags, with the different goodies sorted into different bags (but those still all in one bag) and the contents marked on the bags. I'm not sure how divinity freezes/lasts, but hopefully someone else will fill in that blank...

Cookies and liqueurs and candied nuts and the like are in such abundance right now that I am already sort of tired of them -- but if someone gave me a no-fuss bag to toss in the back of the freezer with explicit instructions to eat in the more miserable months of winter, I would really thrill to that. It's not like you're making carefully frosted sugar cookies with Santa Claus. I'd present it as a treat for "anytime you like" or whatever. Personally I would hug you for giving me something to look forward to after Bailey's and Pirouline season has died down and one is looking at less indulgence...

If you know your recipients aren't already covered for baked goods, I would use dollar store tins and layer everything between parchment paper. I don't have a lot of experience with the stuff you mention, but I would aim to do all the prep on Saturday, and then all the baking on Sunday. Here you can buy parchment paper bags; those might be useful, especially for when it comes to scribbling on what's inside.
posted by kmennie at 12:14 PM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I suggest separate storage containers for each type until right before you're ready to gift.

If you're making divinity, honestly I'd let the weather forecast guide you, since divinity hates humidity. (Or if anyone else will be using the kitchen and potentially simmering anything; that would increase local humidity enough to be annoying.) If conditions are going to be the same for both days, I'd start on Saturday with the brittle, then do the divinity while the brittle cools, then break up and store the brittle while the divinity cools/dries. (You might consider putting the brittle into separate little baggies for each recipient.) On Sunday, do the molasses cookies, and let them cool while you do the Russian tea cookies. Pack up the molasses cookies while the tea cookies cool, then pack up the tea cookies. Refrigerator cookies can go overnight, if you're making them.

Then on Monday, portion out everyone's cookies into their tins/containers. (You could also portion things out before bed on Sunday, if that works better for your schedule, but keeping things individually stored will help keep everything the consistency it should be.) Definitely put your divinity into each gift container *last* so it's on top, and make there's sufficient clearance so the lids aren't going to crush it when you seal things up. I'd probably layer each tin, top-to-bottom, with molasses, then refrigerator, then brittle, then tea cookies, then divinity last. Flatter/broader gift containers might be better than narrower/deeper, so you're not stacking and risking breakage or sticking. You could also separate each layer with some parchment paper or even doilies if you want to be fancy.
posted by halation at 12:14 PM on December 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Tins were always my family's container of choice for all xmas baking. It will greatly help things not break if you use a different tin for each kind baked good. Perhaps my family was careless but we never froze anything and were happy to eat the remaining goods at the end of Jan/early Feb although the tins were stored in a cool, dry place.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:21 PM on December 19, 2017

If they’re going to be in the same container for a while, they’ll start to taste like each other, and the tea cakes will get powdered sugar all over everything. Unless you forecast them getting consumed within 2-3 days after you put them together, I’d segregate each type in a ziploc, or just use separate small containers.

Everything but the divinity ought to be more than fine on your timeline. No advice on divinity because I’ve never made it. Even if there is some blending of flavors, there are worse tragedies than a refrigerator cookie that tastes like molasses.
posted by lakeroon at 12:43 PM on December 19, 2017

I have reason to believe that everyone will eat the sweets in a timely manner - most people receiving them don't work in situations where there are a lot of holiday sweets, and they don't really make sweets for themselves. (Also requests have been made.)

But I think I'll pack each kind in zip-lock bags in a tin (if I can find any tins given the lateness of the purchase) or in some other kind of container. That will minimize the flavor transfer and if anyone wants to freeze things, they can.
posted by Frowner at 12:47 PM on December 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Lots of airtight metal tins of many sizes at the dollar store!
posted by mochapickle at 1:09 PM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh! I can help here. Each year, I ship roughly 40-50 tins of cookies to friends and family.

First, we use metal tins. The ones we get have a fairly tight-fitting lid, for a good airtight seal. We layer the cookies inside the tin, then lay a circle of parchment paper over top of the cookies, add a slice of cheapo white bread, and then a layer of wax paper over that. The layer of parchment paper keeps the bread from sticking to the cookies, the bread helps keep the cookies moist, and the layer of wax paper helps create a tighter seal around the tin.

For cookies that are going far (more than halfway across the country, or internationally), I often do all of the above, plus plastic wrap around the tin itself. If I anticipate customs issues (Australia, I'm looking at you) I will package the cookies in freezer Ziplocs with bread pieces, and then do all of the above.

It helps to include an explanation about the bread being in there- some people are puzzled by it :)
posted by rachaelfaith at 1:10 PM on December 19, 2017

re: the order to make these in, I would do: molasses cookies, nut brittle, russian tea cakes, and pecan divinity last. (Fridge cookies could probably be first if you make those because they stay in the fridge?) Molasses cookies and the tea cakes would probably freeze fine if you're concerned about them getting stale. Caveats: I've never made pecan divinity, just scoped a recipe, and I don't know whether your molasses cookies are usually chewy or crunchy. I think chewy cookies freeze more reliably.
posted by purple_bird at 1:16 PM on December 19, 2017

If you have a Hobby Lobby nearby, their Christmas merch (including lots of tins, cello wrap and cello bags) are 40-60% off right now. If that fails, Target has holiday Gladware, which is relatively festive and airtight, in a few sizes.

If you really think your recipients will eat the goodies right away, I wouldn't worry too much about the flavors affecting each other.
posted by sarajane at 1:20 PM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

For the divinity, 100% agree on the humidity being a huge factor - if it's dry and you make it, make sure it's absolutely airtight and pack it at the last minute on top. Cookies on bottom, then nut brittle, then divinity for a packing order, and ideally put the divinity in right before you go. I don't think flavor transfer is your enemy here, but moisture transfer is - it will potentially make the brittle sticky and the divinity might really suffer. Craft stores will have small treat bags that will be less expensive than individual tins (esp. if you don't intend to fill the tins), or these are pretty cheap and reusable. You're awesome for doing this!
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 1:21 PM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I packed metal tins with plastic freezer baggies of frozen cookies and gave them to someone on a work trip from Japan to take back to his department last week, and reportedly this worked very well, with no damage to cookies and they stayed pretty fresh.
posted by Caravantea at 2:35 PM on December 19, 2017

I would do them in this order:
1. Nut brittle (it's sugar and nuts, basically no moisture, mine could keep months)
2. The dough for refrigerator cookies (to bake whenever convenient)
3. Russian tea cakes (keeps well, being sort of in the shortbread family)
4. Molasses cookies (so as to avoid them getting hard if they're not meant to be so)
5. Divinity (assuming you're assured of dry weather)
posted by jocelmeow at 3:04 PM on December 19, 2017

There are tons of cute tins and boxes at Dollar Tree. I would go with your plan of each type in a baggie and one of each baggie in a larger tin.
posted by soelo at 7:52 AM on December 20, 2017

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