Archives: Storage

Do-Ahead Desserts

Do-Ahead Desserts

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No, I am not including a recipe here. Just some savvy tips on how you can turn almost any dessert into a Do-Ahead Dessert. How? Well, some desserts cannot be tamed, no matter what. For example a hot soufflé must be served forthwith. But usually, if you read through a recipe carefully, you will note that there are steps that allow you to pause. So even if the recipe isn’t called a Do-Ahead Dessert, you might be able to turn it into one. With no further ado, consider the following:

  • Any recipe that calls for refrigerator or freezer time in the midst of preparation means you can stop at that point and come back to it later. Take advantage of these rests – for you and the desert!
  • Frozen desserts are your friend. Look for recipes for ice creams and sorbets, of course, but also seek out frozen soufflés, semi-freddo, frozen parfaits and the like.
  • Any recipe with the term “icebox” must be made ahead and chilled. Use it to your advantage.
  • Many desserts can be frozen. Many butter-rich cookies freeze well such as shortbread and chocolate chip cookies.
  • Making pecan pies? Pumpkin pies? Did you know that the fillings can be made days in advance and refrigerated. Just bring to room temp before filling your pie shells.
  • Trifles are a perfect dessert for this time of year. They getter better when they sit at least overnight! Try our Spiced Pear White Chocolate version.

Now you are armed and ready to bake and create at your leisure!



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Shipping Baked Goods

containers used for shipping baked goods

Receiving a care package of baked goods is always welcomed, and preparing one is gratifying, but the process has its challenges. What baked goods ship best? And what is the best way to package them and get them to their destination safely? Here’s a Bakepedia primer on shipping baked goods in tasty style.

  • Choose your baked goods well: This means selecting recipes that have a long shelf life, preferably don’t need refrigeration and are sturdy enough to stand the rigors of shipping. Our picks: pound cakes, sturdy cookies like gingerbread, butterballs, chocolate chip, blondies and brownies.
  • Take advantage of decorative, disposable bakeware: Depending on what recipes you choose, there are loaf pans, mini Bundt shapes, squares and rectangles for bars and much more. These come in the familiar aluminum, but are also available in attractive paper versions as well.
  • Plan your approach: Know the day you want the package to arrive. Talk to different shipping companies about the cost of overnight delivery or, at the most, two-day delivery. Never mail on a Friday, even if you pay for overnight, because with any slip-ups, your baked goods will be sitting in a warehouse on Sunday getting staler by the minute.
  • Bake on the same day you want to ship: The optimum situation is to bake in the morning, cool your baked goods well, package them and ship them on the same day. In lieu of this, bake late in the day before. Freshness is key.
  • Remember the dollar store is your friend: Stock up on tins. In our main image, every container was purchased for a dollar, except for the Droste cocoa tin, which was found at a tag sale and the re-purposed Whitman’s tin. Think creatively.
  • Pack each item in its own tin, It is best to package each item in its own tin or airtight container so that you do not have cross-contamination of flavors, aromas and textures. Did you know that soft cookies will make crisp cookies limp? Everything gets its own container.
  • Separate layers by parchment paper. When all of your layers are arranged, cushion the top with a large crumbled ball of plastic wrap. This way when you seal the tin with the airtight top, the baked goods within will be as stable as possible, with little movement. This is all meant to prevent breakage.
  • Package your packages: Get one large, sturdy box that is roomy enough to hold your single or multiple containers of baked goods with room to spare. Lay a bottom cushion of packing peanuts or the equivalent on the bottom of the box. Place your solo container in the center, then fill up remaining space generously with more peanuts. If you are packing multiple tins, have each of them separate from one another, cushioned with packaging material in between. When you are done, over-pack so that the packing peanuts are mounded above the box. Close the box compressing the peanuts and seal well with tape.
  • Shake the box: When you shake the box, those inner containers shouldn’t move around at all. If you can hear or feel movement within, re-open it and add more packing material. This keeps the baked goods safe.

Image: Peter Muka


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How to Make the Best Cookie Trays

cookie tray

Baking cookies to give to your loved ones during the holidays is a tradition and, indeed, people host everything from cookie-decorating parties to cookie-swap parties all in the name of getting as many different kinds of cookies as they can handle during a few short weeks of the year. Well, all of this is fine, except for a couple of big problems – flavor and texture.

After you have spent hours planning and shopping and baking and decorating, if you package crisp cookies with soft cookies, the soft cookies lend moisture to the others, which will then lose their crunch. If gingerbread is next to vanilla-bean shortbread, that simple buttery cookie will start tasting spicy. And don’t even get us started if you have anything with mint in there – everything will end up tasting like mint! We have received way too many cookie trays over the years where there is a sumptuous looking assortment of treats only to be disappointed upon tasting. All the flavors and textures converging means none of the cookies shine and, in fact, leaves some not even worth the calories. Don’t let your hard work go to waste! The crisp, buttery pretzel shaped cookies above would do well alongside shortbread or classic sugar cookies, but keep them separate from anything spicy or minty!

So here is our guide to making the best cookie trays ever:

  • Simple crisp and buttery cookies are best packaged together. Consider putting plain or vanilla shortbread, simple Sugar Cookies and spritz cookies together.
  • Soft/chewy cookies like chocolate chip (and all its variations), oatmeal cookies, rugelach and anything labeled as chewy, soft or cakey can be arranged side by side.
  • Spicy fragrant cookies redolent with ginger and cinnamon and molasses have a way of sharing their flavors with other cookies. It’s best to keep these on their own plate.
  • Unusual flavors like black walnuts, or delicate flavors like those featured in our Pistachio Butterballs, should be on their own or their essence will be lost.
  • Anything mint – like Homemade Thin Mints – get a plate or tin of their own. Yes, they are separatists, but you will thank us when you taste them and get that lovely blast of mint, while your other cookies are shining on their own with their subtle vanilla, sugar and spice.

So how do you accomplish this? We are big fans of haunting dollar stores for platters and tins. Actual platters have to be wrapped with something and while plastic wrap protects the cookies best, it isn’t so decorative.  Cellophane is more attractive and comes in pretty colors but doesn’t always give you that airtight seal that you need. For all of these reasons, we prefer tins for true storage (as opposed to display). We like to package each cookie or grouping of cookies in its own tin for gift-giving or mailing. If we are bringing a cookie array to a party, we transport them separately as described and then assemble a big cookie tray right before serving. The cookies can co-mingle in the open air for the duration of a party – we just want you to think about long-term packaging in a way that will keep your cookies as fresh and flavorful as the day they were baked.

Happy baking and packaging!

Image: Lauren Chattman

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Dessert Storage Tips

dessert storage

Proper baked good and dessert storage is critical for maximum enjoyment. This might sound like an overstatement, but trust us, it’s not. Our aim is to get you to consider storage as carefully as your preparation. It should not be an after-thought. A tart filled with pastry cream and covered with fresh fruit left out at room temperature will become soggy and potential dangerous to eat. A simple pound cake left out and exposed to the air will stale very quickly. Very specific instructions are given in individual recipes and, if followed, your desserts will be the best they can be and last as long as possible.

In regards to cookies, at the very least, crisp should be stored with crisp and soft with soft, or they will all end up soft! The soft cookies lend moisture to crisp cookies if stored together. That said, we think the optimum situation is to store individual types of cookies by themselves following individual instructions. This way, chocolate cookies will remain tasting like chocolate, pure butter cookies will retain that purity, spiced cookies will not lend their flavor and aroma to others, etc. Also, believe us when we say that some must be stored in single layers separated by parchment; it is because we learned the hard way that this extra step is helpful. The Florentine bar cookies in the picture are a thing of beauty, but only if handled with care.

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