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

2 Responses to How to Make the Best Cookie Trays

  1. Pamela Waterman (@BracesFriendly) December 10, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    So true about the soft cookies lending their moisture to harder ones such that they lose their “crisp.” You can also make that work to your advantage: if your soft cookies are hardening up, seal them in a plastic bag or lidded tub along with a slice or two of fresh bread. The moisture will transfer from the bread to the cookies and make them wonderfully soft again. We use that trick all the time to ensure tender, braces-friendly cookies for all of our silver-smile friends, especially at this time of year. (PS Crumble up the dried-out bread slices to feed the birds in the snowy winter!)

  2. Rachel December 12, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    What perfect timing!! I just decided this morning to make cookies for Sophia’s teachers! bakepedia saves the day again! 🙂

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