Storing Holiday Cookies
CorbisMaking holiday cookies is a serious family tradition for me, a tradition that goes well beyond just Christmas cookies. Perhaps it's a Pittsburgh thing, but I can't remember a single wedding, reunion, graduation, or football game that didn't have mounds of homemade cookies.
Now that December is here, I'm already into serious cookie-cranking mode. When I was growing up, my Granny and I used to start baking almost three weeks before Christmas. Lemon cream sandwiches, ceci cookies, lady fingers, toffee bars, dark chocolate with white chocolate chips and pfefferrnüsse -- the list was huge and we used to rotate our annual selections depending on Granny's mood, preparing 15 to 16 different types to outfit large cookie trays and send care packages to the neighbors.
Since there was no possible way to get it all done, even in a week, Granny had a foolproof storage system that she used each and every year, starting with battered cookie tins that she had collected over the years.
Cool cookies completely before storing: cookies that are packed warm can become mushy from condensation and lose their crisp or cakey texture.
Cut pieces of wax paper to fit cookie tins to keep the layered cookies from sticking together: you can do this a week ahead and store the wax paper inside the tins. Once the tins are filled up, seal the edges of the tins with Scotch tape to help keep the air out.
Storing cookies in shallow tins prevents them from breaking: be sure to put layers of wax paper between each layer of cookies.
For cream-filled cookies, store the filling separate, and finish the cookies the morning before you plan to serve them.
The morning of your celebrations, prepare cookie trays before your guests arrive. I buy inexpensive paper doilies to decorate my serving trays for a festive feel with zero clean-up. Cover the cookies on each tray with plastic wrap -- and then with dishtowels to help keep the plastic wrap in place. Remove both plastic wrap and dish towel before serving.