Best baked goods for mailing
I have some hard working student friends who deserve homebaked goods a few weeks in to their school year. My question is: what baked goods travel well? I live in SF. One package only needs to get to Davis; the other needs to go all the way to DC.
If I'm willing to shell out for overnight, I just need things that will keep at room temperature (or a little higher) for 24 hours. How do people feel about:
-loaf cakes (without too many perishable ingredients like carrots, zucchini)
What else have people mailed with success? Any packaging tips? Should I throw in a few packets of dessicant (I save these from Asian snack packages)? I don't have a FoodSaver, but I was thinking maybe I could get a butcher or deli to vacuum pack something for me if I happen to be buying something (like Golden Gate Meats in the Ferry Building). If that doesn't happen, the best I'm going to be able to do is some of that Gladware stuff or several layers of plastic wrap in a cardboard box.
I've been sending food care packages recently, with fair success (at least, the recepients only have compliments!). Therefore, I am so not a pro at this, but I can share what I've done.
For a vanilla bean pound cake, I just wrapped it several times in plastic wrap, and then once in foil (I don't know why, just for fun), and put it in a box stuffed with newspapers (having had no other packing material at the time).
For cookies, I've bought plastic food storage containers from Ikea (because they're cheap and sturdy - I've had baked goods mailed to me in Tupperware which is sturdier than Gladware), lined them with wax paper, put the cookies in, and stuffed the rest of the container with more wax paper so that when I shook it, there was minimal movement. I then wrapped the container in bubble wrap and placed it in a box with packing peanuts (having ample supplies of both since I've just moved).
My thoughts were that whatever baked good I was shipping had to be relatively sturdy and non-melty. Nothing delicate and crumbly. Hence, the pound cake, which was like a brick, I swear, and then peanut butter cookies and snickerdoodles (I was avoiding shipping anything containing chocolate chips during the summer for fear of meltage). I wanted to send bar cookies and cupcakes, but they'd probably be more prone to smushing unless mailed in their original baking containers. Shortbread cookies might be too crumbly because of all the butter - at least, the ones I make are. If I were to hazard a guess, drop cookies are probably the best sort of cookies to ship due to their shape and general overall sturdiness. But with proper packaging, anything can get shipped! (I moved recently, and FedEx did marvelous things with my breakables involving lots of bubble wrap and packing peanuts.)
I don't know about food spoilage - even when I'm making baked goods for myself at home, I tend to leave them on plates and covered with plastic wrap for at least half a week before putting them into airtight containers and sometimes in the fridge. The dessicant sounds like a good idea - I'll be sure to keep that in mind for the future!
I've shipped everything USPS priority mail, and it seems to get to its destination within 3 days (from LA to Boston is the furthest I've sent things; mailing it off first thing in the morning probably didn't hurt). No reports of anything being stale, either.
I'm sure there are past threads on shipping holiday cookies, if you do a search.
Either way, I'm sure your friends will be super-thankful to have a friend like you!
re: Katie Nell
Wow, thanks to everyone for such detailed responses!
When you snickerdoodle fans bake, have you ever doubled the recipe, or is it safer to make several batches of the dough? I know some recipes don't lend well to doubling, so I'd like to know if you've tried it with this specific recipe. Thanks!
I definitely double, and sometimes triple, snickerdoodle recipes. The recipe I use (from my mom's recipe card file, so I have no idea where it really came from), uses no shortening but doubles the butter in the Food Network one. I tend to like my snickerdoodles on the drier side (they make great cookies for ice cream sandwiches), and they keep very well.
I'd think that slightly drier would ship better? I think the next package I'm sending will be biscotti - cooked twice, they're sturdy little things.
I send care packages to my friends at the holidays and to my nieces at camp/college and have never had any problem with food spoilage even sending them regular mail. The key is air tight storage containers. I usually use the reusable glad/zip lock ones. I don't think you need to worry about vacuum sealing. The things I have sent are:
brownies and blondies
choc. chip cookies
oatmeal walnut cookies
banana, zucchini and carrot breads/cakes (I have yet to have any spoil)
fudge (penuche is always a huge hit)
For my nieces in college I always throw in a big box of microwave popcorn, a bag of dumdum lollipops and bag of their favorite candy too. You can huge bags at BJ's or Costco and these made theri dorm rooms a popular hang out place.
Just a tip for mailing cookies:
If you put a slice of white bread (Wonder type) in the container with the cookies it will keep them moist.
I don't know how or why but it works.
Good recs so far. When my mom used to send me care packages in college, I loved getting homey treats like choc chip or oatmeal walnut cookies. If I were to send a care package these days, I would also consider things like biscotti and lemon loaf cake. I like dried cranberry, dried cherry, and pistachio. Easy to make alot at one time, and good dipped in coffee for a study break. Lemon loaf cake tastes even better as it ripens...
re: Carb Lover
Carb Lover, get out of my head! I think we've been posting about ice cream so long a weird psychic bond has been formed.
I was going to include lemon poppyseed loaf cake and oatmeal raisin walnut cookies in my packages. I have a lemon loaf cake recipe, do you have a goot oatmeal walnut one? Thanks!
Hehe, ice cream has magical powers...
I don't have an oatmeal cookie recipe since I would get them sent from my mom, and I don't make them myself. Her recipe was really basic, and I wouldn't be surprised if it is pretty similar to the recipe on the Quaker Oats box. I'm sure other hounds have tried-and-true recipes...
PS. As someone who cringes at the thought of raisins, I highly recommend subbing in dried cranberries or cherries for a modern twist. Of course, ignore me if your friends like raisins! Good luck; your friends are very lucky!
Crisp chocolate chip cookies and/or crisp oatmeal raisin/craisin cookies. Limp cookies just don't rule.
My late mother-in-law used to bake choc. chip cookies by the hundreds. Hers were the best I ever tasted. One time she baked 900 for our kids. I was visiting my mother when she was ill and lived 800 miles away. My mother-in-law entrusted me to deliver the cookies to our kids when I drove home. I told her that I would eat one per mile. She stared me down, and warned me not to touch them. One is smart to heed the warning of one who is of Calabrese heritage.
Best packaging in the world is plain popped popcorn. Not only will it protect the baked goods, but it is edible as well.