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Shipping Homemade Cookies, Texture, and the $20 Foodsaver

lilgi Sep 16, 2011 11:58 AM

I thought I might pick a few brains for a moment to discuss shipping homemade cookies. Two out of the three cookies from an assortment I mailed out recently (plus brownies) arrived intact.

To try to keep costs down I used Ziploc gallon-sized bags as I know I'll be doing this frequently. I used a box that 'just fits' the contents I packed in it with hardly any room to spare, and my theory was to 'slightly' overfill with packing material (without crushing the cookies) so that the contents stay fixed. I have a good amount of packing peanuts, and I had in my possession a sufficient quantity of small, plastic air-pillows that are used for shipping (that you would get especially with packages from Amazon). I chose to use those instead. Packing in this manner you might expect to add a bit of pressure to the contents, but just enough to keep them fixed without crushing. There definitely was a bit more air inside the Ziplocs than I would have liked, which affects how much they jostle inside the bag. I think that a vacuum seal would have been a big help, but I went ahead without one.

My next concern was the texture. Some cookies are best eaten a few hours after baking and if you're lucky you might have a few recipes that withstand the test of time when properly stored. I have great success with JT ccc cookies this way - the texture is not nearly as compromised as other cookies after a day or so. I love this, so I decided to pack these 'without' a slice of bread in the ziploc so that they remain firm and chewy. These arrived perfect!

I like a 'soft' snap on my ginger spice cookies, but with a bit of air inside the bags I had no idea what the outcome would be once these arrived. I opted to make them softer so that they would arrive still firm but intact and decided to pack these with a slice of bread. I would have preferred them to arrive with the original texture. They also arrived intact with a very good chew and not soft, but missing some of the crispness that we are used to.

The last set of cookies were my peanut butter ones. A few hours out of the oven they have a crisp-chew. I also packed these with a slice of bread which helped the chewiness of the cookie. The problem here is that they became softer and crumbly; still much better than 'dry and crumbly' - and yeah, this is one of those that is best eaten a few hours after baking :-/

Btw, the brownies arrived perfect and they went straight into the tiny dormroom freezer. That's my boy ;)

I would love some feedback on the $20 foodsaver and others, especially for this purpose if nothing else. If I were to use the foodsaver, sealing within a few hours after baking, would this keep the original texture close? I'm also wondering if submerging the bag with contents into water almost up to the seal, with an opening large enough for the air to escape and then quickly sealing the bag yields good results. The pressure from the water is supposed to force the air out, something I have yet to try but had I known this before sending this package I most definitely would have tried it. Thanks in advance, I look forward to reading your comments.

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  1. s
    skyline Sep 17, 2011 01:53 PM

    If the $20 foodsaver is the same type that I tried a couple of years ago (a battery powered handheld unit that it used with special bags), I honestly don't know how well it would work. I ended up throwing mine in the trash after a very few months (I think the main reason it didn't get tossed sooner was the cost of the bags, LOL). IIRC, the one we had was made by Reynolds; probably long since discontinued which honestly doesn't surprise me.

    One thing I do remember is how poorly it performed with wet/moist foods. It seemed to work more like a moisture extractor (meaning out of the food item and into the bag itself) rather than an air extractor. Everything seemed to come out dryer than it went in, with the excess moisture remaining in the bag.

    In order to get the majority of the air out (IMHO these small units just don't have the ooomph to get ALL the air out) the contents got flattened way more than I expected. Not a problem for, say, raw chicken breast but if you are packaging cookies you might end up with something more closely resembling tuiles than, for example, a chunky chocolate chip cookie.

    I freely admit that cookies never survive long enough in our house to ever make it out the door, much less to the post office, LOL!

    Anyway my guess is that the $20 units will probably get MOST of the air out but if you are trying to extract every bit of air I'd have my doubts. I think it will also depend greatly on the moisture content of what you are packaging.

    7 Replies
    1. re: skyline
      r
      rainey Sep 17, 2011 03:17 PM

      I use a vacuum sealer when I send baked goods all the time. It's hard to report what condition they arrive in since people always tell me they're "good" but is that politesse? Unfamiliarity with the intended texture? An accurate account? Who knows?

      The vacuum packer is the ONLY way to send tender cookies. Stack them in blocks of 3-4 cookies deep and row of 3 or 4 by 3 or 4. Flash freeze them. Now put them in a vacuum bag and draw out the air manually switching to "seal" just before they get squeezed too tight. You now have a sturdy little block of cookies that support one another and are no longer fragile. Even so, pack them with the cushioning of wadded paper, styro peanuts, actual popcorn or whatever.

      I also use them for moist quickbreads. I can say that when I bake cake layers ahead of time and store them in the freezer vacuum packed, they stay moist *but* the outermost surfaces do get a little sticky. That's why I wrap them in parchment before I put them in direct contact with the vacuum bags. As for the cookies, I freeze them first so that the structure is a little more firm when I vacuum the bags out. And, as for the cookies, I manually switch to "seal" just as the package begins to show the contours of the contents.

      The other good thing about vacuum packing traveling baked goods is that each packet has it's own little environment. This means you can send crispy snickerdoodles, moist banana bread and fudgey brownies somewhere in the middle and each will have it's distinctive flavor and texture even if they travel in the same box.

      1. re: rainey
        blue room Sep 17, 2011 04:29 PM

        "It's hard to report what condition they arrive in since people always tell me they're "good" but is that politesse? Unfamiliarity with the intended texture? An accurate account? Who knows?"

        Send some to yourself!

        1. re: blue room
          m
          Mother of four Sep 17, 2011 04:44 PM

          LOL!

          1. re: blue room
            r
            rainey Sep 17, 2011 06:18 PM

            You know, that would work but I just *hate* having to deal with the post office and it takes me sweet forever to work up the energy to get off packages that I *want* to send off.

            1. re: blue room
              lilgi Sep 17, 2011 11:34 PM

              My son knows that as much as I love a good compliment and how much I want to see him happy, I appreciate the detailed info so much more, so if this helps anyone out I'm happy. I know that I'm extremely polite when I'm on the receiving end and don't always tell it like it is :)

            2. re: rainey
              lilgi Sep 17, 2011 11:36 PM

              That's exactly what I'm hoping for; uncompromised texture. Hopefully I don't have to spring for a heavy duty sealer. A little hesitant to freeze because of the excess moisture but if it works well for you I may try it out.

            3. re: skyline
              lilgi Sep 17, 2011 11:30 PM

              I agree, it may not get all the air out like a heavy duty sealer. Definitely will try a few other tricks first before trying it and more feedback on how they're arriving. The texture is what I find the most challenging; it's a work in progress.

            4. coll Sep 17, 2011 02:07 PM

              I ship mega amounts of cookies every Christmas and considering, not too much of a problem. I mean the cookies are mostly butter, the ones that are left behind are still good days later. The way I ship is in a decorative tin, with lots of tissue paper, and then packed tightly into the shipping box. Bigger box with lots of packing, slightly overflowing. I read somewhere that the best packing material turns out to be real popcorn, not the plastic stuff, but it doesn't matter if it's old newspaper to me; as long as it's tight as a drum you're good.

              I wouldn't use a vacuum seal as anything delicate like cookies would be mushed and crushed beyond recognition. I only tried that once, what a mess. I wouldn't use water either, somehow the moisture is sure to affect the cookie texture.

              I never shipped cookies with a slice of bread enclosed, but the receipiants always seem to be very pleased with their package. If they want fresh made quality, guess they have to wait to be in my presence ;-) Always keep them wanting more is my motto.

              1 Reply
              1. re: coll
                lilgi Sep 17, 2011 11:39 PM

                I'm finding that that slice of bread helps a great deal but only for some cookies. Some receive too much moisture from it, but as I continue doing it I'll have a better idea which types of cookies benefit the most.

              2. chowser Sep 17, 2011 06:29 PM

                A CH hint I got years ago was to use a straw on the edge of the bag to suck out the air--you have to suck in w/ your mouth and the breath out w/ your nose but I was surprised at how well it works. It's probably not as air tight as the vacuum seal but it's free, other than breathing in plastic for a minute or so. There are cookies that pack better than others, bar cookies are generally good, the fake Neiman Marcus/Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookie, rice krispie treats, shortbread cookies. I'd always go overboard on wrapping--first plastic wrap for a few cookies, then parchment which held a few of those plastic packs, and then the ziplock bag. Pringles cans are good for round cookies. Overall, the guys on the ship w/ my husband (so many years ago now) were always happy w/ the pack, regardless of the condition, or so he said.

                7 Replies
                1. re: chowser
                  lilgi Sep 17, 2011 11:43 PM

                  Yes, I'll be trying this way and submerging in water. Hopefully they make these bags better than condoms.

                  There are cookies that pack better than others especially the bars, but definitely trying to work around the ones I know he/they prefer so I don't have to sacrifice favorites. The peanut butter ones are my challenge :-/

                  1. re: chowser
                    c
                    calliope_nh Sep 18, 2011 09:56 AM

                    +1 the straw method.

                    1. re: chowser
                      lilgi Sep 22, 2011 03:39 PM

                      Chowser, completely slipped my mind to ask after reading your post, JT cookies arrived fresh and intact, no compromise to texture but wondering why you recommended the old Neiman Marcus/Mrs. Fields recipe for shipping over the JT's.

                      1. re: lilgi
                        chowser Sep 23, 2011 04:52 AM

                        Because my husband was out to sea over 15 years ago, before I'd discovered the JT cookies so those are the first ones that came to mind.;-) They also made a huge batch which was perfect for the guys on the ship. My baking has come a long way since then.

                        1. re: chowser
                          lilgi Sep 23, 2011 07:11 AM

                          Indeed, and those were JT's back in the day. I'm sure they enjoyed every crumb :)

                          1. re: lilgi
                            chowser Sep 23, 2011 08:23 AM

                            I used to love those cookies, as much work as it was back then (small blender for the oatmeal and mixing by hand because the batter burned out my cheap hand mixer, grating ałl that chocolate w/ dull knives). I haven't made them in years after discovering first the Best Recipe ones and then JT. Maybe I should give them a try for old times sake.

                            1. re: chowser
                              lilgi Sep 23, 2011 03:38 PM

                              I bet you could quarter that recipe and still have a decent batch. Whenever I split it, I still had too many cookies. They don't store very well, yet I held onto that recipe forever.

                    2. s
                      sherriberry Sep 17, 2011 06:35 PM

                      In college, my Mom used to send me a monthly care package of baked goods. She put them in zip locks and squeezed the air out of them. She sent peanut butter, choc chip, bar cookies, etc. Her trick was to surround them w/ air popped popcorn. Helped keep the cookies intact and they were in great condition. This was coming from VA to TX.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: sherriberry
                        lilgi Sep 17, 2011 11:45 PM

                        Interesting about the popcorn sherriberry, should be a fun experiment, will try that too.

                        1. re: lilgi
                          chowser Sep 18, 2011 09:04 AM

                          I used to do the popcorn packing but was told (and don't know how true it is) that the popcorn, unwrapped could attract rats and other rodents.

                          1. re: chowser
                            s
                            sherriberry Sep 18, 2011 12:37 PM

                            I never had a problem and had monthly packages for 4 years.1981-85. Mom wrapped the box in brown paper and taped up really well-maybe that kept the critters from smelling the contents.. Cookies were always moist and fresh. I always knew when a care package arrived because there would be about a half dozen girls gathered around our tiny kitchenette table longingly staring at the box. And yes, I shared.

                      2. s
                        skyline Sep 18, 2011 06:22 AM

                        The great cookie-shipping challenge is why Anzac cookies were invented, LOL

                        http://www.anzacday.org.au/miscellane...

                        (remember, "biscuits" is Brit/Aussie-speak for "cookies" ;-)

                        )

                        I have made these, actually, though not for shipping purposes. I used Lyle's Golden Syrup which is readily available in supermarkets nowadays. We like these a lot with some nice cold milk! This is the recipe I got from a transplanted Aussie friend (apologies to the mods for including a recipe but it is short and it is probably the most shipping-friendly cookie out there, so it isn't too OT, is it?)

                        Line baking sheets with parchment and preheat oven to 350. Combine 1/2 cup all purpose flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup shredded coconut, and 1 cup quick oats in a mediium bowl. In a small saucepan melt 6 tb butter with 2 tb Lyle's Golden Syrup and pour this into a large bowl. In a cup or small glass, dissolve 1/2 tsp baking soda in 2 tb boiling water and add this to the butter/syrup mixture. Now add the dry ingredient mixture and mix well. With a normal (eating-type, not measuring-type) teaspoon, drop dough onto the baking sheets and flatten the tops so they're not rounded anymore. These cookies spread A LOT, so leave plenty of room. Bake 14 mins. They will be very dark brown and crunchy.

                        If you like a more intense taste you could no doubt substitute molasses for the Lyle's Golden Syrup. Some recipes for Anzacs call for treacle which is closer to molasses. However, don't try to substitute light or dark corn syrup for the Lyle's Golden Syrup because it's an entirely different ingredient in source (corn vs sugar cane) as well as taste.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: skyline
                          lilgi Sep 18, 2011 06:45 AM

                          Those wouldn't be an option for me because I'm the only one here that likes coconut, but thanks for posting anyway. Which reminds me that my oatmeal cookies would be another no-brainer here, not too much to be concerned with shipping those. I'll probably send those out with my next package.

                        2. lilgi Sep 18, 2011 04:56 PM

                          I'm starting to give much more thought to a serious vacuum sealer and would love a few recommendations, one that will serve my purpose well without having to go overboard in price. I understand the bags will probably cost more, but not concerned about doing anything with meat or wet ingredients at this point, just the baked goods hoping this will keep the cost down.

                          @ Rainey: Just wondering if the flash freezing you're doing is to keep the cookies from breaking, I'm a little worried about excess moisture, not terribly though.

                          @ Coll: I'm thinking maybe this is why Rainey's flash freezing; I'm glad you weighed in on this, will consider before doing anything.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: lilgi
                            coll Sep 19, 2011 04:18 AM

                            I've had bad luck with all baked goods, maybe I should try freezing first.

                            If you shipped overnight and sent them frozen, possibly with an ice pack, then maybe you wouldn't even need a sealer?

                            1. re: coll
                              lilgi Sep 19, 2011 06:01 AM

                              The freezing would allow too much moisture and completely change the texture, but freezing just long enough to make the cookies firm might not do much to compromise that. I hoped that if I vacuum sealed a few hours after baking it would keep the cookies at their best since they decline over time when exposed to a little air (going either way, brittle or soft).

                              1. re: lilgi
                                coll Sep 19, 2011 06:22 AM

                                Oh well, I'll admit I have cookies that I just won't ship anymore.

                            2. re: lilgi
                              r
                              rainey Sep 19, 2011 05:33 PM

                              I use the big FoodSaver that I got at Costco. I thought I'd use it occasionally. I use it *constantly* for things like resealing the packaging things come in, making my own teabags, preparing things for long term freezing, secure mailing of things like jams and relishes. I think I use it in one way or another most days.

                              As for freezing what I'm mailing, it's just a quick stay in the freezer to firm the structure of things so that I can seal them without crushing. Even so, I switch to the manual seal option as soon as I begin to see the contours of the item against the bag. AND I pack with the baked goods in contact with parchment.

                              The bags are the largest part of the expense of using the vacuum sealer. Still, a tremendous number of things can be resealed in their own packaging and the purchased bags can be reused IF you start with a larger bag than you need. Seems counter intuitive but sealing the bags requires a couple inches of extra space so, even as you move down in the size of items you seal, you need to provide that extra length in order to be able to create the vacuum.

                              1. re: rainey
                                lilgi Sep 19, 2011 09:09 PM

                                Thanks so much Rainey, still back and forth on it but the info helps a bunch.

                            3. c
                              cutipie721 Sep 19, 2011 11:10 AM

                              Never shipped bakery items myself before, but have eaten Chinese mooncakes. They have a little packet of oxygen remover in each container.

                              http://www.amazon.com/50-Absorbers-De...

                              Maybe it'll help a little as well.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: cutipie721
                                lilgi Sep 19, 2011 09:11 PM

                                interesting, I'll have to read more about it; it would be doing the opposite of what I did by adding moisture with bread though.

                                1. re: lilgi
                                  c
                                  cutipie721 Sep 19, 2011 10:13 PM

                                  It's supposed to remove oxygen only. The moon cake was still soft.

                              2. o
                                odkaty Sep 19, 2011 11:39 AM

                                I send monthly cookie shipments to my grandfather. Harder cookies, like gingersnaps or coffee cookies, stand up to the jostling better than oatmeal or snicker doodles.

                                I normally stick in a gallon-sized freezer bag and suck all the air out. I've tried using the foodsaver, but that just results in crushed cookies — perfect for ice cream, not so much for cookie-fiend grandfathers. I pack in a cardboard box surrounded by newspaper.

                                Fudge and bar cookies mail well too.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: odkaty
                                  lilgi Sep 19, 2011 09:14 PM

                                  It never entered my mind that cookies can get crushed with a foodsaver :-/

                                  1. re: lilgi
                                    r
                                    rainey Sep 19, 2011 09:29 PM

                                    Oh yes indeed! Those things have powerful motors for sucking the air out to create vacuums. They would easily crush cookies if allowed to. In fact, next time I need graham cracker crumbs I might even try using the vacuum sealer...

                                    Even tho the machine has that potential, the ironic thing is that it can be used to get fragile cookies to behave as though they were a much stronger, more durable unit when air is removed and they are held immobile. Ironic but useful and fortuitous. ;>

                                    1. re: rainey
                                      lilgi Sep 19, 2011 09:43 PM

                                      Yes stronger is what I had thought, not the other way but it makes sense now, and I wasn't thinking in terms of the motor. Looks like you have a great handle on it :)

                                      1. re: rainey
                                        o
                                        odkaty Sep 20, 2011 06:57 AM

                                        You must be quicker with the stop button than I am! My finger was hovering over the button and I still ended up with crushed maple sugar cookies.

                                        1. re: odkaty
                                          r
                                          rainey Sep 20, 2011 08:48 AM

                                          Oops! Did you freeze them first? I do that to support the structure a bit. Then, yes, I guess with experience I've gotten quick with the button. And the one on mine is very responsive -- it begins the seal and stops the vacuum instantaneously.

                                      2. re: lilgi
                                        o
                                        odkaty Sep 20, 2011 06:56 AM

                                        All was well — it was just a small test portion, perfect for ice cream after the food saver incident.

                                    2. lilgi Sep 24, 2011 10:21 PM

                                      I'd like to try Dorie's Sugar cookies soon from Baking after reading some really nice comments. Wondering whether these are fragile/delicate since some caution must be used to transfer the dough after using the cookie cutter, in which case I'll refrigerate the dough on a baking sheet before using the cutter to firm things up a bit. I'd rather not deal with anything that's too delicate to ship, so any feedback on these would be splendiferous!

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