Everyone loves freshly baked cookies. Stale, dry cookies? Not so much. So how do you keep cookies fresh so that they can deliver optimum flavor for the maximum amount of time?
In a nutshell, it's how you store them. The best way to store cookies depends on the type of cookie you're baking. Here, we'll go through a number of different tips and tricks for keeping cookies fresh longer, from proactive steps to proper storage to even a few hacks for "reviving" old cookies!
Freeze 'em up
Your freezer is your friend when it comes to keeping cookies fresh longer. There are two general approaches to freezing cookies: either freezing the dough before you bake, or freezing the baked and cooled cookies.
Freezing cookie dough
Freezing cookie dough in advance can be a proactive measure to make sure that your cookies are fresh when you want to serve them.
The idea is that you mix up your cookie dough and then freeze it, either portioned out (for drop cookies like chocolate chip cookies), in logs (for refrigerator cookies) or in discs (for cutout or rolled cookies). When you're ready for cookies, simply defrost the dough in the refrigerator overnight, then bake as usual the following day.
Freeze the finished cookies
You can also freeze your finished cookies to extend their life. Bake your cookies according to the recipe, then cool completely. If they're not cool, the cookies can produce condensation once frozen.
Most cookies can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months in an airtight container, either in a single layer or stacked with parchment paper between layers. When you're ready to serve, thaw the cookies overnight in the refrigerator and then let come to room temperature right before serving.
Storage temperature matters
The temperature can be a big factor when storing cookies. Unless otherwise noted, don't store cookies in the refrigerator: The cool air can rob cookies of their moisture and make them taste bland. In general, store cookies at room temperature or freeze them, as specified above.
Employ the proper storage container
The proper mode of storage depends on the type of cookie you make.
Store soft cookies in an airtight container
Soft cookies, such as drop cookies, should be stored in an airtight container, either in a single layer for iced or decorated cookies, or with layers separated by a sheet of parchment paper to prevent sticking.
Keep cookies segregated among styles, otherwise the cookies will take on each other's flavor. In some cases, this won't matter much (say, if you are storing regular shortbread and browned butter shortbread in the same container). However, if you store peppermint cookies with pumpkin cookies, the results could be... unusual.
To further extend the lives of your soft cookies, keep a half slice of white bread in the container with the cookies. The cookies will absorb moisture from the bread, but the neutral bread won't impart much of a scent or flavor.
For cookies that seem harmonious with apple, you can also put an apple slice in the container, but know that it will impart a slight aroma.
If these bread-or-apple methods sound familiar, it's because they can also be used to soften brown sugar!
Let crispy cookies breathe
If your cookies are crispy, such as gingersnaps or wafer cookies, you don't necessarily want to employ the tricks listed above to keep cookies soft and chewy. To retain their crunch, you want to store them in a container that slightly "breathes."
The classic cookie jar is a great example: it "seals" but is not airtight. This means the cookies are protected from dust and the elements, but they aren't sealed in a humid container that will keep them soft.
If you don't have a cookie jar, an airtight container with the lid not totally sealed is fine. Or, try storing the cookies in a bag with small holes.
Directly before serving
Pop 'em in the oven
If you want to freshen up your cookies directly before serving, pop them in the oven very briefly. Two or three minutes at about 300 F should do it.
Basically, you're just toasting the cookies — not baking them further. A brief stint in the oven will bring out the aroma and flavor in cookies that are a few days old. Do this right before serving, so that you can enjoy the cookies while still slightly warm.
Note that this method isn't suitable for all cookies: Iced or chocolate-covered cookies, for instance, could melt. Cookies such as sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies or bar cookies are best suited to this method of "freshening up."
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