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DianaM

Shelf life of cookies

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I am hoping an experienced baker-gifter may have an answer for me.

I would be very interested to know the shelf life of various cookies like shortbread/sable, chocolate chip, crinkle cookies, biscotti and the like. Friends and family have asked me to make these for teachers' and other gifts (for co-workers, the vet, etc). I know full well that some of the recipients won't eat them as soon as they get them, so I want to label them with small "enjoy by..." notes.

I know amaretti cookies last for ages, and many other cookies seem to sit for months on grocery store shelves. The recipes I have are with butter, and regular household ingredients (so no invert sugar to prolong freshness, and no shortening to replace the butter etc).

So what shelf life can I expect these cookies to have?

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Personally I would not go the "enjoy by" route as so much has to do with storage factors. If they sit in your hot car or in a heated living room near the fire it is different than being transferred to a sealed container in a cool dry spot - just a stark example. I use a loose "one week" measure and tell folks to freeze them in a zip lock bag if they want to keep them longer.

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How long something will technically last (shelf life) is different from how long it will be at peak freshness. Frankly, I only like a chocolate chip cookies freshly made. I freeze ALL cookies immediately, and think many are improved with a little time in the freezer. For giving mixed cookies, which will vary in their peak quality from a day or two to a week or so, I would say to freeze if not eating in a day or two and remove an hour before serving. A tin of mixed homemade cookies is a great gift.

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Biscotti is different because, if made with a traditional recipe it's very, very low fat. (the only fat is in the egg yolks, and in the nuts) Real Bisoctti can lat a year+ if wrapped well and kept fairly cool. -If you vacuum seal, it can be even longer.

Regular cookies, with added fats like butter will go rancid. Fats can go rancid, forming cancer causing chemicals, before you can smell the rancidity. (if you can smell that a fat is rancid, dump it without question) Usually, two weeks is the grace period for low moisture cookies. Generally, you just plain don't want the fat oxidizing. Commercial cookies are made with preservatives (got any dilaurylthidipropinate around the house?) and often packed with gas instead of air in the package to prevent oxidation. Don't compare home made baked goods to commercially packaged product, the shelf lives are not comparable.

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I'd say one week for any cookie with medium to high moisture (so the chocolate chips, crinkles, and sablés for sure), two weeks for low-fat or low-moisture (biscotti, etc.) And then, only if they're well-packaged, say, heat-sealed in cellophane minimum, vaccum sealed even better.

Lisa brings up some excellent points about butter and rancidity.

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Thank you all for the answers!

I was thinking of making Pierre Herme's chocolate sables, a hazelnut crinkle cookie, and some biscotti using a Martha recipe. The sables have tons of butter (yum!) though, so I will have to think this through. To be on the safe side, a "store in a cool, dry place, and freeze if not enjoyed within 2-3 days" note, to ensure the cookies are eaten before they get stale or rancid on someone's counter should do the trick. The packaging will likely be cello bags (not heat-sealed, unfortunately, just tied with ribbon) or tin boxes, so I think the 2-3 days is all I can get.

Thanks again!

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I forgot to mention that I live in a really super-low humidity area. People who live in places that are really humid will experience a loss of crispness and other textures within a few days due to the starches absorbing moisture from the air. So, try to seal things well, but, also be aware that once open these items are on their way down, quality wise. If possible, I'd give smaller, more frequent gifts rather than larger amounts. -My vacuum sealer is great, but doesn't do the recipient any good once they have cracked something open.

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