Cook’s notebook: Best baked goods for shipping to troops
Margaret Moore called recently for advice on the best kind of baked goods to send to troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
She wanted to ensure her cookies would hold up for shipping and the climate.
Soldiers who have been deployed overseas say drop, refrigerator and sandwich cookies are great to ship, because they’re fairly sturdy and hold up well. Others say bar cookies such as brownies are best.
Oatmeal raisin, peanut butter cookies and sugar cookies are among some of the favorites cited by soldiers.
The jury is out on chocolate chips. Some say chocolate of any kind melts, especially during the warmer months of May through October. Others say the cookies arrive in fine shape.
If you’re worried about the chocolate chips, substitute M&Ms, which work well. Any cakes or cookies with icing are not a good idea.
A colleague of mine shipped her husband’s favorite oatmeal cranberry cookies to him when he was deployed overseas. She packaged them in tins with layers of popped popcorn as packing material. Others suggest stacking the cookies in an empty chip tube, such as those for Pringles.
Blogger Marye Audet sent cookies to her son last year when he was on his second tour in Afghanistan.
“I understand the heart of someone who wants to send some ‘home’ to someone they love,” she wrote on her blog on www.blisstree.com. “I understand praying that the cookies make it and that somehow they will miraculously create comfort and warmth in the heart of the receiver.
“And I know, too, that cookies do exactly that. I know it because once upon a time, many eons ago, in the dark ages, I was in the military too. And I know what it is to close your eyes, stick your face in the box, and smell that amazing scent of ‘home.’ For a moment, you are there.”
Audet uses a vacuum sealer to seal the cookies.
“Seal the bag and then place the sealed bag into a bag that you blow up like a balloon,” she wrote. “Just place the original bag in, zip all but one edge, blow it up like you were inflating a party balloon and finish zipping.”
Then she packs the cookies in popcorn and places a packing list inside the box with the recipient’s address as well as her own. (By the way, packages must be sent to a specific soldier due to security concerns.)
Audet includes recipes for some of her cookies that are best for shipping, including chocolate and molasses crinkle cookies, peanut butter cookies and peanut butter blossom cookies.
A recipe for White Chocolate, Cranberry and Macadamia Nut Cookies she recommends is below. The other recipes can be found at www.blisstree.com/ bakingdelights/absolutely- the-best-cookies-to-ship- to-iraq/.
There are also recipes at the Nestle site, www.verybestbaking.com/ promotions/programs/ troops.aspx. The recipe for Creative Pan Cookies follows.
I also turned to a Web site written by Jeanette Cram of www.treatsforthe troops.com for more advice. Cram and volunteer bakers across the country have sent more than 1,877,548 cookies overseas since she started making treats during the Gulf War in 1990.
She was inspired by a letter read by then-President George H.W. Bush. Her site includes many tips for baking and shipping cookies.
Here are some of them:
•Use the cookie recipes off the packages of chocolate chips and oats. If you do not have time to bake from scratch, “extra moist” or cake mix that contains pudding makes a very good cookie.
The basic recipe is 1/2 cup vegetable oil and 2 large eggs per box. You can be creative by adding Rice Krispies, raisins, white chocolate chips, M&Ms, etc. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-10 minutes (but underbake at least one minute).
•If you send peanut butter cookies or any cookies that contain nuts, please label each bag “contains nuts.”
•Underbake the cookies about one minute to preserve the freshness.
•Chocolate chip (substitute with M&Ms May through October), oatmeal-raisin, peanut butter and snickerdoodles are the most popular cookies.
•Freeze the cookies until you are ready to ship them.
•I use regular fold-top sandwich bags, no zip-locks. Put 6 cookies front to back in the bags and twist-tie them. It will look something like a “tube.”
Be generous with your packing material, which can be bubble wrap, plastic grocery bags, or shredded paper. Nest the cookies in the packing material.
•Any toiletries should be packed in separate boxes from cookies.
White Chocolate, Cranberry and Macadamia Nut Cookies
From Bon Appétit, December 2006
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
11/2 cups dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
11/2 cups white chocolate chips (about 81/2 ounces)
1 cup coarsely chopped roasted salted macadamia nuts (about 41/2 ounces)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift flour, soda and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add both sugars and beat until blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla.
Add dry ingredients and beat just until blended. Using spatula, stir in cranberries, white chocolate chips and nuts.
For large cookies, drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, spacing 2 1/2 inches apart. For small cookies, drop dough by level tablespoonfuls onto sheets, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake cookies until just golden, about 18 minutes for large cookies and about 15 minutes for small cookies. Cool on sheets.
Can be made ahead. Store airtight at room temperature up to 2 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.
Yield: 36 (large) or 72 (small) cookies
Creative Pan Cookies
From www.verybestbaking.com: “Try one of our ‘desert-safe’ recipes to send to your loved one overseas. This recipe has been tested in our kitchen and does meet Middle East guidelines, as well as U.S. Postal Service mailing regulations.”
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
11/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup butter-flavored vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons water
2 cups (12-ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
21/4 cups quick oats, uncooked
1 cup chopped dried apple slices, or raisins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in small mixer bowl. Beat sugar and shortening in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs. Gradually add flour mixture and water. Stir in chocolate chips, oats and apples.
Spread batter into ungreased 15- by 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.
Yield: 48 bars