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After going to all the trouble and expense of baking cookies, you want to keep all the leftovers as soft and delicious as they were when they first came out of the oven. Whether they’re soft, chewy sugar cookies or crisp, decorated cookies, follow a few tricks to package and preserve every type. These hints help control moisture in various types of storage containers to ensure every cookie remains fresh and delicious.

Sweet Sugarbelle Sugar Cookies

Begin by baking a batch of homemade sugar cookies. While break and bake cookies may take less time, making cookies at home is not complex or that much more time-consuming than going to the store. Making fresh cookies at home also means that you can add other ingredients like cinnamon sugar on top of the cut cookies, make unique shapes, or decorate the cookies with royal icing after baking.

Make Sweet Sugarbelle's Sugar Cookies

To make these cookies, begin by combining softened, unsalted butter with confectioners’ sugar. Other ingredients include an egg, vanilla, almond extract, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. The dough is ready when the dough consistency is tacky but no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.

This dough doesn’t have to be refrigerated before baking, but let it rest for a couple of minutes before you roll it out to allow the dough to get firm. These cookies spread a little when baking, but if you want them to maintain a cookie cutter shape, add additional flour. Roll the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness before cutting into shapes. Watch them as they bake, so they won’t get too brown. This makes the dough less sticky and prevents any spreading from occurring.

How Long Do Sugar Cookies Last?

Many sugar cookies, including Sweet Sugarbelle’s sugar cookies, freeze well. If the dough is frozen instead of used immediately, it holds up well in the freezer for up to three months.

Refrigerated dough lasts up to three days if tightly wrapped before it needs to be used or frozen. The trouble with refrigerating dough is that the odors from other foods in the fridge, such as onions, meats or cheeses, can seep into the dough and alter the flavor. Room-temperature sugar cookies stay good for around three days. Airtight containers and learning how to control moisture for different types of cookies can extend the shelf life of any cookie.

How to Keep Sugar Cookies Soft

Storing cookies and keeping them at the same consistency and quality as the day they were baked comes down to controlling the amount of moisture that circulates around the cookies in an airtight container. Regardless of the type of cookie, store all of one type of cookie together, and don’t mix different types of cookie in a single container. Crisp cookies like gingersnaps have significantly less moisture than, say, a jam-filled cookie or even a soft sugar cookie. If stored together, the moisture of the wetter cookies can soften the crisper cookies.

To ensure that sugar cookies stay soft while stored at room temperature, try lining an airtight container with a lightly dampened paper towel, followed by a couple of layers of wax paper on top of the paper towel, before stacking the cookies on top. This adds moisture to the inside of the container, allowing un-iced cookies to keep for several days while staying as soft as the day they came out of the oven. Other alternatives include adding a slice of apple or a single piece of bread, both of which help maintain moisture. Never store cookies while they’re still hot or warm because the trapped heat makes the cookies soggy by locking in too much moisture.

Decorating and Storing Royal Icing Cookies

Decorating sugar cookies with royal icing is a popular way to decorate sugar cookies because the royal icing is easy to control, and it hardens quickly. Thanks to cookie cutters and colored icing, you have almost endless possibilities for decorating options throughout the year for holidays, events and celebrations. From fall pumpkins and leaves to spring flowers and Easter eggs, cookie cutters and royal icing help celebrate any occasion.

If you decorate cookies with royal icing, always allow the cookies to completely cool before decorating, preferably overnight, so the icing doesn’t run because of the internal heat the cookies still hold. Once the cookies are completely cooled and decorated, again, allow the icing to completely set and cool. This prevents the cookies and icing from becoming dented, running or otherwise damaged. To ensure the icing is set, allow them to sit out in open air for four to five hours. Use stackable cooling racks and trays for both cooling and decorating to keep the cookies motionless and organized while the icing sets.

Depending on the occasion, sugar cookies decorated with royal icing can be stored a couple of different ways. If you’re taking the cookies to an event, a bake sale or handing them out as take-home gifts after a party, drop the cookies into clear cellophane bags. They can be sealed with a laminator or simply tied with a ribbon. This step not only helps the cookies look more festive, but it also helps keep the cookies stay fresh.

Decorated cookies also hold well in an airtight container for up to one week. Making sure the sugar cookie is completely cool and the royal icing is thoroughly set is absolutely vital to storing cookies this way. After lining the bottom of the container with wax paper or parchment, place a layer of decorated cookies along the bottom. Add another layer of wax paper followed by another layer of cookies, and continue until the container is filled. All royal icing should be covered by a layer of wax paper or parchment to avoid being damaged.

Don’t add anything to the container that adds moisture. Sugar cookies decorated with royal icing tend to be thinner, crisper cookies rather than soft and moist. Introducing humidity to the sugar cookies’ environment only makes this type of sugar cookie soggy and the icing runny or sweaty in appearance.

Storing Miscellaneous Types of Cookies

Again, don’t mix types of cookies when storing various types. This makes moisture control easier and allows each type of cookie to have the longest shelf life it could possibly have. Employ these tricks and tools to maximize the cookies’ keeping time.

Soft cookies are best stored in an airtight container to minimize airflow. Remember to add a slice of bread, a tortilla between two sheets of wax paper, or an apple slice to keep the moisture level higher for especially soft, icing-free cookies. Cookies that are lightly crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside benefit from a lightly dampened paper towel placed under two layers of wax paper before you layer the cookies on top.

Crisp cookies should be kept in a glass jar since minimal airflow can pass through glass, which helps wick away enough moisture without completely drying out the cookies. A coffee filter filled with baking soda that is stapled shut also works well to wick moisture to keep the cookies fresh while ensuring they maintain their snap. Avoid plastic bags when storing cookies unless you’re using cookie dough or pre-baked cookies on the way to the freezer.

Don’t store different flavors of cookies, even if they’re all soft and moist or crisp and crunchy. Like storing cookie dough in a refrigerator, the dominant cookie flavor in the container influences and eventually overpowers the taste of the other cookies. For example, a chocolate mint cookie eventually causes all the other cookies it shares a container with to have a subtly minty flavor as well.

Extremely moist cookies, such as thumbprints filled with jam, need a little extra care when storing. Store leftover thumbprint cookies in an airtight container without the jam ‒ it makes the cookie soggy. Fill them with the jam when ready to serve. To dry out soggy cookies, simply place them in the oven at 300 degrees F for 3 to 7 minutes.

Freezing Cookies of All Kinds

While cookies made from loose, liquid-like batters don’t freeze well, a number of tactics exist to properly freeze many other types of cookies. Bars should be tightly wrapped with plastic or foil in the pan they were baked in.

Cookie dough should be stored in a different manner from already baked cookies. To freeze unbaked cookie dough, first determine how the dough is going to be baked. If it’s simply going to be sliced and baked, form the dough into a log, cover it with plastic wrap tightly, and toss it in the freezer. Dough that you plan to cut into shapes should be formed into a disk, so it can be easily rolled out before you cover it in cling wrap and place it in the freezer. Drop cookie dough should be measured out and first frozen in a single layer on a piece of wax paper or a parchment-lined cookie sheet before collected into a plastic bag and again placed in the freezer for storage.

Baked cookies require a little less work to store in the freezer. Wrap the baked goods in freezer-safe cling wrap and secure in an airtight plastic bag. This prevents the cookies from taking on any flavor from other aromatic foods in the freezer.

When ready to use the frozen, unbaked cookie dough or to reheat the pre-baked cookies, take them out of the freezer and allow up to 20 minutes for the dough or cookies to thaw. Bake cookie dough as the recipe instructs. Cookies that have already been baked can be placed on a cookie sheet in a 300F degree oven for a few minutes to warm them again.

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About the Author

Molly Harris

Molly is a freelance journalist and social media consultant. In addition to Leaf.tv, Molly has written for Teen Vogue and Paste magazine. She is the former assistant editor of the Design and Style section of Paste magazine. View her work at www.mmollyharris.com.