Monday, December 5, 2011

Shipping Holiday Treats

If you’re like me, not long after the holiday season begins, thoughts turn to all of the treats we plan to create—cookies, breads, candy, cakes—either to consume ourselves, serve to guests, or give away as gifts. (Or all of the above.) Some of those holiday goodies may be destined for far away places. Homemade food gifts are some of the most cherished presents, especially for loved ones who would enjoy a reminder of home and holidays past.

It’s not too early to plan the shipping of holiday food gifts (or any other gift, for that matter.) According to the United States Postal Service, all overseas gifts should start shipping by December 7th, with the last day being the 19th; packages to military destination should be shipped by December 17th; and December 21st is the last day to send Priority Mail to arrive by Christmas.    

To package up your gift goodies so your hard work doesn’t turn into a pile of crumbs upon arrival, first choose sturdy food items that will withstand the rigors of shipping. My favorites are breads and candies. I also like to send sturdy cookies and cookie bars. Some other good suggestions include spiced nuts, muffins, and fudge.

Movement is the enemy of gift foods. If the treats shift around too much inside their packaging, they will crumble during shipment. To prevent this from happening, package the food in an airtight container and then place that container inside a well-cushioned, heavy-duty shipping carton.

I like to line a decorative box, tin or plastic container with a layer of tissue paper and then waxed paper. Next go in the cookies, bars, candies, etc. To keep them in place, I tuck small pieces of crumpled parchment paper around the food to take up any excess space. Also, small paper candy cups both look nice and serve as cushions and I like to place a sheet of wax paper between layers of cookies or candies.

Sturdy items are even easier to package. Hard candies and nuts can be placed in a decorative plastic bag tied with a ribbon. Breads can be baked in disposable foil pans. Then, just wrap the bread, pan and all, in plastic wrap. (For a more elegant gift, bake the bread in a decorative metal or ceramic pan, though the later will require extra cushioning to prevent breakage.)

For liquid items such as homemade oils and vinegars, be sure the bottles are tightly closed. Then place the bottle in a zippered plastic bag and wrap in bubble wrap. This should help prevent both breaking and leaking.

Once you have the food individually packaged, place those containers inside a shipping carton with heavier items toward the bottom. Cushion around the gifts with wadded-up newspaper, bubble wrap, or Styrofoam or cornstarch peanuts. Air-popped popcorn also works well. Just be sure not to use popcorn popped in oil or your packages will be greasy. For a more festive look, try using old wrapping paper, either wadded-up or shredded with a paper shredder.

Do not leave any empty space in the carton. Once you have everything inside, close the lid and give the package a shake. If you hear anything moving around, repack the box and try again.  

Here are recipes for two of my favorite holiday breads, both of which ship very well.

Banana Nut Oatmeal Bread

Makes 1 loaf
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl or on a sheet of parchment paper, sift together the flours, soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, until blended, and then add the bananas. Add the flour mixture and mix well. Add the oatmeal and walnuts and stir until just blended.

Place batter into a buttered loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cranberry Walnut Bread

Makes 2 loaves or 1 Bundt pan
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup orange juice
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts
Powdered (confectioner’s) sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour bread pans or Bundt pan.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Add eggs, orange juice and butter to the well; stir liquid ingredients just until blended. Add cranberries and walnuts to the well. Stir together liquid and dry ingredients just until combined.

Spread batter into prepared pans. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes depending on the size of pan until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and finish cooling. Dust the top with powdered sugar.


  1. Great advice, all too often I'm exhausted by the time I pack up my food gifts and I'm not too careful---just glad to get them out on time!

  2. Oh my goodness, that looks lucious! A perfect treat for fall!