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How Far in Advance Can You Make Holiday Cookies?

November  1, 2017

No! You can’t make all of the desserts and cookies for Christmas at the last minute and still enjoy the holidays.

Fortunately, plenty of cookies keep well—and some actually improve with age. Go ahead and try some of those traditional Scandinavian and German recipes that you’ve ignored all these years; many are made for keeping and delicious, indeed. Or, stay in your comfort zone with butter cookies, meringues, and biscotti.

Lebkuchen keep for several weeks—so start baking them NOW. Photo by Sophia Real

If you can organize your sock drawer (so trendy right now) you can make a plan and start baking cookies immediately. (And for tips on how to bake a zillion cookies with only two cookie sheets go here.)

Shortbread cookies keep for at least 1 month. Yippee! Photo by Mark Weinberg

Always consult the individual recipe you are using, but here is the general scoop on types of cookies that keep well and/or actually improve with age—as long as you store them properly, in airtight containers or as directed in the recipe you are using. You can find storage times and further details for dozen of other cookies in my book Chewy Gooey, Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies (Artisan Books 2010).

Your Guide to Make-Ahead Cookies, A through T:

  • Amaretti: These keep for at least 2 months, probably much longer.
  • Biscotti: The super dry, crunchy type improve with a few days age and keep for several weeks. The cakier, less crunchy type may keep for 2 weeks.
Brandy snaps keep for 1 week; Mexican wedding cakes for 1 month. Photo by Linda Xiao, Linda Xiao
  • Brandy snaps (unfilled): These keep for 1 week.
  • Butter cookies: Generally these are better a couple of days after baking but keep for at least 1 month (see also spritz, shortbread, Mexican wedding cakes, etc.).
  • Fruitcake cookies: Depending on the recipe, you may be able to make these weeks or months ahead.
Grahams are good for 3 weeks; gingerbread for several months.
Lace cookies, 1 week later. Photo by Mark Weinberg
Make your pfeffernusse several weeks ahead of time. Photo by James Ransom
  • Pfeffernusse: These should be made at least a few days or up to 2 weeks before serving, depending on the recipe, and they keep for several weeks.
  • Shortbread and shortbread cookies: These keep for at least 1 month.
  • Springerles: These should be made 2 weeks before serving and they keep for several months.
Spritz and shortbread cookies keep for 1 month.
  • Spritz: These keep for 1 month.
  • Sugar cookies: The crispy, crunchy variety (not the light cakey type) keep for at least 1 month.
  • Tuiles: These keep about 1 month.

Ready...set...cookie!

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What's your cookie game plan? Strategize with us in the comments!

This article originally appeared on December 7, 2015. We're re-running it because it's never too early for cookies.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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4 Comments

angelaa November 13, 2017
Very excited for this list, but how are you storing them for ideal conditions? Tupperware/plastic storage always changes the flavor to me (in an undesirable way). Any tips or tricks?
 
angelaa November 13, 2017
Very excited for this list, but how are you storing them for ideal conditions? Tupperware/plastic storage always changes the flavor to me (in an undesirable way). Any tips or tricks?
 
Lucy December 18, 2016
Alice Medrich is simply the best. I learned how to bake ahead and keep treats when I was s young bride in Japan, teaching English . I wanted to teach students about our customs as I was learning theirs. This started in 1976. I baked simple pound and spice cakes from the Joy of Cooking book and kept them in tins in my small refrigerator. I cut slices of each for the students in each class and took in a treat plate that was really remarkable. They loved it. The cakes lasted the whole Christmas season of about 3 weeks. I will never forget that experience.
 
Heather December 7, 2016
Making the dough, forming the cookies ... and then freezing, to bake just before Christmas?