Unexpected box of brownies arrives in the mail? Brilliant? Unexpected box of cookie crumbs? Not so much.
Want to send a thanks, hello, “miss you” or other kind of baked hug in the mail? Wondering if it’s allowed, and if so, how to do it so your gift doesn’t end up as a pile of crumbs (or worse, mouldy!)? Here’s what you need to know about sending brownies or other bakes.
Is it legal?
Sending food in the post isn’t a problem. But popping some flowers from your garden in with your box of bakes could be. We checked in with Australia Post and they confirmed that shipping brownies and other perishables is fine, as long as they are packaged properly and meet state quarantine regulations. You can read more here about Australia’s interstate quarantine rules, which are designed to stop pests, diseases and weeds being carried between different parts of Australia. “Make sure that the baked goods are packed tightly enough that they won’t move around in the box in transit,” the Aus Post spokesperson also told us (scroll down for our packing tips).
Pick the right recipe
As you can probably guess, some recipes – dense brownies, study fruitcake – will travel better than others – say, fragile meringues or delicate sugar cookies. A fruitcake, which by its very nature lasts longer than many other baked goods, is a particularly good choice. Try this traditional rich fruitcake or check out SBS Food’s fruitcake recipe collection. If you want to send biscuits, ones without icing are a safer bet, particularly in hotter months. Biscotti, like these rustic almond and lemon tozzetti, are a good choice, and these chewy chocolate chip cookies are great travellers.
A lot of brownies and slices will also travel well - go for a dense brownie, like these chewy two-choc pecan brownies (or check out the brownie recipe collection); or for something you can throw together very quickly, honey oat slice.
If you want to be absolutely sure that your baked gift will arrive in the same condition in which it leaves, some home-made granola – it’s meant to be in pieces, after all! - will do the trick.
When deciding what to bake, keep in mind that it will likely take several days, possibly a lot more, to reach the recipient, and you have no control over the temperature during that time, so items with a long shelf life, and little change of spoilage (no cheesecake!) will be safer.
Cool thoroughly before packing
Let your brownies, cake or biscuits cool completely before you package them. Still-warm food can steam or go soggy.
Package it properly
You might think that putting your freshly baked goods into an airtight container is the best bet. Not necessarily. If you’re sending cake or brownies and it could take more than a few days to get to its destination, some experienced shippers say it could go mouldy. Instead, wrap your brownies (as individual pieces, or as a single slab) and cake in plastic wrap, or beeswax wraps. If you’ve made cookies, blogger and cookbook author Sally McKenney of Sally’s Baking Addiction has a good tip – wrap two biscuits bottom-to-bottom, like a sandwich cookie without the filling. Each biscuit helps support its “mate”.
Then pack your wrapped cookies, brownies or cake into a sturdy tin or (non-airtight) plastic container, with enough shredded paper, foam beads or other cushioning in between and around to make sure things won’t move around in transit.
Put that container in a mailing box lined with more foam or bubble wrap. Label it clearly (the Australia Post website’s tips for perishable items suggests also enclosing the delivery and sender’s addresses inside the box, in case the package needs to be opened by authorities) and write the word PERISHABLE on the top and one side of the box.
You might like to include a slip with the recipe, or ingredient list, in case your recipient has any food allergies, or might want to share with someone who does.
We also liked a tip we spotted from American parcel service UPS (a lot of Christmas cookies get sent far and wide over there in the US, so they know a thing or two about putting baked goods in the mail): post perishables early in the week, so they don’t sit in a sorting facility or post office all weekend.