Jam-filled cookies are often the stars of holiday cookie platters, but they're too pretty to be relegated to once a year baking. Most start with a chilled shortbread dough that is filled with raspberry, cherry or apricot preserves, although any type of preserve will work. Don't use jelly, which doesn't melt well and avoid preserves with large chunks of fruit, which tend to spoil more quickly. Once the cookies have cooled, they can be stored at room temperature for a few days, refrigerated or frozen for longer storage.
In most cases, you can safely store cookies made with fruit preserves at room temperature for up to five days. Although the fruit in the preserves will eventually spoil at room temperature, its high sugar content acts as a temporary preservative. You can store cookies in glass jars, plastic containers or tins. Make sure any container you use has an airtight seal so the cookies stay fresh. Refrigerate or freeze cookies for longer storage. Place them in a plastic airtight container or sealed plastic bags.
If you're making cookies that use only a small amount of jam, such as thumbprint cookies, you can safely store them at room temperature. However, you should refrigerate cookies that contain more preserves, such as fruit bars or rugelach, or use them within a day or two. Refrigerate cookies that contain fruit preserves and cream cheese or other dairy products as soon as they cool. Allow refrigerated cookies to come to room temperature before serving them for the best flavor.
How you store cookies is as important as where you store them. After the cookies come out of the oven, let them rest on the pan for about five minutes. Transfer them to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely -- usually 20 to 30 minutes -- before you store them. If you store cookies while they're still warm, they'll stick together and become gooey. If using plastic bags, squeeze out as much of the air before you seal the bags, since air causes the cookies to go stale more quickly. When freezing cookies, label them with the date and use them within three months.
Cookies taste best when eaten within a day or two, and refrigerating them isn't ideal. Refrigerating almost any baked good causes them to develop a stale taste or dry out. Cut a recipe in half if you can't use all the cookies within a few days or freeze cookie dough and bake it as you need it. For thumbprint cookies, roll the dough into balls and freeze on a cookie sheet. Once the balls are frozen, you can transfer them to a sealed plastic bag. Don't thaw them before baking. Rolls of prepared, filled rugelach dough can even be frozen. Wrap them well with plastic and use them within one month. Allow them to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking them.
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