We know, we know. You've been socialized to appreciate the wonders of modern refrigeration—so much so that you get nervous leaving your lunch leftovers on your desk for a few hours. But when it comes to enjoying breads, pies, cakes, and cookies in their freshest possible state, it might be time to pull the plug on your appliance reliance. Here's where (and how) to stash the (baked) goods for optimal freshness.
Most baked goods keep well at room temperature. That goes for cookies and brownies (which can be stored in an airtight containers for up to five days) as well as muffins, breads, and pastries (which will start to stale in two to three days but will keep better here than anywhere else). Pro tip: Tuck a piece of bread inside the storage container to help regulate moisture and keep your goodies fresher for longer. Baked goods supporting baked goods: Now that's what we call teamwork.
Even cakes and pies, which might throw up your flares to refrigerate, will stay fresher on the counter. Place cakes on a covered stand or keeper, and wrap pies tightly in plastic wrap. You'll want to consume them within two to three days. If you know you won't finish them that quickly, you're better off sending them straight to the freezer. More on that later.
In case you need a briefing on refrigeration technology, cold temperatures slow the growth of bacteria without changing the physical state of the object (i.e. liquid to solid, or vice versa). The refrigerator is great for keeping things like produce, dairy, meat, and prepared foods fresh in the short-term—including the milk and eggs you'll likely use to make your treats.
When it comes to taste and texture of baked goods, though, the fridge will not serve you well. Cold air is extremely drying (just think of your skin in winter!), so most baked goods will be better off on the counter for a few days, or straight to the freezer for longer. Reserve the refrigerator option for desserts that are made with raw dairy and eggs—like a pumpkin, custard, or cream pie—or leftover buttercream frosting.
If you're playing a long game in which you aim to always have treats at the ready, the freezer is your friend. Cookies, brownies, muffins, and most breads will all do well here if placed in an airtight freezer bag with the extra air pressed out of it. (We also recommend stashing pre-rolled balls of unbaked cookie dough the same way). For a grab-and-go option, wrap treats individually in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. When you're ready to eat, thaw on the counter and enjoy.
Cake is tricky—once frosted, it won't do well in the freezer. However, if you're prepping cupcakes or layer cake in advance, you can freeze the unfrosted cake pieces wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Feel free to freeze fruit pies—flash freeze them uncovered before wrapping in plastic—but custard pies should be made and enjoyed fresh.