Few treats are as welcome as fresh, homemade baked goods. They're not just sweet on the palate, they're a tangible expression of the baker's love and regard. It's easy to whip up a batch of muffins for someone who lives under the same roof or in the same neighborhood, but it can be complicated if your loved one is absent. It's possible to ship your muffins within a few days' radius, though you'll need to consider a few practical details.
Delicate, cake-like muffins have their fans, but they're not your best choice for shipping purposes. Instead, choose dense, rich, moist varieties such as banana or bran muffins. They're robust enough to stand up under the unpredictable shaking and bumping they'll experience during shipping. Recipes that use molasses or honey for part of their sweetening are good choices, because those sweeteners help the finished muffins retain moisture. Add-ins of fresh fruit or plumped dried fruit can have the same beneficial effect. If you have time to experiment, wrap one muffin from every recipe you bake, and leave it to sit at room temperature for a few days. Muffins that stay moist are the best candidates for shipping.
Plan on the Pan
Your muffins are far more likely to arrive intact if you find a way to immobilize them in transit, so they don't slide around and crash into each other. A disposable foil muffin pan is the obvious tool for the job, even if you bake the actual muffins in a cherished set of heavy pans. Just bake them in individual paper cups, and transfer them to a suitably sized foil pan once they're completely cooled. Slide them, pan and all, into a heavy-duty freezer bag to seal the muffins, and their moisture, inside. If you don't have ready access to a disposable pan, wrap each muffin individually in foil or plastic wrap to keep it moist.
Some Structural Strength
Preventing the muffins from being crushed or squashed is the next step. It's best approached in stages. Try to find a cardboard box that's just slightly larger than your muffin pans, and pack them into that for crush protection. A pizza box that's designed for deep-dish pizza, or two stacked pizzas, is ideal. If you're not using a foil pan, pad between the muffins with crumpled paper or wads of paper towel. Then fill the bottom of your actual shipping box with popcorn, foam peanuts, crumpled paper, or other shock-absorbing packing materials. Nest your first box into the outer box, and surround it with additional packing materials. Finally, seal the box thoroughly with tape.
Your Shipping Options
Muffins aren't a good choice for overseas shipping, because they're only good for two to three days after baking and are really at their best for only a day or two. Choose your shipping options, whether through the U.S. Postal Service or a courier company, with that in mind. After all, if your muffins aren't fresh and delicious when they arrive, there's little benefit to the whole exercise. Be sure to label the package as both fragile and perishable, for the shipper's -- and receiver's -- benefit.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.