Over the years, Melissa Clarke has tried to make the most delicious cookie jar as a gift for her loved ones, recording their triumphs and failures. That’s what she learned.
Eleven months a year I do what you might call an above average number of cookies, but not exaggerated.
But in December, when I pretend that my obsession with baking is just an expression of the joy of the season, I give myself the freedom to act. Around the holidays I can legitimise the madness of the bakery, which in June will be covered as flour with the rush of a gingerbread maniac.
At dinner, the biscuits are part of the attraction, as is their distribution, packed in a dozen paper-covered boxes. They go out with friends, neighbors, teachers, postmen – everything on the list, as long as the stamps on the short films are bold.
And, hell, pandemic, I intend to continue the tradition during this festive season. Although I won’t organize a big latte party or Christmas dinner, I can still deliver boxes of cookies to my loved ones at a safe distance, which is a tangible way to spread joy when we need it more than ever.
In order to keep my annual bakery at least somewhat organised, I kept a logbook for two decades and recorded replacement orders, successes and accidental failures in the cookie cutter. (Cardamom in red is a good idea; putting spicy cheddar-cayenne biscuits in the box isn’t).
The magazine is also useful for remembering the cookies I made, so I don’t have to repeat them too often, and for saving recipes for future baking. My goal is always to create a visually stunning cookie jar with a balance of flavors and textures that tastes better than it seems. And over the years I’ve found a method that calms me and doesn’t contribute to my holiday stress: no pipe, no tweezers, no ruler to dig, no candy thermometer (although I do like the paint gun). The bakers want to bake these cookies as much as their friends eat them.
If you’re in the mood to make cookie jars for your family and friends, here are my tips for putting them together.
When it comes to cookies, it means more.
I think we should offer a wide range of cookies in each box. There’s nothing better than finding a slice of almond under a gingerbread frog. I’m full of enthusiasm, so I’m trying to get eight species, but three or four are enough to create excitement.
Each box should contain one nut of fruit, jam or marmalade.
Either oily, soft and crispy like corn cake, or crispy like roasted almond snow, filled with lots of icing sugar, rounds out the texture of the mixture and makes it even more pleasant to eat. In addition, crunchy biscuits are ideal for dipping, which is a necessary hobby in a cookie jar.
Whether sprinkled with sea salt, peppered with chopped barley sugar or – like this year – covered with white chocolate chips that caramelize when baking, cakes are among the simplest biscuits and perhaps the most popular variety of chocolate. But also truffles, sugar and chocolate cookies or double chocolate cookies bring you there. And if you can’t decide, no one will be sad to find two different chocolate cookies comfortably in one box.
The recipe: Black and white cake
Prepare something for the adults.
Bourbon balls, rum balls, slices of cognac and even mini-fruit cakes are perfect for the holidays, and the alcohol keeps them fresh for weeks. Let your friends know that some of the biscuits in the box may not be suitable for children, which also leaves some for adults.
Biscuits and schnapps are my favorite pastries when all the flour is wiped off the counter and the sugar on the floor shines. Then I can relax with bourbon and a balloon and enjoy the fruits of another big holiday action with cookies – while I’m already planning the next one.
The recipe: Bourbon balls
Come to Melissa Clarke on December 5 for a demonstration of their baking and shipping techniques for their favorite holiday biscuits, followed by a discussion with writers and bakers Dory Greenspan, Sochla El Valley and Samantha Senewiratne, where they will give tips and answer questions from the public. R.S.V.P. listens.
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