Baking for Shipping without Hardtack

A few years ago, thanks to Facebook, I found myself back in touch with people I’d gone to college with. Well: I’d kept in touch with maybe a handful of college friends, over the years — but Facebook put me in regular contact with many more of my classmates, many of whom, to be honest, I had never really known in the first place. One of the funny things about Facebook life is that it gave me (and my old classmates) a chance to realize that though we’d often chosen radically different lifestyles, as adults, many, many of us turned out to be interested in food and cooking. At least two of us had worked as pastry chefs. At least one of us hunted for food. Several of us were people who apparently thought nothing of baking elaborate things on a rainy late night when we couldn’t get to sleep. And, as one might expect, in such a group (graduates of a hippie college in Vermont who like food and like being sociable, after a fashion), a holiday cooky swap was eventually proposed.

I admit: I was one of the first people to respond to the California Jewess’s proposal, in the affirmative, and start dreaming up cooky ideas.

I can no longer recall what I sent that first year. I remember that there were about six of us who came through with cookies, in the end. The idea was: a dozen cookies, no chocolate chip allowed, to be sent between December 1 and December 20.

This year, there are more people involved. There may be more than ten people to bake for. And I am, of course, racking my brain, trying to think, “What the hell am I going to do?” Last year, it seems to me, I did some cheese crackers and some coconut cookies, and the cookies suffered because their shipping was delayed by my coming down with a nasty bug and not being able to ship them out as quickly as I’d hoped.

I’ve been spending some time today weighing my options. Do I make homemade Twix bars, which I’ve done before, and are messy, but really good? Do I make a peanut butter cooky with maybe some chopped up Toblerone bar in it? Do I make Whoopie Pies, which are incredibly labor-intensive, but oh so good? I have a jar of rosemary caramel in the fridge, and I have this idea that slathering that between layers of shortbread could be very, very good indeed. But will it ship well? I just don’t know. Boxes will go to California, to Vermont, to Virginia, to Georgia.

Actually, I’m now convinced, this caramel has to be involved. I’d like to cook it again with some chopped pecans and then slather that on a very plain shortbread. I somehow believe, in my heart of hearts, that that would be a noble cooky indeed. A few dozen of those and a few dozen of something chocolate, and I should be in good shape. I’ll keep you posted, if you’re curious; and any readers should feel free to chime in with suggestions.

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