Staff Cookie Jar
Not long before we sold the Inn I posted this photo on Instagram of the cookie jar, full of Chocolate Chunker cookies. I tagged it with ‘staff cookie jar is full again’ or something like that. A customer came in that night and, after her meal, secretly asked her waitress about a cookie from the staff cookie jar. The waitress snuck her two to take home which I thought was exactly the right thing to do. It also could have spawned a new tradition for me, if we hadn’t sold the inn. I loved the idea of a secret Instagram menu – that people could come get a little piece of what we had behind the scenes. (Thank you Dorie Greenspan! The Chocolate Chunker recipe can be found in her Baked cookbook, which is a bit of a bible of mine. She’s also got a more recent book called Dorie’s Cookies that will just make you want to start at page one and make everything. Well, that’s how it made me feel.)
Our inn had a definite busy season and quiet season as far as overnight guests were concerned. We were flat out busy from late spring through the fall and then pretty quiet through the winter months. The cookie jar adjusted to the seasons as well. During those busy months, it was always full. But then, come the end of tourist season, it would get washed out, and not necessarily filled straight away. There was always an initial relief to this time of year. We all got to slow down a little. Less was needed, in every department, for a little while. We did a lot of extra chores that we could never find the time for in the busy season. We experimented with recipes, got everyone involved in creating new dishes by doing silly experiments in the kitchen when the restaurant was slow. We laughed a lot. (We laughed a lot during the hectic months too, occasionally that slightly crazed laughter you get from a group of people who are teetering right on the edge of chaos. But laughing was our usual default mode, which is only one of 10,000 reasons why I always claimed we had the best staff in the world) For all the relief at the start of the slow season there was an equivalent relief and excitement when we started to gear up again for the next busy season. And one of the first signs was always a full cookie jar.
There are a few things about this whole Staff Cookie scenario that I just love. The main point is that behind the scenes at our place was desirable. It wasn’t all smelly chef clothes and leftover food. It was freshly cooked staff meals and samples of new dishes and cookie jars with free access. (And couches in the kitchen! Not really in the kitchen, but the number of guests who caught a glimpse through the swinging door of our living/office space adjacent to the kitchen and reacted with jealous amazement…) The hubby would argue that this was the guest cookie jar and the staff could have cookies, as long as they made sure there were enough left for guests. I’d counter argue that if you have the best staff ever and trust them, then you can call it the staff cookie jar and know it will be cared for in just the right way. Which is the other thing I loved about catching the waitress ‘sneaking’ the cookies out. She was doing it exactly right. The sneaking was part of the fun for everyone.
The Chocolate Chunker was the cookie of the sneaky night but, by far, the most common staff cookie was another humble baked item. The original recipe is from the Avoca Cafe Cookbook – a small chain of cafes in Ireland that do great salads and soups, it’s a terrific lunch spot. They also have fantastic selection of simple and delicious baked goods for your morning ‘elevenses’ or afternoon tea. Anyway, they are called Muesli Biscuits. Which I always thought was a little misleading, because I think of muesli as having more stuff in it, and these were a pretty simple (tasty) oat bar. But I like the word muesli. And then (maybe because I’m American) I made them a little more sweet/cookie like and I tossed in some chocolate chips and then some white chocolate chips and mostly we called them the Oat Thingies. There is too much butter in them to be considered ‘healthy’ but they aren’t terribly sweet and keep a good long time in the cookie jar.
Muesli Bars (AKA Oat Thingies)
A not-too-sweet bar cookie filled with oats and chips
- 1 pound unsalted butter melted and cooled slightly
- 8 ounces sugar
- 4 tbsp golden syrup This is a product we don't have in the US, though like so many ingredients, it's not hard to order online. It's nearest equivalent is corn syrup, which I'm not crazy about in this recipe. I've substituted with maple syrup a few times.
- 8 ounces flour
- 2 ounces coconut
- 1 1/4 pound oats
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1 cup white chocolate chips
- pinch baking soda
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Once the butter is melted and cooled slightly, mix in the sugar and golden syrup (or replacement)
In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients, including the chips.
Pour the butter mixture over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly, so everything is coated.
Press batter firmly into a half sheet pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes
Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Cut the cookies into bars, leaving them in the pan, and then let them cool completely. They are easier to cut when warm, but will hold together once they are cooled.
I'm sure you could make these a healthier version by switching out the chips for raisins and dried cranberries. Or maybe some nuts? It's a good background batter for the mix-in of your choosing.