Which was absolutely true.
The intent to do good often requires little to no persuasion, however fundraising is always a topic warranting thorough contemplation and strategic risk-taking. Taking preorders was the first step in ensuring a manageable amount of requests, for it allowed to allocate resources, furthermore the logistics needed to obtain those resources. Conducting test batches (858) was another worthwhile venture, though not always feasible given the constraints of time and other duties, such as full-time employment, chores, and other previously made commitments.
And the date of delivery inched closer and closer, I grew increasingly more anxious. My planned baking/test batch-making days were overruled by fatigue, work overruns, and comparatively more pressing matters. In spite of having made and frozen two out of six varieties, there was still much to do. Even Sunday Baking will admit that constructing a cookie box solo is no easy feat; it would only be fitting that a total of seventeen boxes would demand a proportional amount of effort, time, and - gosh, it pains me - wrist strength.
Overall, the contraption was finnicky, and lacked clarity in its lock mechanisms. One wrong move could lead to damage to the digits or worse. Even my budget food processor and Bodum grinder bore a greater number safety features and symbols. Most notable of all was its weight - so hefty that the first time I attempted to lift it from the box, I nearly strained my back. I struggled to brush the dust and dried dough off the device, an act that the sleepy polar bear should have undertaken prior to sending it over for use. The fact that buttons and knobs were placed on both sides of the mixer meant more counter space would be needed for smooth operation. My working space was very limited, reducing the efficacy of the tool.
To conclude, a solid Zwilling whisk - or even a hand mixer - would have sufficed for my purposes. But my wrist was in tremendous pain, to the point of sensation loss in some fingers. I gave stand mixers a shot, however quickly determined its misalignment with my baking habits.
- Peppermint Crinkle
- Linzer Cookies
- Snowball Cookies (Oolong, Injeolmi)
- Mini Gingerbread
- Cutout Cookies (Vanilla, Matcha)
These were formed in the earlier half of the week - with minimal deviation from the earlier edition beyond the swap from Piccoli Surfin to Callebaut - formed into balls, and frozen for use later. Given their extremely pliable consistency, the chill time aided in rendering them structured enough for swift coating in granulated and icing sugar before baking.
As Sunday Baking had yet to release her own take on this recipe, I sought out Cho Hanbit and doubled his recipe for Linzer Cookies. Naturally, I would proceed to utilize my own jam recipe, incorporating frozen strawberries instead of blueberries or cherries for a smoother, tarter profile.
Cho Hanbit's formula was exceptionally soft and made several trips between the fridge and freezer before all the rounds could be cut out. Despite a far lengthier prep time than expected, the results were scrumptious: crunchy, sandy, and lightly tart from the jam. (Do be warned that these cookies are the first to succumb to sogginess, so eat them as quickly as possible!)
Perhaps experimenting with an entirely unfamiliar recipe wasn't the standard approach, but I was extremely grateful towards myself that I did. Though the tiny ginger-people lacked the peppery honey-ness present in their fresh form, a liberal coating in granulated sugar assisted in unleashing some its embedded spices. A perforated mat allowed them to retain their shape, while parchment and non-perforated sheets caused swelling of their tiny figures. Taste-wise, the thinner edition ranked higher given its crunchiness.
Cutout Cookies (Vanilla, Genmaicha)
SK's unfussy sugar cookie recipe had never failed me before, but this time, the dough seemed softer, sticker, and harder to work with. Several trays resulted from my doubling of the recipe, and the final yield consisted of slightly burnt Santas and mittens, vanilla stars, and genmaicha trees and hearts.
Due to their low fat content and crumbly nature, the snowball cookies could not be constructed until the day of. The sleepy polar bear offered assistance in this matter, yet it remains a mystery whether the "help" was, in fact, helpful at all. Both flavour variations had stemmed from Sunday Baking's gluten-free guidelines; they were straightforward, could not be overmixed, and did not require chill time - even a beginner could do it, right? Wrong.
Without having watched the video and reviewed it in its entirety before arriving, the sleepy polar bear incorrectly used the tools provided, created a mess of dough lumps, and "creamed" the butter-brown sugar mixture until the table began shaking and the whisk's silicon casing tore. Alas, the blame was shed on my "expectations being 'too' detailed", rather than failure to be a self-starter. My directions are always clear, but whether they are read and understood is another story altogether. Disregarding the proper folding technique, my favourite spatula nearly suffered the same fate as the whisk, had I not dropped all cookie-cutting business to observe progress.
My expectations had been written as clearly as possible, YouTube videos linked to serve as a guide, and any inquiries would be answered upon request. But the reality was that: There was no way to escape the sleepy polar bear's inclusion of personal opinions on the process, in addition to the horrendous ego that had built up from doing a singular task correctly. In order to make any progress with the doughs, I would halt my own tasks every few moments to give guidance - guidance that ought be learned from the videos provided. "Helping" was not to rob me of time, but reinstate it for other uses.
"You can't eat dinner after you finish?"
When would I eat then? 9? 10? And clean up till midnight and not sleep?
"I though you would cook for me." would somehow escape, leading to me to question the comprehension of "We end at 6pm." in the pre-baking briefing. My inner being was in utter belief at hearing those words.
Did I not have enough to do?
Did I invite you over for fun and make more work for myself and my already fatigued wrist?!
Do you not realize the entitlement of those words?!? This was no child's play, nor a bonding event. This was a mission to get things done.
The new skates were glorious, enabling effortless gliding across the rink.
By the 3 PM mark, our ankles had admitted defeat. I was the final member to depart the ice, but even so, a few ankle rolls would restore walkable functionality.
The sleepy polar bear acquired the signature Hokkaido Milk Tea, while I a hot Thai Milk Tea with Boba and a Jackson-loving, non-ahgase friend.
The process of preparing the Holiday Cookie Box was another strenuous undertaking altogether. It was, in the end, not very different from operating as an independent business. From the order form to production to logistics to expense calculations, the donation project granted me a taste of being an entrepreneur without ever have to dip my toes in the pool of risk.
In order to ensure that there were sufficient materials for the project, all interested personnel were required to fill out a Google Form indicating their preorder count (number of boxes), dietary restrictions (if any), and any notes or special arrangements for consideration. While the intent had been to extract the Google Form data for analysis in Excel afterwards, a consistent formula could not be applied due to data discrepancies and inconsistent population of the form.
Many participants, despite willing to e-transfer funds without hesitation, expressed reluctance in reading the entirety of the Google Form and adhering to its specific fields. Consent to pick up at Celebration Square turned to side conversations of "Can I just pick up from xyz?" A traceable trail was lost in this process.
Data entry forms often require several iterations to be effective, as there may be functions that the creator had not considered. With the feedback received, the form was refined and updated. It can be presumed that, upon finalization of a comprehensive form, the data acquisition and organization process will flow seamlessly.
Working with spreadsheets tends to fall within my areas of expertise, but, as Cristina of Maison Peaches discussed, it is advisable to outsource skills if one is unable to efficiently produce results on their own.
2) Raw Materials and Equipment
By compiling a list of preorders, I was able to determine the precise number of cookies needed per box. Recipes were scrutinized for serving count, then scaled upwards to determine the ingredient quantity needed. From this point, the sleepy polar assisted in procuring these ingredients.
Separately, I invested in additional cookie racks and maximized all trays for baking. For home bakers looking to expand their customer base, I'd recommend more than one Silpain for smooth transition of trays into the oven.
3) Promotions and Marketing
"Who would buy this?" was an inquiry posed to me when I first pitched the idea.
"My friends!" I had gleefully replied, "And friends of friends!"
I was grateful to have a local network that supported my project. Whether friends or family, I had somehow accumulated a total of seventeen cookie boxes - and even cookie-less donations! - from minimal marketing. To reach a broader audience, I'd likely need greater investment in promotional campaigns. Given the scale and pickup venue though, I opted to stay local, accepting only as many orders as my body could tolerate.
4) Operations and Logistics
Beyond transporting cookies from their point of construction to the point of sale (or rather, donation), logistics also entailed scheduling dough-making as schedules permitted. Careful review of each recipe was required: some specified a one-hour chill time, while others two hours. The Linzer Cookie, in particular, needed chill time in addition to prior preparation of the jam filling.
I proceeded to construct as many doughs as possible after work, though there are limitations to the amount that can be achieved by one human and one human alone.
For now, thank you for a stellar Holiday Cookie Box run!
Somehow, I did it. Thank you.