Well. This is not where we all expected to be in 2020.
Here in Sydney the schools closed on March 23rd, and around that date pretty much all my cookie orders dried up. It's to be expected. Social distancing rules in a pandemic prohibit mass gatherings, and right now even gatherings of more than two people, unless they are from the same household, are banned. So the birthday parties and weddings that are the backbone of my work just can't happen.
I felt strongly at first that I should not work. If I make cookies then I have to go out to get supplies, I have to go out to deliver them. I am allowed to travel to deliver, by the government, but I don't think that what I do is essential and I thought it was just creating more contacts between people when the virus cannot tell the difference between what is legal and what is not. Stay at home means stay at home. But it made me sad.
I'm not sad that I don't have work. I'm ok, I don't need the orders to survive. I love doing them, cookies are a joy. But PattyMac Cookies is more of a self-sustaining hobby than a job I need. Cookies aren't ever going to be a massive business empire! They're far too time consuming and the margins are too small. I make them because I love them.
I am sad because people, particularly kids, are still having birthdays. And because of the coronavirus they can't see their friends, they can't have parties, and they aren't ordering cookies. And I think that's a shame. March/April/May are usually my busiest months. I am sad for all the parties that aren't happening.
I was in Woolworths with my teenage son, and he saw one of their mass-produced chocolate mud cakes with an edible ink printed image of Elsa stuck on the top. He pointed to it and said to me "Why would anyone buy this, it's just awful?" and I said to him "People still have birthdays in a pandemic." "But why would you buy a birthday cake from Woolworths - wouldn't you go to a proper bakery or to someone like you?" And I said to him, "I think most of the specialty bakeries might be closed, mate. And many of the home bakers are, too. And so many people have lost their jobs. This ugly cake is $12. A beautiful cake from a bakery or a home baker is around $100." Teenagers can't always see things from all the angles. But answering his question made the conundrum of whether I should be working in the pandemic crystal clear to me,
So, I feel now like I'll keep making cookies for anyone who contacts me, and Ill be keeping my prices as low as I possibly can. The plain flour is out in all the supermarkets but I can still get some occasionally at the corner store. And I'm picking up two icing sugars every time I shop so I'll have enough to make my icing - while everyone is enjoying themselves home baking to soothe their nerves in a global pandemic like we've never seen before.
After an endless summer, it's technically autumn in the Patty Mac Cookies kitchen and although the days are still warm I've already experienced the weird phenomenon of adjusting my recipe to the season. I have no idea why this is, but I find that my cookie recipe alters ever-so-slightly from summer to winter. In summer, I use 585g of flour to 250g butter and in winter it takes 615g flour to exactly the same amount of butter for the dough to reach the same rolling consistency. Go figure.
The day that my dough was too squishy to roll out and transfer the shapes to the baking trays it was still easily 28 degrees in my kitchen, so it's not the heat... it's a mystery. Like many things in cookie baking and decorating, it's witchcraft!
Here are some of the cool and fun cookies I've made over the summer (all with 585g of flour!) and here's to a fun autumn and winter of equally fun bakes and makes as the seasons change.