CLARKS SUMMIT — As Nancy Ayers, Sue Wicks and her daughter, Roberta Flynn, worked inside the kitchen at the borough fire hall, the room filled with heat from an oven, the sounds of a whirring mixer and the sweet smells of coconut, vanilla and chocolate.
The trio — longtime bakers who produce goods to sell at the Joseph W. Hall Memorial Auxiliary’s annual Cookie Walk — prepared some of their favorite fare for the event this year. Ayers made her chocolate coconut almond macaroons and Wicks and Flynn whipped up their supreme chocolate chip cookies.
“It’s literally a chocolate explosion,” Flynn said.
The cookie walk is set for 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8 at the fire hall, 321 Bedford St. The event, in its 12th year, features 80-plus varieties of sweet treats, ranging from staples like chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies to more specialty items, like anise cookies and rum balls, said Ayers, auxiliary president. Bakers usually craft at least five dozen of each for guests to choose from, so there’s plenty to go around throughout the event, she said. There’s something for everyone. The items she makes annually, including the macaroons, are gluten free, said Ayers, who is gluten intolerant.
Guests are issued a container, or several, and a plastic glove upon entering the cookie walk. Cookies cost $8 a pound. Members also assemble one-, two-, or three-pound baskets of assorted cookies for sale, perfect to give as a gift, Ayers said.
All proceeds for the annual event benefit the fire company, said Wicks, auxiliary treasurer. This year, all funds raised will go toward efforts to purchase a new ladder truck for the company, Ayers said.
There are two modes of operation auxiliary members and other contributing bakers employ to stock the walk. Some start weeks ahead of time — some as early as October, Ayers said — and freeze their products as they bake them to get a head start. In fact, a group met at the fire hall earlier this week to make cut-out sugar cookies.
Others, like Ayers, Wicks and Flynn, cram the bulk of their baking in the week ahead of the cookie walk. It’s a family affair for both. Ayers’ husband helps her craft her gluten-free goodies. Flynn takes off a week and splits the work with Wicks, a delicious division of labor.
Wicks and Flynn usually make close to a total of 200 dozen cookies of seven or eight varieties, including 50 dozen of supreme chocolate.
“I do the washing, all the dishes, and she does the prep work and then I bake. And I bake and bake and bake,” Wicks said with a laugh. “It makes for a fun week sometimes. Sometimes, it’s very hectic.”
Besides benefitting a good cause, it’s an added bonus for the bakers to see the people come out each year, eagerly hunt for their favorites and leave satisfied, Ayers and Wicks said. It’s something many people locally look forward to, with a line to get in on Cookie Walk days usually forming an hour before the doors open, Ayers said.
“They really enjoy picking out the kinds they like,” Ayers said. “Some people go out with two or three boxes, others go out with eight or 10 boxes.”
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Try your hand at making some Cookie Walk favorites year round
Gluten-free Chocolate Coconut Almond Macaroons
Recipe makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies.
1 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut (3 1/2-ounce can)
2/3 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of salt
4 ounces sliced almonds, coarsely crushed
20 whole almonds
1. Combine coconut, sugar, egg whites, vanilla, almond extract and salt in a medium bowl; mix well. Fold in sliced almonds. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll dough by tablespoonfuls into balls. Place one inch apart on prepared sheet. Press almond on top of each cookie. Bake 15 minutes or until light brown. Cool cookies five minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire rack; cool completely.
3. Meanwhile, prepare chocolate ganache: Place 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips in shallow bowl. Heat 1/4 cup whipping cream in small saucepan until bubbles form around edges. Pour cream over chocolate; let stand five minutes. Still until smooth.
Let ganache cool 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Dip bottom of each cookie into ganache. Place cookies on clean parchment or waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until ganache is firm. Store covered in refrigerator.
Supreme Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe makes about six dozen cookies.
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cup margarine
or butter — softened
10 ounces milk chocolate chips (substitute 10 ounces Andes mint baking chips for mint chocolate flavor)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup and level off. In large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
2. In large bowl, beat sugar, brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs and blend well. Stir in flour mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips or mint chocolate baking chips.
3. Drop tablespoons of mixture onto cookie sheet three inches apart, flatten slightly. Bake eight to 10 minutes or until set.
4. Drizzle cookies with Betty Crocker chocolate-flavored cookie icing.