MAILING HOME-BAKED cookies is an art in itself. Here are some pointers from the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland System.
* Sturdy bar and drop cookies, such as chocolate chip cookies, are better travelers then fragile cookies.
* Wrap, package and mail your treats as soon as you can after they are made and cooled.
* Use a container such as a strong cardboard box, plastic or metal food container with a tight-fitting lid. A clean coffee or shortening can works fine.
* Line the container with waxed paper or plastic wrap and place a thick cushion of crumpled wax paper on the bottom.
* Pack cookies in pairs, back to back, with waxed paper in between. Wrap with plastic wrap, foil or waxed paper.
* Place heaviest cookies in bottom and arrange layers of waxed paper cushions between layers of cookies. Pack plenty of filler such as crushed newspaper or popcorn to fill in holes and prevent jiggling. Top with waxed paper; seal securely with tape. Place your name and address on the container.
* Wrap container in sturdy brown paper and seal with package sealing tape. Using waterproof ink, label and package with proper addresses; cover addresses with clear tape.
* Make sure correct postage is affixed. Be sure to label the package "perishable and fragile."
These cookie recipes are adapted from "Rose's Christmas Cookies" by Rose Levy Beranbaum.
Buy the best quality chocolate you can afford for these delicious dreambars. Lindt chocolates, available at gourmet stores such as Williams Sonoma, is wonderful but any premium chocolates will do.
Store these cookies in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer.
David's Dreambar Cookies
2 3-ounce bars bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
2 3-ounce bars milk chocolate
2 3-ounce bars white chocolate
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups cinnamon graham cracker crumbs, about 16 double cookies
1 1/3 cups shredded coconut
3 cups pecan or walnut halves
1 2/3 cups sweetened condensed milk
Line the bottom and sides of a 10x15x1-inch jelly roll pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Place one oven rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Break chocolate into individual squares and chop into one-half-inch pieces. Mix chocolate pieces together and set aside.
Melt butter in jelly roll pan in preheated oven for five to 10 minutes. Spread butter evenly over bottom and sides of pan by tilting pan or using pastry brush. Sprinkle cracker crumbs over butter, mixing with spatula to moisten. With fingers, press crumbs firmly and evenly onto bottom and about three-quarters-inch up sides. Strew coconut evenly over crumbs.
Reserve one cup of nuts. Chop remaining nuts coarsely and scatter evenly over coconut. Scatter chocolate pieces in an even layer over the pecans. Slowly and evenly pour condensed milk on top. Arrange reserved pecan halves, smooth side up, in five long rows starting one inch from each long edge and spacing them 1 1/2 -inch apart.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and using spatula, press down nuts so they adhere to chocolate. Return pan to oven and continue baking for 20 to 30 minutes or just until the milk bubbling up between the nuts in the center of the pan is pale golden. Do not over bake.
Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Invert onto large cookie sheet and peel off foil. Reinvert onto cutting surface and cut lengthwise into five strips about two inches wide, cutting in between rows of nuts, and then crosswise into 10 strips about 1 1/2 -inches wide.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer. Makes 50 bars.
David Shamah's Jumbles
3/4 cup pecan or walnut halves
1 1/4 cups unblanched whole almonds
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups raisins
Place two oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place the pecans or walnuts on one cookie sheet and almonds on another. Bake them, stirring occasionally for about seven minutes or until toasted. Do not over bake. Cool completely. Chop coarsely.
Into small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt, then whisk together to mix evenly. In mixing bowl, cream sugars and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until well blended. On low speed, beat egg mixture into flour mixture until incorporated. In large bowl, stir together chocolate chips, raisins, pecans and almonds. Empty batter into bowl and mix together evenly.
Drop batter by rounded tablespoons, about 1 1/2 -inch balls, onto ungreased cookie sheets, about 1 1/2 -inches apart.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and barely soft. For even baking, rotate cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking period.
Allow cookies to cool for a few minutes. When cookies are firm enough to lift, use pancake turner to transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature or freezer. Keeps one month at room temperature, several months frozen.
Makes about three dozen 2 1/2 -inch cookies.