When are you doing your Christmas baking?

I can’t remember when I started baking chocolate goodies to gift my neighbors at Christmas, but it has been long enough that it isn’t a gift anymore, it is a given. It’s not an “if,” it’s a “when?” Yes, with a question mark. Because people do ask.

“When are you doing your Christmas baking?”

Apparently the holidays are not complete without my homemade chocolates.

It’s my own fault, really. Early in my neighborly years, I purchased Christmas plates — small for couples and singles, large for families. I painted on the back “Please return by December 1 to ensure a refill.” (What I meant by that was “Please return this by the time I bake next year so I don’t have to give you another plate.” What they hoped was “If I empty this and return it quickly, maybe I can get a refill now.” I always got the plates back.

This Christmas tradition (or addiction) might have been OK had I simply stuck with gifting neighbors. They move or die eventually. But I then began making and baking enough chocolate masterpieces to fill large platters for the two facilities where my husband works. And individual gifts for some of his coworkers. And I baked enough for family friends and every single teacher each of my children had. And enough for the administration at the school. (I think the real reason I quit teaching was so I could bake less.) I also baked enough for my hairdresser, my dentist, my dentist’s receptionist (because my dentist won’t share), my children’s orthodontist, my aerobics teachers, and my health club friends.

At first, I tried to purchase some sort of Christmas plate or bowl to make a beautiful presentation (plus I figured giftees would have the blessing of the plate if they didn’t appreciate chocolate). (That was completely unnecessary, I soon learned.) As the number of giftees grew, I began purchasing white boxes (4.5 x 4.5 x 6) by the case, wired ribbon, and Christmas tree ornaments to showcase the nearly 2 pounds of chocolate goodies. (I kid you not.)

At the end of my long stint in the kitchen, I would admire my handiwork and then quickly layer platters and boxes with caramel brownies with nuts, walnut fudge, Almond Joy fudge, toffee, chocolate peanut butter balls, and mock Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies, all nestled in Christmas cupcake and mini cupcake wrappers. Like a box of chocolates. The Dagen sampler.

(Yes, I know you want the recipes. I share them all except the caramel brownie recipe, which I sold at a live auction for more than $500 a couple of years ago and to which I only retained rights for my own purposes, which includes offering the recipe as a “dowry” to ensure brides for my sons.)

Last year in my effort to be ultra-organized, I entered all my Christmas baking “to dos” and deadlines into some sort of “task” app that was set to remind me what to do when. Like “order white boxes.” “Purchase ingredients.” “Pray the weather is cold enough to preserve chocolate but warm enough to use no heat.”

I just can’t remember which app it was or how to find it… So while I have most of the ingredients purchased, I failed to pray for perfect weather or purchase my signature white boxes. Ooops. My holiday baking is not complete without my white boxes…

This year, my neighbors aren’t the only ones asking “when?”

“When are you doing your Christmas baking?”

A good question indeed.



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