After renovations were completed in Fall 2018, the library café has been a venue for a variety of events, from weekly origami folding sessions to a contentious confrontation with the provost. But on Thursday, Dec. 5, Librarian Helene Gold will host a campus-wide cookie exchange and a plethora of cookies, bars and assorted holiday treats will adorn the area.
The cookie exchange is the semester’s finale to the series of Campus Community Happy Hours on Thursday afternoons, initiated last spring. Like all other happy hours, participation is open to all students, staff and faculty, and Gold emphasized that people are welcome to come empty-handed.
“My only rule is you can’t bring anything store-bought and you don’t have to bring a cookie to eat a cookie or take a cookie—and that’s it,” Gold said.
Gold first learned how to bake in a home economics course in sixth grade, which was required for all students in early-1980s Western Massachusetts.
“We got to the lesson where [the teacher] taught us how to bake and I was changed forever,” Gold recalled. “I was so fascinated by the precision of it, by the creativity of it, there was something about it that I loved. And so that changed me: sixth grade, the home-ec baking lesson.”
Gold said that she got serious about baking in college and has baked for most of her adult life. She has organized cookie exchanges for the past dozen-or-so years at her previous workplaces but has never done a campus-wide version.
“I thought I know enough students who bake, I know enough staff and faculty who bake and I just thought this is going to be a whole campus thing and I’m going to host it,” Gold said.
Gold has been preparing for her event for weeks. To avoid a last-minute bake-a-thon, Gold baked and froze most of her cookies ahead of time.
“All this stuff can be frozen. And it freezes beautifully so I can bake like a lunatic and then it’s all ready,” Gold said.
Gold plans on bringing at least seven different varieties of cookies, including her award-winning pecan gingerbread blondies, browned butter blondies, rainbow sprinkle sugar cookies, double chocolate biscotti, almond biscotti and lime meltaways. She will also provide some hot coffee and milk. Bioplastic bags will also be available for attendees to take home an array of cookies.
“The whole point of this is that you get a whole selection of cookies to bring home,” Gold emphasized.
Gold, who has previously been a librarian at Eckerd and Tallahassee Community College, said that she has never been at a college campus with so many hobbyist bakers.
“Here, there’s a lot of hobbyist bakers and I feel like we have a lot to learn from each other,” Gold said. “I’m just really tickled by that. I’m really happy that there’s so many hobbyist bakers because I’m always looking to learn new techniques and recipes. I love learning from other bakers.”
Since her transformational sixth grade home economics class, Gold has whipped up an abundance of cookies, cheesecakes and assorted confections. However, Gold admitted that her sweet tooth has waned and prefers salty snacks: now, she usually chooses chips over cookies.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I just don’t have a sweet tooth anymore, so I rarely eat what I bake,” Gold said. But she still reaches for one of her signature recipes: “Those gingerbread blondies? I always eat those.”
Helene Gold’s recipe for Gingerbread Pecan Blondies, originally published in the Tallahassee Democrat
2 ¾ cups flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
¼ teaspoon (plus a pinch) ground cloves
2 ½ sticks softened unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 ¼ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup molasses
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking pan. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
Beat butter and brown and white sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and yolk one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Gently fold in pecans.
Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars and store covered at room temperature up to a week, or seal tightly and freeze for up to 3 months.