What is the modern baker to do with a surplus of boxes? Perfect a recipe to mail, with love.

By Leah Eskin
October 21, 2020
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Brown Butter Apricot Bars
| Credit: Brie Passano

Household staples—once wrested from the wild, the farm or the supermarket—now come on a truck, in a box. No spear, spade or parking spot required. The homesteader stays home; given pandemic, or pandemonium or the panoply of options online, why budge? Stalking her prey on screen, she picks apricots, gathers eggs, stockpiles butter. All she need do is wait, slit tape, celebrate. She boasts full shelves and empty boxes. Lots of empty boxes.

She practices the standard remedies for surplus cardboard: Flatten into recyclable. Shred into compost. Neglect into sculptural “art.” None proves equal to the job. Boxes idle, stiff-jointed and on edge. They long for work—fort, diorama, rock collection—but find themselves furloughed.

The solution is baking. She crisps up a round of gingersnaps, fills one carton and ships it out. The cookies, her recipient reports, crumble. So she tinkers. (Frankly, she’s got time.) She turns to the bar—brownie, blondie, shortbread—admiring its burly build and square shoulders. She’s especially keen on brown butter shortbread, whose nutty flavor and tender texture deepen in the journey between bake and bite.

Friends approve—though, as the holidays (and consequent box build-up) set in, she may need more friends. Still, the scheme is working. Every morning, packages heavy with buttery bars take off from the porch. Every afternoon, packages full of baking supplies land. If she keeps this up, forever, maybe she’ll come out even.

Brown Butter Apricot Bars are a perfect, rich balance of sweet-tart fruit and buttery pastry. The bars do ship beautifully—but if you choose to keep them to yourself, we understand. Get the recipe here.