Sunday afternoon, a red fox was sunning itself in a garden two houses down. He was so close, I could have touched him – and so tame, I really probably could have. You see, he’s a common sight in our neighbourhood: he prowls about the flowers by night and hides himself in sleep by day. But still, I found him unsettling. Not because he’s wild – or, as wild as a suburban London fox can be – but because he’s stealthy. This fox prefers midnight to midday, and the cover of streetlights to four o’clock rays.
I always worry when I see an animal where I’m not supposed to see it. That comes from a childhood forged in an area overrun with wild things. I feel a connection to animals, a connection that comes from learning to respect the creatures in the fields and streams and forests around you. So to me, it’s always obvious when something isn’t quite right. And I worried that there was something not quite right with the neighbourhood’s fantastic Mr Fox. But luckily, judging from the scattered remains of trash I’ve seen dotted around the local gardens, he’s doing just fine.
When I was last home, I picked up a bear-shaped cookie cutter. Pennsylvanian woods are known for their black bears – big ones, small ones, the occasional cinnamon-coloured one – and I couldn’t wait to bake up an ode to one of my favourite elusive wild things. You’ll have to forgive the colour: although brown bears aren’t native, chocolate makes it way worthwhile.
I’m not going to lie here: I used the tried and true Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Sugar Cookie Cutout recipe. If you want a chocolate cookie like I did, just replace 1/3 of the flour with 1/3 unsweetened cocoa powder. I topped mine with ganache, but buttercream or royal icing would do the trick just as well. And for the love of God, chill. your. dough. It doesn’t seem like an important step, but it so is – it’ll help your cookies keep their shape, stop you from rolling them out with too much flour (it’ll make them tough) and will make the process easier all round. Twenty minutes in the freezer should do the trick. If it’s hot or humid outside, you may want to keep the scraps chilled between roll-outs, too.