The coffee machine in the breakroom is big and fancy. It has a milk foamer and a little shaker of chocolate powder for dusting on cappuccinos. It makes espresso that is hot, dark and wonderfully bitter. The coffee machine is what makes me a functional human being in the mornings.
The biscuit jar in the breakroom is a plain glass jar with a wide mouth and a lift-off lid. Its contents are dictated by the whims of the person in charge of filling it, and each morning, right after I arrive, I peek into the breakroom to see where those whims have led. There have been lemon biscuits covered in hundreds and thousands, strawberry and vanilla creams, and - just twice so far - an assortment that includes my much-beloved Tim Tams.
Putting together the coffee machine and the biscuit jar gives you morning tea. There's no official time, but around ten-thirty or eleven, everyone seems to drift into the breakroom. Tea and coffee mugs are refilled, and we dip into the contents of the biscuit jar.
After two weeks of careful observation, I've decided that you could probably design a psychological test around morning tea, and the biscuit jar in particular. Do the subjects contemplate their selections before lifting the lid, or do they dive right in? Do they eat their selections immediately, or do they take them back to their offices to be slowly savored? Do they nibble? Do they dunk? The answers, I suspect, might tell you more than the traditional workplace personality assessments.
Of course, you can have morning tea without the workplace. And if you do it at home, you have the option of baking your own biscuits (or cookies.) I'm fond of checkerboard cookies, which are a butter dough variation closely related to jamprints. Creating the checkerboard pattern might seem like a fiddly process, but it's really quite simple, and they look quite impressive if you lay them out as part of an assortment. Or you could put them in a biscuit jar, and see what unfolds.
For the record, if any psychologists out there are curious: contemplate, savor, nibble, and if it's a Tim Tam, I dunk.
Start by creaming together one stick of softened butter with a quarter-cup of sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a half-teaspoon of salt. Using a fork, gradually work in one cup of flour until you have a soft, sandy mixture. Crack in one egg, and mix until everything comes together in a ball. Transfer the dough to wax paper. Set aside.
Using your original bowl, cream together another stick of softened butter with a quarter-cup of sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a half-teaspoon of salt. Work in the cocoa-flour mixture, then add the egg. Transfer the dough to wax paper.
Clear a space on your counter, and lay out another sheet of wax paper.
Roll each piece into a log about a third of an inch in diameter. Make sure they're all roughly the same length.
Lay out another sheet of wax paper.
Take one of the vanilla-dough logs, and shape it until it's roughly squarish. Take one of the chocolate-dough logs, and do the same. Lay the two logs right next to each other on the wax paper, and apply a little pressure to make sure they stick together.
Take another of the vanilla-dough logs, shape it, and lay it atop the chocolate-dough log of the two that are already stuck together. Take another chocolate-dough log, shape it, and lay it atop the other vanilla-dough log. You should now have one log with a checkerboard pattern.
To bake the cookies, begin by preheating the oven to 350F. Ready two baking trays.
Take the dough out of the fridge. If it's looking less than squarish, use gentle pressure to get it into shape. Cut the dough into thin slices and arrange them on the baking trays.
Bake for fifteen to eighteen minutes, or until faintly browned at the very edges. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve with morning tea.
Cookies will keep for up to one week in an airtight container.
Note: If you freeze the dough, cut slices while it's still frozen, and bake them without thawing.