Kathy Dale pulled an oversized mixing bowl and a two-cup measure in front of her.
"We're gonna make these times eight, so can you go get the flour?" she asked a waiting volunteer. "Yes — we need the big bag."
Dale, the coordinator for Mayo's yearly hospice cookie baking and delivery, flitted from table to table in the the Canadian Honker Events at Apache kitchen on Thursday morning, ensuring that each volunteer group was plugging away at their assigned batch.
Time was of the essence — the volunteers had until 2 p.m. to make 260 dozen cookies — more than three dozen each, for the 70-plus hospice patients they'd deliver to today.
At 9:30 a.m. Thursday, the ROLO cookies were all stacked on trays, and sheets of chocolate toffee bars joined them one by one.
The night before, Dale had dropped off all of the ingredients — among them, 17 pounds of flour, 17 pounds of salted butter, two more pounds of unsalted butter, 10 pounds of powdered sugar, 20 bags of chocolate chips, and 280 pretzel rods.
Baking, she said, is a way to care for hospice patients and their families through the holidays.
"It's kind of the last thing on their radar if they have a loved one dying," Dale said. "Even if it's been a tradition of theirs to bake cookies in years past. So we're kind of picking up the slack."
Three of the four tables in the kitchen were each devoted to a single recipe. At one end, volunteers spread toffee, chocolate and pecans in layers over graham crackers. At another, Chris Askew helped pipe long strings of buttery spritz ribbons. At the third, preparations began for trays of coconut thumbprints.
"You know the thumbprint cookies? You just do these in a pan, add your thumbprints, and cut them up," Dale explained. "That's slick."
Still on the agenda: almond bark with peppermint and Oreos, lemon shortbread, peanut butter bars, apricot-chocolate bars, and candy-dipped pretzel rods.
Most of the recipes used each year are bar cookies or things that can be whipped up quickly, Dale said — nothing that requires individual frosting or fiddling.
Still, it's a gargantuan task — one that required three shifts of volunteers at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and noon.
"It's really quite beautiful when it's all spread out," Dale said. "When we're done, we lay them out and make a long table of cookies, then we walk around with our plates and fill them."
Chris Askew, a former hospice worker-turned-volunteer, remembered when the cookie baking and delivery was done in staff members' houses.
New food safety regulations made that impossible, and the tradition was halted until a few volunteers decided to find a way to make it work again.
A few years ago, the operation moved into the certified kitchen at Canadian Honker Events at Apache.
Amy Hakes, general manager at the Kahler Apache, said the hotel's chefs prepared the day before for an event happening Thursday night so that the volunteers could use the kitchen for most of the work day.
"They're so much fun to work with, if we can help them out, we want to," Hakes said. "And they let us sample some cookies back there."
Amy Stelpflug, volunteer coordinator for the Mayo Clinic's hospice program, said the cookies are also a way for to extend hospitality to patients who might have relatives visiting over the holidays. If nothing else, it's something patients can offer their visitors.
Today, hospice workers — preferably ones who know the patients, like nurses, chaplains and aides — will join volunteers wearing Santa hats to deliver the cookies.
"The families don't know they're getting these — we surprise them!" Askew said. "There's a lot of gratitude, and a lot of surprise."