After a deadly tornado ripped through the Nashville area, the novel coronavirus began to spread in the state of Tennessee. Countless businesses and schools were already shut down before a national state of emergency was declared at the start of the weekend.
"If there's ever a time to pull out the booze and start baking, it's now," pastry chef Meghan McGarry, who owns the Music City-based Buttercream Blondie empire, told Salon in a recent interview.
And with St. Patrick's just days away, McGarry has one particular ingredient on her mind: Baileys Irish Cream. The New York native was raised near McLean Avenue by a dad who immigrated from County Mayo in Ireland. If you're not already acquainted, that's the main street of Woodlawn, a neighborhood in the Bronx predominantly inhabited by Irish-Americans like her mom.
With her new hometown already grappling with the effects of disaster and disease, the unprecedented cancellations of St. Patrick's Day parades from coast to coast — from Dublin to New York and all the way to Denver — were an extra blow to McGarry. But one thing's clear: She is resolved to celebrate her heritage.
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"Baking isn't canceled," McGarry proclaimed with overwhelming optimism in her voice. "So why not celebrate St. Patrick's Day by making some of my Baileys Shamrock Cookies?"
As an added pitch, the pastry chef touted an added benefit of baking that we should remember in trying times like these: It has some of the same benefits as therapy.
"It's almost like a meditation, because when you're baking and measuring out ingredients, you have to concentrate. You can't worry about your to-do list it, because that breaks your focus," McGarry explained. "And when you truly focus on baking, you give your brain a break. That alleviates stress."
These cookie sandwiches, which taste like an edible Irish coffee, pack a double punch. There's Irish whiskey in the spiked espresso filling, which tastes like a warm hug feels, and in the cookie batter itself, which is very light.
"I paired Irish whiskey and coffee together, because they're the ultimate power couple," McGarry said. "The Baileys floating through the cookie is very delicate, and in the filling is the espresso for an extra shot of flavor that beautifully cuts through the sweetness."
The shamrock-shaped cookies are a wonder to behold after their transformation is complete: The edges are dipped in dark chocolate, and an accent of colorful sprinkles provides the photo finish. You can opt for a classic look with green and white sprinkles or make your own custom mix like McGarry does. If you want to keep it simple in the kitchen, that's fine. The cookies taste excellent on their own.
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Since small gatherings haven't been canceled, McGarry plans to move forward with her St. Patrick's Day baking classes next weekend. Her workshops are a grown-up girls' night in where you can enjoy a cocktail as you learn foundational skills like piping frosting and whipping cream. At the end of the night, you'll leave confident enough to conquer your own kitchen.
"I love getting the girls together. I think it's a lot of fun, and we're always looking for things to do aside from just going to dinner or get a drink," McGarry told Salon. "Everyone loves baking. It's a fun and intimate environment, where people learn real skills and have more than a little fun, too."
When McGarry recently stopped by Salon's New York studios, she taught us how to make her St. Patrick's Day cookies. You can watch her full lesson below.
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RECIPE: Baileys Shamrock Cookies
Yield: 80 shamrock cookies - 40 sandwich cookies
Baileys Cookie Dough
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temp
- 1&1/2 cups sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups AP flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup Baileys
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add egg and egg yolk.
- Mix in vanilla extract.
Click here to access the remainder of Meghan McGarry's cookie recipe. And don't forget to follow @ButtercreamBlondie on Instagram for more ways to flirt with your St. Patrick's Day desserts!