With all there is to do in the month of December — shopping, baking, cooking for friends and family, attending the office party, going to kids’ recitals and school performances, trying not to total your car in the mall parking lot — it might be nice get a little help from your friends.
When it comes to sweet treats, a cookie exchange is a great way to socialize with friends and end up with a variety of cookies to keep or give away.
The concept of a cookie exchange is fairly simple: Make a few dozen of one kind of cookie, invite some friends to do the same then get together and fill a tray, tin or box with a few cookies from everybody’s contribution.
A cookie exchange is a fun and relatively easy way to collect recipes and cookies fresh for the holiday season.
Step 1: Send out the invite
You’ll want to give your guests up to one month’s notice if possible so they can plan and create time to bake.
For the best variety of cookies without turning your home into the Keebler factory, invite between eight and 16 people.
Send an invitation the old fashioned way (through the mail) or send a free electronic invitation via a website like evite or paperlesspost.com that has pre-designed cookie swap invites. You can also create an event on Facebook in addition to or instead of invitations.
This is your chance to explain the rules of the cookie exchange: Pick a cookie, then make six to seven dozen of them. Copy or otherwise reproduce the recipe for the other guests to take home. Ask your guests to tell you which cookie they’ll be bringing so you don’t end up with 100 dozen sugar cutouts.
Ask your guests to also prepare a little sign that says what the cookie is and if the cookie is suitable for different diets (Gluten-free, paleo, etc.) or contains potential allergy hazards like tree nuts.
Step 2: Prepare the space
The idea of a cookie exchange is that during the party, guests can assemble a box or platter of cookies they can then give away as a gift or set out at their own holiday party. So, run to your nearest craft store or fire up Amazon and get shopping for gifty containers and DIY decorations. Consider buying:
- Round or square tins for easy gift giving. Simply stuff and give.
- A pack of white bakery boxes. Depending on quantity and size, these can cost under $1 per box.
- Ribbons, glue, glitter, markers and other fancy decorations for those who want to try to make their boxes Pinterest-worthy.
- Cellophane bags
- Pretty paper plates and gallon-size zip bags to hold the plate of goodies.
- Tissue paper to line the tins or boxes
You’ll also need a place to display everyone’s cookies. Put plates and platters on a dining table or in a bay window seat. If you have a lot of kitchen counter space, plan on displaying the cookies there.
Keep the decorating and crafting area separate from the cookie area so guests can move about more freely.
Step 3: Bake your cookies, set up and turn on the porch light
Don’t forget that you get to join in the fun of baking cookies too! Bake up a few batches and arrange them on a platter.
Depending on the time of day, consider having light snacks for your guests. Everyone may get sugared out from sampling all the cookies so put out some savory offerings like vegetables and dip, hummus and pita, popcorn or a cheese board.
Keep everyone hydrated with punch (boozy or not boozy — your call), tea, coffee or anything else your friends like to sip.
When people arrive, show them where to unpack their cookies and arrange them on a plate, set up the sign identifying the treat and place the stack of recipes by the platter.
After everyone has arrived and had a snack, start sampling and tasting the cookies and building the box or tin as you and your guests see fit. Decorate the bakery boxes before you fill just in case any glue needs to dry.
Everyone should take home up to as many cookies as he or she brought.
Cookie exchanges are a fun way to hang out with friends and family and diversify your stash of holiday treats.
Tips and Tricks
A cookie exchange can be as fancy or bare-bones as you’d like. Go all out with a home-based exchange or organize one at work where co-workers bring in cookies, lay them out in the break room and take home a variety in a self-provided gallon bag or other container.
Get a jump start on your baking by freezing cookie dough. Make the dough. Roll into 1-inch balls (or the size and shape recommended in the recipe), put the balls on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer for an hour or so. Once the dough balls are chilled and hard, put them in a ziploc bag and store in the freezer for up to three months.
Dough that freezes well: drop cookie dough (chocolate chip, oatmeal, sugar), shortbread, refrigerator or icebox cookie dough.
Dough that don’t: delicate or wet doughs like madeleines, pizzelles, or French macarones
Want more than frosted snowman cutout cookies? Try a themed cookie exchange. Ask your guests (especially if they’re foodies anyway) to bring treats that fit a theme. Possible themes could include:
- Cookies from around the world
- Cookies from your childhood
- Must contain chocolate
- A cookie you’ve never made before
- Bakery copy-cat
- Beloved cookies of the Gazette staff (see below)
What The Gazette loves
Seasoned newspaper staff are not hardened to the charming siren song of a good holiday cookie. Here are some newsroom favorites:
- Reporter Bill Buell and editor Jeff Haff opt for simplicity, preferring a simple, round sugar cookie topped with festive red and green sugar sprinkles.
- Kassie Parisi, reporter, loves a Chocolate Crinkle — a fudgy dough divided and rolled into balls then rolled in powdered sugar.
- Editor Judy Patrick bakes Jam Thumbprints with grape jelly, a childhood favorite.
- Editor Miles Reed and Digital Editor Dan Shepard can’t get enough Peanut Butter Blossoms (a peanut butter cookie with a chocolate kiss nestled in the center).
- Columnist Sara Foss likes chocolate and peanut butter Buckeye Balls.
- Editorial Page Editor Mark Mahoney loves Italian Christmas Cookies or Anisettes.