Who isn't delighted at Christmastime by those portion-sized, decorative cakes known as cookies. They're a popular holiday baking tradition that spans generations. We serve them, eat them and give them away as gifts. What could be yummier than a decorative tin or platter of chewy, nutty, frosted or crunchy cookies as a holiday gift? Why, lots more cookies, of course!
Come Together with Cookies in Mind
There's more than safety in numbers; there's variety, too. Cookie swaps are an ingenious way to make cookie baking a little easier while creating a wonderful excuse to have a party.
Instead of making 10 dozen cookies using five recipes, make 10 dozen cookies using a single recipe, and exchange cookies with five friends who are doing likewise. If you organize your efforts so everyone is making a different style of cookie and share your bounty, you'll have the same cookie output with less stress, mess and fuss. Once the cookies are baked and ready to go, have a get-together to exchange them among your friends. Think of the possibilities. With potentially dozens of baking enthusiasts or dedicated cookie lovers sharing in the fun, you'll have more cookie varieties than you'd ever have attempted to make yourself, and you'll also have a chance to touch base with acquaintances you haven't seen in a while.
Cookie Swap Basics
Give everyone plenty of time to get prepared. Send invitations out at least four weeks in advance, and schedule the swap early enough in the month to make it easy to participate without running into scheduling conflicts. Because the holidays bring unexpected challenges and commitments, some early attendees may fall out as the big day approaches, so be prepared for a few party poopers. Get an idea of what recipes everyone is making, although there will probably be some last-minute substitutions, and encourage variety. Keep it simple. Remember, making cookies takes time and effort, but it's still supposed to be fun [source: Olson].
If you're hosting, you don't have to pull out all the stops and decorate every inch of your home, but at least create a festive table where everyone can place their creations for the exchange. The idea is for everyone to take a few cookies from each participant's container. If you aren't supplying cookie bags, tell attendees to bring an empty tin for their booty.
Establish a Few Rules
Before you check the freshness date on your baking powder and start calling everyone you know who owns a set of measuring spoons, create a few rules for the swap:
- Set a Quantity -- Even though some recipes make more cookies than others, and you're probably not sure how many people will actually participate until a few days before the exchange, establish a rough minimum cookie quantity for the swap. That way no one will be caught short if attendance is high.
- Bake Ahead -- Have everyone do their baking well ahead of time to allow cookies an opportunity to cool and set. This will help make the cookies more portable and less prone to crumbling. Cookies fresh from the oven may smell and taste wonderful, but they seldom travel well.
- Establish Cookie Guidelines -- If it looks as though a number of people are planning to bring the same kind of cookie, like chocolate chip, you may have to suggest some alternatives. Most people are good sports about this and have a variety of cookie recipes they enjoy making anyway. It's also a good idea to steer clear of cookies that are too perishable, like some no-bake recipes and cookies with soft frosting on top.
After getting the word out, you can usually keep everything on track with a couple of follow-up calls. On the big day, you won't even have to worry much about refreshments. You already know what everyone will be munching on. Just prepare a few hot and cold beverages, and you'll be ready to sip and swap.