Cookie exchanges are so much fun! Do you remember in elementary school when your mom would bake a batch of her favorite cookies and send them to school with you on the day of the class Christmas party? Do you also remember bringing home a very full lunch box containing one of every other type of cookie your classmates brought? Without even realizing it, you were participating in a cookie exchange.
What is a cookie exchange?
The basics of a cookie exchange are simple – bake a few dozen of one type of cookie, take the cookies to a gathering where other people have also baked one kind of cookie (although different from yours) and then exchange one of your dozen cookies for a dozen of each of the other participants’ cookies. Because you are only baking one type of cookie, you only need to procure the ingredients for one recipe and you can make double or triple batches of dough for the task – perfect for such a busy time of year. It really is that simple!
Who organizes the event?
Cookie exchanges are typically organized by one person, the host of the exchange. This person will not only host the event but will select the date and time and let everyone know how many dozen cookies to bake. In the past two years, I have been the host of a cookie exchange at my home but I have also participated in cookie exchanges at work.
How do I get participants?
I usually let people know I am going to be hosting an exchange through my social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Participating in a cookie exchange not only speaks to the desire to bake for the holidays (which many feels gets them in the holiday spirit) but it also allows you to sample many different kinds of cookies without sourcing and purchasing all of the ingredients and gives you an ample variety of sweets to have on hand over the holidays or for gift giving.
How many people can participate?
A great tip when hosting a cookie exchange, try to keep the number of participants to a maximum of eight or 10. Remember, each person who participates equates to a dozen cookies so the more people that participate, the more baking you will be doing! In addition to baking a dozen cookies for each of the other participants, you will also bake a dozen for sampling at the event.
An alternative, if you prefer to have more people participate (which also means more types of cookies) is to exchange only one half dozen cookies per person instead of a full dozen. For example, this year I have thirteen individuals participating in my cookie exchange and we have decided to exchange one half dozen cookies – therefore, we will each bake seven dozen cookies (12 half dozen for exchanging and one full dozen for sampling at the event).
How do I select a date for the exchange?
I ask those interested in participating to indicate via an online poll the dates they would be available to participate (keep in mind that the holidays are a busy time for many people so plan early). I find that evenings early in the week (just after a weekend when there is time to bake) or on a Sunday afternoon or evening work best (also because you have the weekend to prepare).
Friday and Saturday nights are usually busy for most due to various events and staff parties so try to avoid them for the best turn out. To get a consensus on the best date for the event, I use a free polling service called Doodle.com – it allows me to provide a number of possible dates and then ask those interested to indicate all dates they would be available to participate. The date that the majority of people can attend is the date I will then select for the cookie exchange.
What kind of cookies should everyone bake?
Once the date is selected and the participants are notified then each participant puts on their thinking cap as to what cookie recipe they will use. Sometimes it is a tried and true family favorite or perhaps it is a new-found recipe they have been wanting to try.
Especially for Christmas cookie exchanges, I try to encourage participants to make a cookie that is festive in nature either through shape, ingredients used or tradition. Last year I made Amish Ginger cookies and this year I am making Gingerbread Biscotti . After all, you can make plain old chocolate chip cookies any time of year.
How are the cookies packaged?
Once the cookies are baked another fun element to the cookie exchange is the presentation of the cookies. Some choose to use holiday-themed cellophane bags, cookie tins, boxes, paper bags or even plates with plastic wrap. They can be embellished with ribbons or a Christmas ornament – the possibilities are endless.
Your local dollar store is a great place to source bags and tins. On the day of the party be sure to pack your cookies in a reusable shopping bag or a box for transporting them safely to their destination. The same bag or box can then be used to carry your received cookies back home.
What happens at the cookie exchange?
At the exchange, your host will usually provide a cheery holiday mood with festive music, decorations, and refreshments such as eggnog and cider. Food preparation for the event is usually minimal as you will be sampling the wonderful cookies everyone has baked!
Once everyone has had some time to get a beverage and chat for a while, the host can then ask each participant one by one to tell the group a little bit about the cookie they have baked, why they chose the recipe and share any tips they might have for achieving the best results when baking. Then that person will serve their cookies to the group for tasting using the dozen they prepared for this purpose.
Each participant will do this until everyone has presented their cookies. At the end of the event, after everyone is full from sampling such tasty wares, each participant can place their packaged cookies in one spot on a kitchen counter or a dining room table and then in assembly-line format each participant uses their bag or box to pick up one package of each of the types of cookies.
Don’t forget to share the recipes!
At the conclusion of the exchange, I ask each participant to email me the recipe they used to bake their cookies. I then take a photograph of each type of cookie, pair it with the corresponding recipe then compile them all in a document to email out to all participants so everyone has a copy of all the recipes used in the exchange.
And most importantly…
Have fun baking!
Some great sources for Christmas cookie recipes:
JoyofBaking.com – Christmas Cookie Recipes
AllRecipes.com – Christmas Cookies Top 20
Martha Stewart – Christmas Cookie Recipes
Epicurious.com – 25 Days of Christmas Cookies
Our Favourite Cookie Recipes
About.com – Holiday Cookie Recipes & Tips
NorthPole.com – Cookie Recipes
Good Housekeeping – Best Christmas Cookie Recipes
GroupRecipes.com – 100 Christmas Cookie Recipes
You might be interested in the article Holiday Cookie Recipes for Gifting and Sharing, found in EverythingMom’s Holiday Ideas section.