Cookie exchanges are a fun excuse to gather your closest friends for an afternoon by the fire. And what more do many people love than to bake sweet treats for others (okay, maybe eating those sweet treats). In their book, “Very Merry Cookie Party: How to Plan and Host a Christmas Cookie Exchange,” Barbara Grunes and Virginia Van Vynckt take you through the essentials for planning your own successful event for the holidays. While the basics of a cookie exchange are self-explanatory, Barbara and Virginia share three important rules to remember when hosting your own party; read on and see.
If you want to host a cookie exchange during the holidays, it’s best to plan ahead, as the holiday season is busy. But, cookie exchanges need not only take place before the holidays. We prefer late January or early February, as it’s still cold enough that you don’t feel guilty for indulging in your favorite sweet treats, nor are people as busy as they are in December. Plus, what is more fun than sitting by the fire on a cold, snowy day with your closest friends?
Think about the baking abilities of those you are inviting. While you need not turn your party into a competition, be sensitive to those who are less experienced. Whether you invite experienced bakers, your co-workers, or fellow chocoholics, just be sure to not pit your professional baker friends against your fellow urban kitchen amateurs.
Follow the Rules
Yes, there are cookie exchange “rules.” While some will ban the basics, like brownies or chocolate chip cookies, simply because there are so many other delicious recipes to choose from, others will allow them, as long as the baker puts a fresh spin on the classic, like adding new spices or ingredients in lieu of or in addition to others. More important, however, are the basic guidelines for baking and bringing cookies that Barbara and Virginia strongly recommend the host or hostess make clear to all guests
Essential Cookie Exchange Guidelines:
1. All the cookies must be homemade. Those slice-and-bake cookies from the store? Nice try. Doesn’t work. Part of the fun of the exchange is baking cookies from scratch. If a mistake happens, your cookies will likely taste delicious — plus, if you share your story, it makes for good laughter and bonding. The only exception would be if there was a cookie crisis (dog eats the cookies?); store-bought would be acceptable then.
2. Each guest must bring the requested number of cookies. No short-changing your fellow guests. However, if your cookies are two or three times larger than the others, one giant cookie would be comparable to three smaller ones. As for how to determine that magic number? It determines on how many guests you invite. If there are four of you, have everyone bring twenty-four, so each guest is entitled to six. If there are 20 of you, have each guest bring 60, that way you can taste one, and take two home.
3. Make sure everyone bakes a different cookie. Everyone likes to try new cookie varieties, plus no one wants to bring the same cookie as someone else. When your guests RSVP, make sure to ask them what they’re making — and that they stick to the plan — so there are no duplicates.
While each participant is in charge of baking their own cookies, the host or hostess is responsible for ensuring there is room (and a supply of platters) for displaying the cookies. You need not display all the cookies on plain plates; some other ideas include cutting boards, platters, baskets, and boxes. You can also ask your guests to each bring something to display their treats on, as well, if you’re short on trays.
Every guest should bring their own bag or container in which they will bring home their own loot. If they forget, have a stash of the big plastic freezer bags, in case someone forgets.
Food and Beverages
While it’s not required for you to offer anything other than tea, coffee, or cocoa at a cookie exchange (you will be tasting the treats, for sure), you may want to include some savory items for those who can’t handle that much sugar. Think finger foods, like sushi, tea sandwiches, crudités with dip, or a fruit salad; these healthier snack alternatives will also keep the inevitable sugar-high at bay.
Looking for cookie recipe inspiration? Here are some of The Daily Meal’s Favorites: