by Nancy Baggett
Everybody loves cookies, so it’s no wonder the custom of gathering to swap (and sample!) favorite cookies has become a popular seasonal event in America. Sometimes these cookie confabs feature numerous guests and considerable fanfare. Other times they involve a group of good friends simply joining together for coffee and quiet conversation along with the cookies. Still another very traditional kind of cookie exchange–my favorite–is a very small communal baking party in which several cooks actually ready their cookies together and then share the fruits–or in this case cookies!–of their labor. Best held in a fairly spacious kitchen with more than one oven, this type of exchange turns what can be a tedious task into a warm, sociable, yet productive event.
Whatever the type of cookie exchange, here are some tips to make sure all the ingredients for a truly Yuley event are in place:
* Invite guests well in advance, and tell them what’s expected. They need to know if they will be swapping recipes. And do mention that as a matter of fairness everybody should bring “from scratch” cookies. For those who seem concerned about this, offer them one of your own tried and true recipes–or one from my All-American Cookie Book!
* If the cookies are being made ahead rather than at the get-together, specify how many each guest should bring. For a group of less than six, each person might supply enough to swap a dozen with everyone else attending. For a larger group, this would require participants to ready too many cookies, so simply ask everyone bring six dozen–plus extra for sampling. Then, if there are eight guests, each receives 9 cookies of every kind; if there are twelve guests, each receives 6 of every kind, and so on. If you are having a communal bake-a-thon, remind participants to bring the ingredients needed (and maybe a baking sheet or two) for readying their own recipe.
* Remember to provide plenty of cookie take-home containers for your guests. Sturdy decorative paper plates and foil to cover or cellophane bags and wired ribbon for twist ties are inexpensive and serviceable, yet festive-looking. Have several containers per guest so the spicy cookies and mild butter cookies can be kept separate (otherwise, the mild ones will start tasting spicy) and crispy ones and gooey ones kept separate (otherwise the crisp ones will lose their snap).
* To make the actual cookie exchanging more memorable, ask guests to point out their own cookie contribution and tell where they got the recipe or why they like it.
Check out my recipes archives for some tempting cookie recipes.