Looking for an excuse to stuff your face with cookies this holiday season? Of course you are. And the best way to realize your dream is by hosting a festive holiday cookie swap party for your nearest and dearest.
Holiday cookie swaps or exchanges have been taking place since the early 20th century and are still popular today.
The idea is simple: gather a few of your friends and family. Everybody bakes cookies, everybody gets to eat those cookies, and then everybody brings a box home to eat or give away as gifts. Pulling it off effortlessly so you are the host of the season just takes a bit of planning and know-how.
Here are some top tips on hosting your own cookie swap party, as well as recipes for a few of my favorite cookies to get you started.
First, determine your guest list. How big and what sort of a party do you want to host: an adults only evening or a kid-friendly weekend daytime gathering?
It’s a good idea to choose people who actually enjoy baking (and are good at it!). You can host a more intimate gathering with as few as 6 guests or scale up to 20 guests for a festive fête. Each person or family should plan to bring at least 6 to a dozen cookies per guest, which should leave plenty for sampling. Remember that the more people you invite, the more interesting your array of cookies will be.
Set a date. You’ll want to have your cookie party close enough to the holidays that the cookies stay fresh, but not so close that friends and family are already out of town or busy with last-minute everything. Check with your guests to find a time that works. A cookie party can really be any time of day — a weekend morning with coffee and cookies is just as much fun as an evening gathering toasting glasses of sparkling wine.
Send out invites. Make sure to send invitations as far in advance as possible so that everyone can get it on the calendar and start planning what they want to bake. And be sure the “rules” of the party are clear so there are no surprises (see the next tip.)
In the invite, ask guests to let you know in advance what they are baking so you don’t end up with too many of the same type of cookies. You can also choose to have each guest bring printed copies of their recipes — enough for each person — so that guests can take home the recipes of their favorites, or plan to have them email recipes to share after the party. Finally, you might ask everyone to bring their own containers to transport cookies home, unless you plan to provide boxes or plates.
Share your “rules.” The point of a cookie swap is to be able to exchange delicious, homemade cookies that you and your friends and family might not otherwise have the time or energy to cook yourself. So, my top rule is that the cookies should be homemade and never store-bought.
Choose cookies that are not overly delicate and therefore difficult to transport. The best cookies will hold up and not taste stale for at least a few days after baking. Finally, do you expect cookies only or do other homemade treats — think brownies, fudge, or rice crispy treats — make the cut? It’s up to you! Just make sure you share your wishes with guests in advance.