As someone who loves to bake, the upcoming holiday season is one of my favourite times of the year. But while I love baking and tasting the treats I make myself, I have to say that I enjoy sharing the goodness with my friends even more – and what better way to celebrate friendship than to host a holiday cookie exchange? Yes, it’s a fun party idea but it’s also a great way to taste get a bunch of different cookies without having to make them all yourself. A cookie exchange will leave you prepared in case unexpected guests drop by for tea over the holidays too. And who knows – you might get some inspiration for new holiday cookies of your own! This time of year tends to be a little hectic, so many of you might not feel confident you can host your own exchange, but rest assured that with just a little bit of organization, you can!
Top tips for hosting a successful holiday cookie exchange:
1. Decide how many guests you can invite.
You might have a large entertaining space but the one thing you need to remember is that however many people you invite and attend, you’re baking that many cookies. So, you know, while I love a good macaron, I probably wouldn’t want to make 20 dozen of them 😉
2. Get your guests involved in the planning.
Once you’ve made your guest list, send out the invites (the earlier the better for the busy holiday season). I recommend using an online invite tool like Evite. This way not only do you have all the information about the event in one place (and not on 20 Post It notes!) but also your guests will be able to communicate with each other – an easy way to share information about allergies etc… This takes some of the organization piece off of your shoulders and makes the information easy to access for everyone, anytime. Once you’ve made your online invite space available to the guests, use it to make sure everyone’s bringing a different kind of cookie and also to suggest that people try to choose freezer-friendly treats. The worst thing that can happen at a cookie exchange is when you end up with treats that can’t be frozen since unless you have a large family, you probably won’t eat all the cookies in the space of a few days.
3. How many cookies?
I’ve been at cookie exchanges where there was a larger number of people (20) so the host asked everyone to bring 1/2 dozen cookies for everyone which I thought was a really smart idea. Maybe ask your guests what they prefer (and can cope with making!). If you prefer to have a smaller gathering, make sure everyone brings the full 1 dozen cookies per person. I always make sure to have a few extra of the cookies I bake to sample on the day of the party too so if you think that your guests would enjoy that, make sure to request a few extra from each person.
4. Don’t just serve sweet treats!
Of course, you’ll taste the various sweet offerings over the course of the party but I know that personally, I’ll be craving something savoury. Even at a “sweets-centric” party, I make sure to offer bread, crackers and cheese, dips, carrot and celery sticks and maybe even some fruit. While a holiday cookie exchange often takes place in the afternoon, coffee, tea and sparkling water might be your typical beverages, but I also like to serve something festive like mulled wine and perhaps hot cider as well. T’is the season, after all!
5. Eat, swap and be merry!
On the day of the cookie exchange, prepare your savoury snacks and beverages, make sure you provide a platter (and space on the table) for people to leave their cookie samples, make sure you have an extra supply of airtight containers, cling film, parchment/ greaseproof paper/ tin foil to help everyone package their goodies. If your house has the room, clear a space in a different room from where you will be gathering where everyone can package up their cookies. Before people start packaging, double-check how many cookies everyone bought so your guests know how many to take!
This holiday season, if you’re at a loss for cookie exchange ideas, you might want to check out Ricardo Best Cookies.
I hardly need another cookbook but I received this at a conference I attended in October and have been bookmarking recipes ever since! Though it’s only a relatively small book (72 recipes), it had a wealth of information that any cookie baker (novice or experienced) could benefit from.
- Organisation: cookie recipes are divided into sections (chocolate, shortbread, holiday,chewy, crunchy, sandwich, fancy) and there is a section on basics (doughs, royal icing and fillings)
- Tips and tricks: The 8 Commandments of Perfect Cookies will walk you through the equipment and techniques you need for cookie success
- Baking tips: There is a handy cooking chart which lets you know how long to bake cookies based on their thickness
- Decorating tips: The book includes some simple ideas for decorating cookies that you can even reproduce on a large scale
I personally love that all of the recipes seem relatively easy (they are fairly short, most of them have less than 10 steps) and use either ingredients you already have on hand or that are easy to find
As I was flicking through the book, I spotted (and immediately bookmarked) Ricardo’s Cookie Kit in a Jar. I’d been looking for something “holiday” themed to make with my youngest cooking club (7-9 years old) and this seemed like the perfect recipe.
First we had to bake up a batch of the cookies to make sure they were, you know, ok… 😉
And then we started assembling our cookie kits. It was quite the production but I had a couple of the older boys supervising to make sure the right amount of each ingredient went into each jar! It was excellent practice weighing and measuring dry ingredients!
And then came the best part….
These cookies were deemed “the best” by the boys and I have to say, at the end of a long day, they were very welcomed even by the teachers 😉 Not too soft, not too crunchy and with some “weight” from the oats, they really hit the spot.
Of course I had to try them again at home, just to make sure I was right in my judgement 😉
Perfect cookies that come together in around 15 minutes and bake in around 12. So yes, you can go from hungry to enjoying a homemade treat in under 30 minutes! Plus, cookie-in-a-jar = BEST gift giving idea!!
What cookies with YOU be baking this holiday season?
Canadians – win a copy of Ricardo’s Best Cookies! Details here!
Disclosure: I received compensation in exchange for promoting the cookie recipes on Ricardo Cuisine. All opinions 100% my own and I only recommend products that I really love.