A Guide to Cookie Swaps
What Is a Cookie Swap?
Pretty much just what it sounds like: a gathering where cookie swappage takes place. It's kind of like a potluck but multiplied by cookies and since they are especially all the rage during Christmastime (not that cookies are ever not raging) the swaps usually happen during December. Have you ever been invited to a summertime cookie swap? Nah, people are usually too busy eating popsicles or something.
Here's the Deal: You show up with a batch of your favorite recipe (extra points if it's been passed down for many moons by many grandmas) and trade away. Sadly, you don't inhale them all right there. You nibble on a few and bring home the rest to share with loved ones. How warm and fuzzy is that?
How to Host a Cookie Swap
- Chose a date that gives guests enough time to bake. Ask each guest to bring a favorite cookie and enough copies of the recipe for each guest.
- How many should they bring? This is tough. Obviously the answer should be umpteenhundred but to keep your guests sane, max it at six dozen. The goal here is to inspire joy not baking-induced anxiety attacks.
- Figure out who has food allergies. Obviously nuts is a huge one! And any gluten-free guests? Yeah, they might need to organize their own party.
- Prepare to have enough: plates, napkins, and to-go containers (or something more creative like stockings?). Liquids are also key: milk, cider, tea, and egg nog.
- Sure, you can play the Bing Crosby Christmas album and organize some festive games (Pin the Nose on Rudolph?) but really everyone is there for one reason: the cookies.
What Kind of Cookies?
The super dainty fragile kind are not ideal. If they get smudged or smooshed in the car you will be a crying mess. Also keep the novice baker in mind—you don't want to hand a recipe to another guest that's a headache to make. Another thing to consider: pretty cookies. Sprinkles, frosting, and powdered sugar are always impressive.
Bars: A "cookie" formed into one giant block in a baking pan that's cut into smaller bricks. They will stay fresher longer if you slice—and always use a sharp knife—them right before serving.
Drops: A cookie formed by dropping the dough. Use a measuring spoon or just eye it, but try to make them uniform. Great for freezing.
Hand-Shaped: This is a little counterintuitive but the key here is not to handle the dough too much. Quit playing with them! Shape them, line them on the sheet, then be done with it. To avoid sticking, dampen hands then cover with some flour.
Icebox: Aka, the log. The dough is shaped into a big fat log. Chill this in plastic wrap for at least an hour before cutting.
Sandwich: Since the filling is so soft and perishable, wait to fill them until a few hours before serving. If you plan to refrigerate first, give them some time to adjust to room temp (so they don't break everyone's teeth).
Red and Green Christmas Cookies
Mexican Chocolate Crackle Cookies
Classic Sugar Cookies
Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies
Cranberry-Apricot Chocolate Chews
Gingerbread Roll-Out Cookies
Shortbread with Jam aka Jammies
Cherry Oatmeal Cookies
Bacon Fat Spice Cookies
Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies
Freezing Cookie Dough
The most freezable? Those that can be easily rolled into balls or one huge log (icebox cookies), such as: shortbreads, chocolate chip, peanut butter, and sugar.
Most cookie doughs freeze extremely well for up to six weeks. Avoid those with a liquidy batter, such as madeleines and tuiles.
For the ballable cookies: Ball up the dough and place them onto the cookie sheet. Store in freezer for at least an hour, until solid. Put the frozen balls into a bag (label the date) and pull out to bake whenever. They may need a couple extra minutes in the oven due to defrosting action.
For icebox cookies: Wrap the log with plastic wrap or cut the log into half-inch slices, then freeze.
Freezing Actual Cookies
Wait, leftover cookies? That's crazy talk, but just in case: after the cookies are totally cooled, spread them out on waxed or parchment paper. Create as many layers as you want, separating each with more waxed or parchment paper. Once finished, wrap the stack up with plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag.
If you're nervous about breakage, store them in a Pyrex casserole pan.
Have you been to or organized a cookie swap? Share some tips!