If the thought of Christmas cookies immediately brings a picture of you standing in a kitchen surrounded by bags of flour, pounds of butter, and little dishes of candy sprinkles to your mind’s eye, you might be dreading the upcoming Christmas social round. It can take hours to work your way through the pile of recipes traditionally associated with holiday baking, and if you’ve got lots of parties to throw or potlucks to attend, those hours can quickly add up to days. This year, why not divvy up the work and share the baking with a few friends?
Cookie exhanges are a relatively quick and painless way to get your Christmas baking finished. Invite four or five of your friends to join you in the exchange. Many people have a favourite cookie recipe, so usually it’s not difficult to decide who will make what. Typical favourites include chocolate macaroons, shortbread, gingerbread, rum balls and peanut butter-chocolate or raspberry-almond bars; if you’re feeling adventurous, check out the magazine rack at the grocery store to see what new recipes the cooking magazines have concocted this year. Try to ensure that there won’t be any repetition of recipes, and that there is a fair balance between kinds of cookie, so that you don’t go home with six kinds of shortbread, or end up with nothing but gingerbread.
Plan to bake a dozen cookies per person, plus a dozen for taste-testing on the day of the party—so everyone goes home with a full dozen, but also has a chance to taste what they’re taking away. Most Christmas cookies will keep for several days if stored in a cool, dry place, so you can do your baking ahead of time if your schedule demands it; otherwise, just ensure that you’ve allowed enough time for the cookies to cool completely before you need to package them up. Make sure similar types of cookies are stored together—moist cookies will cause crisp ones to lose their crunch if they end up in the same container together.
On the day of the exchange, brew a pot of coffee or tea while you wait for your friends to arrive with their cookies. After the craziness of Christmas shopping, an afternoon cookie exchange is a nice way to spend an hour or two with your friends while enjoying a tasty treat and packaging up each person’s goodies. You might not ever have to bake more than one kind of cookie again.