I got cajoled into participating in our church’s annual cookie swap. I did not want to make cookies because I do not need the sugar, and I try to eat mostly grain-free foods. But my friend was in charge of our annual Christmas cookie swap, so weeks before Thanksgiving she had her cookie signup sheet posted― and me in her sights. Having helped out and participated in past cookie swaps, I thought I would share a few tips on how to make a cookie swap a sweet success.
The cookie swap is a popular holiday tradition that is good for offices, churches, family or just a group of friends. The purpose of a cookie swap is for each person participating to bake a large quantity of their favorite Christmas cookie. The cookies are then divided evenly into a predetermined amount, usually a dozen. At the swap, everyone meets and gives each other a package of their cookies. Each person participating will receive a variety of different and delicious Christmas cookies, which will ideally last throughout the entire Christmas season.
Here are some tips to make your cookie swap a success:
- Make sure there is one person in charge. While too many cooks can spoil the soup, so can too many people or none at all spoil the cookie swap.
- Have a cookie signup sheet. This can be as easy as a piece of paper where you ask each person to write their name and the type of cookie they will be bringing. Or this can be done effectively over the phone where one person makes the list, or through e-mail. This is to ensure those involved know how many people are participating, so they know how many cookies to make and to avoid duplicate cookie recipes. While chocolate chip cookies are an all-time favorite, if all those involved in the swap made them it would defeat the purpose of the swap.
- Make a time and place to exchange cookies. The cookie swap can be a part of a home get-together, an office Christmas party, or a church function. At our church, we choose a Sunday before Christmas to exchange the cookies and one of our members, Verna, has a long table ready with each participant’s name on it. Then you take your cookies and put a package of them at everyone else’s name, even as your space is filling up with cookies made by others. Also, if you so desire, you can ask that the recipe be included with each package of cookies.
- You don’t have to be limited to cookies. Homemade candy and fudge are always a welcome addition to a cookie sway.
For those who have several batches of cookies to make, here are some tips to save money and avoid frustration.
- Avoid cookie recipes with nuts. Nuts can be a rather expensive ingredient, and since you will be making several dozens of cookies, pass on the nuts to save yourself some dough.
- Make it easy. Bar cookies are quicker and easier to make than drop cookies.
- Keep it simple. Simple cookie recipes work best since you will be making several batches.
- I’ll take plain, thank you. Unless you are a skilled decorator with lots of time and/or help, avoid fancy, decorated cut-out cookies. They look pretty and impressive, but are extra needless work.
- Cookie hack. If you really want to save some time, not necessarily money, go ahead and buy premade cookie dough. Just don’t tell anyone.
- Keep them fresh. Make your cookies as close as possible to the date of the swap. Even if your cookies freeze well, the fresher they are, the better.
- Package your cookies. Ziploc bags work fine, but it is nice to put your bagged cookies in a holiday-themed gift bags, or better yet, buy some reusable plastic or tin containers. This makes for both a pretty presentation and an inexpensive gift.
- Know how many packages of cookies you are expected to make. When in doubt, contact the hostess. The first year I participated I miscounted. I was one package short and so was somebody else. Needless to say, I was embarrassed. Now I always make an extra package of cookies and donate it to someone.
Are there any tips that I missed? Let me know your ideas on your cookie swaps.