Hosting a Cookie Exchange
Tis the season of giving whether through gifts or cookies! This time of year I find that most of my friends, and friends of friends, are more prone to host evening exchanges which however lovely, can run late and expensive with all the Uber charges. I still love them, don’t get me wrong, but finding a way to mix things up a bit can be refreshing. I say, start a new tradition this year and host a cookie exchange. Doing so is easy and only requires a few key “ingredients” to go off without a hitch. Note: Not responsible for sugar-highs or lows!
1. Invite List: When putting together your list, think of people that would actually enjoy participating in a food related exchange. They don’t have to bake; heck if they don’t bake, picking up cookies from Le Pain Quotidien, for example, won’t disappoint anyone. Ideally, all depending on the size of your space, I like 8 – 12 as more than that can be overwhelming. However, that being said, don’t nix a good friend from your list just because of space.
2. The Specifics: The last cookie exchange I hosted was such a blast, quite frankly I don’t know why I don’t throw one every year! Here is what I asked all of my guests:
a. Bring two-dozen (1 to eat then and there and 1 to bring home) of your favorite family cookies. Whether it’s yours, your great grandmothers, or something you just love baking around the holidays, I want something that has meaning. And, if you don’t or can’t bake, store bought is fine but they should have some sort of meaning. “Coconut macaroons remind me of baking with my grandmother….”, for example.
b. Bring a copy of the recipe for everyone in attendance. Recipes are meant for sharing!
c. Bring a tin to take home all your delicious treats – if they make it out the door!
d. As the, hostess, have a few extra cookies on hand just in case.
3. Date and Time: Pick a time around lunch (11:30) on a Saturday or Sunday and have finger food when they arrive. Mini quiche, veggies and dip, spiced nuts (which I have an amazing recipe for, by the way), and even a slice of ham and cheese rolled without bread, are just a few ideas to set you in the right direction. Light, low on carbs yet sufficient so people can prepare themselves for the dessert buffet. And, a steaming bowl of fresh cider and champagne with pomegranate seeds and a splash of pomegranate juice, if you want a little bubbly.
a. Display: On a large buffet style table, ask everyone to display their cookies with a place-card that says what it is and who made it. This way, if there are any allergies or people have questions, they know whom to ask. DON’T let anyone start eating the cookies until the exchange begins.
b. Platters: I usually have several plates, cake stands and platters at the ready so people can choose one to display their cookies. Not everyone will bring them on platters so this really helps to keep things tidy.
c. Serviceware & Utensils: Small appetizer plates, napkins (plenty of them), forks, plastic cups (to minimize dishwashing), mugs for cider, all at the ready.
d. Miscellaneous: Pitchers of ice-cold water, garbage can for easy use, chairs for the exchange, pens, pads of paper, name tags, if people don’t know each other, a great upbeat playlist, candles for ambiance, etc.
e. Cookie Tins & To-Go Containers: Extra plastic to-go containers or Chinese takeout boxes for those that forgot their cookie tin. Note: Lots of grocery stores carry "festive" to-go containers (like Ziploc shown in the picture below) for this very purpose.
a. When People Arrive: Greet them with either a glass of bubbly or hot cider. Show them to the cookie bar and ask them to choose a platter from which to display their cookies; then label them with a place-card. Make sure they do this before they eat lunch.
b. To Start the Exchange:
- Once everyone has arrived, drinks are flowing and food is being enjoyed, gather your friends in as close to a circle as you can.
- One at a time, ask each guest to bring their cookies to the circle. As they are getting their cookies, pass their recipe around the room.
- After they explain their selection, pass the platter around and tell everyone to take 2. They can try 1 right away and bring 1 home in their to-go tin.
- As a friendly reminder, desserts often create lots of “buzz” and can be distracting to the presenter. Try to keep the chatter at bay during each presentation.
c. To Finish: Whatever cookies are left, are open for taking and immediate satisfaction.
d. The Goal: Everyone leaves with a cookie tin full of delicious treats, a collection of new recipes and a great early afternoon spent with friends.
Be different this year and host a cookie exchange! Your friends will love it plus, it’s a
“sweet” excuse to bake and fill up your cookie jar!
Cheers to starting a new tradition around the table together!
Founder and true believer in the power of bringing people around The Table Together!