If you believe, as I do, that more cookies equal less grumpiness, you should consider hosting a cookie exchange. We have done it for seven years and each year the cookies get better and better. From time to time during a particularly busy holiday season, we suggest that we might skip a year. But the outcry is so strong that we always do the cookie exchange no matter what.
Our 2009 cookie exchange was yesterday and here are some scenes from it. At the end of this post, I’ll share with you some tips we have learned over the years so you can incorporate them into your own plans.
This is a great holiday tradition that often involves more than just the baker herself. Although our group is all women, the husbands, significant others and children in our lives are very supportive. After all, they are the beneficiaries!
The most controversial part of the cookie exchange is the number of cookies you have to bake: six dozen. But you really need that many if you have a group our size (about 25), so everyone can get a few of each.
Not everyone bakes. But everyone wants to come. So we make exceptions. Susan Brown compensates for not bringing cookies by volunteering to be the bartender each year. Believe me, it is a big job! Other people cheat (we don’t care!) and have someone else bake their cookies. Some even go to a bakery. We have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to that.
With a group composed of so many “Type A” personalities, you can expect to get a million questions. “Does fudge count as a cookie?” “Do you have to bake it for it to be considered a cookie?” Our answer to these and many more such inquiries: the cookie police will not be present. Nobody is going to kick you out if your “cookie” is not technically a cookie! We do try to avoid duplications (you don’t want six different kinds of chocolate chip cookies, for example) by asking folks to e-mail in what kind of cookie they will make. Then we can let them know if someone else is planning to make the same kind. This strategy is only moderately successful as people forget to send in their cookie selection or they change their minds at the last minute. But at least we can say we tried!
Send out the invitations WAY in advance. We shoot for a month. It’s a very busy time of year.
Ask the guests to tell you what kind of cookie they plan to bring so you can monitor for too many duplicates. You are aiming for a wide variety.
Ask that the cookies be brought on large platters. Occasionally, someone will attempt to package their cookies in individual baggies or such. This doesn’t work very well because you can never be sure how many people will show up. Nine times out of ten, we’ve had to break into the baggies and rearrange. Easier just to bring a big plate for them.
Don’t plan to serve dessert. Everyone wants to sample the cookies instead.
When you get home, divide the cookies up into small baggies depending on what kind of cookies they are. If you leave them all in the tin, you will find that the peppermint-flavored cookies will infuse the others with that taste, as will the peanut butter ones. Also, the soft chewy cookies will make the crisp cookies soggy. So break them out and group them together with similar cookies.
Finally, here’s the invitation we sent out. It has a few other “rules” on it. I hope you will organize a cookie exchange next year. It makes for a very happy season!
Credits: Ellen Robinson took the photo of Peter Acly. Julie Bernal of Moxley Carmichael designed the invitation.