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story Maureen Scott photography Steve Uhraney
Cookie swaps are not just about exchanging a few treats. They’re also a great way to hook up with your book-club or office group and catch the latest gossip or holiday stories along with some favourite delightful morsels.
Here’s how the cookie swap works:
Email an invitation to potential participants. You can have any number, but from six to twelve works best. Ask people to RSVP by a specific date and include their recipe. That’s so you don’t end up with multiple people bringing versions of the same item.
Each person needs to bake at least several dozen cookies (determined by the number of participants), plus a dozen for the host to serve the night of the exchange. Ask your friends to print copies or email favourite recipes so they can share.
You can also add a fundraising element by asking guests to bring an item for the local food bank or maybe a new unwrapped toy for a local charity.
Food Network star Anna Olson, host of Bake with Anna Olson agreed to share some favourite cookie recipes and advice with us from her latest book Back to Baking.
If the thought of baking several dozen cookies at one time seems daunting, Anna advises making a type of cookie which freezes well, or making dough you can freeze and bake later.
“Keep in mind that the less sugar the cookie recipe has, the better it will freeze,” explains Anna. “For example, shortbread recipes typically have a low sugar ratio and they freeze well, while sweet or crispy cookies like Florentines will end up soggy once thawed. I like cookie recipes where I can make the dough ahead and freeze it, as opposed to freezing baked cookies which never seem to come out of the freezer as nicely as the went in.
“Icebox cookies like Linzer dough, cookie cut-outs and even the dough for Rugelach all freeze well. I label the wrapped dough and include slicing/rolling and baking instructions so I don’t have to look it up again when I’m ready to bake. I even pre-scoop my chocolate chip cookies and freeze them. That way, I can pull out one or two to bake off in case of emergency, like a tough day!”
“A cookie exchange manifesto (or set of guidelines to sound less daunting) is important,” says Anna. “Any allergies of participating members needs to be highlighted. Organizing a check list of cookie styles will ensure you have a varied selection and not eight versions of rice krispieŽ squares on exchange day.”
What if someone who doesn’t bake wants to attend the cookie swap? There are what they call “no-bake” recipes, but anyone can buy a few tins of quality shortbread and give them a personal touch by partially dipping them in melted chocolate and adding a dash of chopped nuts or cookie sprinkles. Better still—visit a local bakeshop and purchase some quality cookies for the swap.
We asked Kate Clipperton from the famous Kate’s Town Talk Bakery in Streetsville to share her favourite cookie recipe and she sent us her top-seller—shortbread with an entire Toblerone bar! (next page). No wonder her shop is the talk of the town!
“In my book, shortbread is the quintessential Christmas cookie,” says Kate. “This recipe came from my maternal great-grandmother. The original recipe did not have the Toblerone chocolate, but we added it to the recipe to sell in the bakery. It was one of the top-selling cookies last Christmas and people have been waiting for it to reappear on our shelves. We bake on site, from scratch, in small batches throughout the day to guarantee fresh, delicious goodies.”
Participants should also consider bringing extra air-tight cookie tins or plastic containers for taking cookies home. All the host needs to do is provide beverages such as hot apple cider, non-alcoholic punch, wine or even even milk or eggnog. After all, guests have to sample the cookies. Snacks or hor d’oeuvres are optional.
Set out platters for the sample cookies. Light a few seasonal candles. Put on the holiday music and prepare to have a great evening. If 10 people attend, everyone could go home with 10 dozen assorted cookies (including their own). That’s enough to satisfy any cookie monster. Keeping them hidden until the holidays is the real challenge!
My best cookie swapping friends also agreed to share family favourites and I’ve include a few family recipes of my own. So many people generously shared their cookie recipes.
You can find more recipes on our website at:
GoodLife Cookie Swap Recipes
Special thanks to Marina Nawrocki, owner of Zest for Living for table styling and providing linens, tableware and decor pieces (available at her shop in Port Credit). Thanks to Kate’s Town Talk Bakery in Streetsville, Anna Olson and Whitecap Books, as well as all our cookie swapping friends and to Maureen Scott who baked (and ate) most of the cookies. Recipes and photos from Back to Baking reprinted by permission from Anna Olson and Whitecap Books. GL
|ABOVE Dozens of cookies include gingerbread, shortbread, rum balls,
and all kinds of treats - see recipes below
Photo by Steve Uhraney
Maraschino cheery balls with stems in shortbread
Ginger bread men with M&M buttons and eyes