Ah, the holidays -- as a baker, one of my favourite times of the year. And what better way to celebrate than to host a festive cookie swap? As well as being a fun get-together with friends, a cookie swap also serves a couple of practical purposes at a busy time of
year -- in return for the effort of making a few dozen cookies, you’ll get the chance to taste new-to-you cookies as well as having the opportunity to serve them to your own guests over the holidays. With just a little bit of organization, you can host a successful cookie swap, even at one of the busiest times of the year.
S'More Sandwich Cookies | Easy Jam Filled Cookies | Sugar Cookie Cutouts
Thumbprint Cookies | Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies
1. Plan ahead. Since the holiday season is so busy for social functions, you’ll want to make sure you send out invitations well in advance. Early-mid November is not unreasonable to send an invite to a cookie swap, since you will want the cookies in time for the height of the entertaining season in mid-December.
2. How many guests? You’ll need to decide the number of guests you feel you can host in your house and don’t forget to take that into consideration when you are choosing your cookies to bake. Maybe macarons are your specialty, but you perhaps don’t want to be baking 20 dozen of them. ;)
3. Invite your guests and create a place for them to keep in touch. A great way of keeping track of people’s responses is to use an online invite tool. This way you can keep all the information about the event in one place and easily keep tabs on how many people are coming. Guests can also send each other messages and you can use the tool to make sure you’re all bringing different cookies. It’s also a useful place to note allergies.
4. How many cookies? Decide whether you want guests to bring 1/2 or 1 dozen cookies to share -- perhaps even do a poll of your guests (easy to do if you’ve used an online invite tool). I’ve attended cookie swaps where we brought ½ dozen cookies for each other guest because there were so many people - it was more than enough. If you only have a small amount of people attending, you’ll want to ask everyone to bring a full 1 dozen cookies for each person. It’s a good idea to ask people to bring a few extra of their cookies for a “tasting” on the day itself.
5. What type of cookies? As well as making sure there is a variety of cookies, you may want to suggest (and choose for yourself) cookies that are freezer-friendly. If you are baking your own batches well in advance, you’ll want cookies that freeze well and once you have received your haul on the day itself, unless you have a large family or are hosting an event the same day, it’s great to be able to freeze them. When you are packaging them up to freeze them, make up packages that include a selection of different cookies. Looking for cookies to bake with your kids? Here are two easy-to-make seasonal treats.
My favourite type of cookies to bring? Shortbreads, like my Cranberry Shortbread with White Chocolate Ganache Drizzle. Don’t have a firm favourite in mind? Above, I have included a small selection of festive cookies from Philly Canada.
Cranberry Shortbread with White Chocolate Ganache Drizzle
6. Plan your event! Make sure you plan in advance what you are going to serve. Of course, there will be cookies but I often find at parties with too many sweets I am craving savoury foods. I’ll always offer a cheese plate with crackers and baguette, a couple of dips like hummus and tzatziki, and maybe some grapes. A neat idea for a quick savoury snack is to serve soup in shot glasses -- ’tis the season for soup after all, and what cuter presentation than in tiny glasses? Because you’re going to be eating more than your usual fill of sweets, you don’t need to serve huge portions of anything else so I like the idea of a grazing savoury plate and individual tiny soups. You’ll notice all this food can easily be prepared in advance -- you definitely want to make your life easy on the day. For drinks, I’ll offer mulled wine, coffee, tea and water.
7. Get hosting! The big day has arrived! Once you’ve prepped all your savoury snacks, make sure you set aside a platter (and space on the table!) for a tasting plate of cookies. Swapping cookies is fun but it’s great to taste the goods on the day too! Make sure you have extra airtight containers, cling film, parchment or greaseproof paper and tin foil to help your guests safely package their goodies. Clear a space, perhaps in a different room from where you will be eating, where your guests will be able to package up their cookies. Have everyone place their offerings on a large table and suggest a couple of guests work at one time to package their cookies. Make sure to double-check how many cookies everyone bought so your guests know how many to take! I also like to ask people to bring printed copies of their cookie recipe to the swap to give to other guests. This way, not only are your guests leaving with a haul of goodies but also the ability to make them for themselves on another occasion.
8. Eat cookies and be merry!
Have you ever hosted a cookie swap?
I’d love to hear about it! Share your stories below.