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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Throw a Cookie Swap Party

There were not enough submissions of book reviews to have a blog carnival this month.  Submissions will be held over for next month though.  

Take a fun break from the hectic shopping, decorating, and wrapping to spend some quality time with friends around the idea of sharing cookies.  This could be a new tradition that brings many memories to your holiday without adding to the stress level.

The idea is each person should have various cookies plus some new recipes for their own cookbook.

Part of the fun of a cookie swap is seeing what types of cookies people make and why.  Consider asking guests to share their story behind their exchange recipes.
Have they been making this recipe for years?  Is it a family recipe?  It can be just as fun to hear the meaning behind the different cookies as it is to gather and devour them.

From Bon Appetit website, here is "How to Throw a Holiday Cookie Swap Party:"

1. Determine the Guest List. Choose a group of 10-20 friends who you think would be interested in sharing their holiday workload (and baked goods!) with you. In the invitation, ask each guest or family to bring 6 dozen of his or her favorite holiday cookies, and to send you the recipe ahead of time. Obviously, this kind of invitation is best directed at your most  gifted baking buddies, but you may also choose to invite a few non-bakers, like your single uncle Maury with the sweet-tooth. After all, ’tis the season to be big-hearted.

2. Set the Date and Time. Choose a date that works best for you and your guests’ work and travel schedules. You will want to have the party close enough to the holidays so the cookies will last, but not so late that you get caught up in the last-minute rush–usually about a week to ten days in advance works well. A cookie swap party can be any time of day, depending on what works best for your schedule. Try to send invitations at least a few weeks in advance to allow people to plan. “I need you to bake six dozen cookies” isn’t the sort of thing you should spring on a friend at the last minute.

 3. Set the Rules. Be sure to include a list of clear instructions in the invitations. Let your guests know how many cookies to bring, when they should RSVP, and when to send in their recipes. Warn them to be flexible–you may have to ask a friend to make something different if you are sent six variations on chocolate chip cookies. Our suggested set of rules:

    a. Cookies should be homemade and seasonally appropriate
    b. Cookies should be imperishable enough to last several days after baking
    c. Cookies should be made from scratch by an adult
    d. No burnt cookies, please

4. Get Set. To prepare for the party, set your largest table with enough festive bowls and platters to hold each guest’s contributions. Mixing in a few footed cake stands will help maximize table space and visual appeal. You will also need enough tongs for each platter, so party guests can make their selections without touching the cookies with their hands. Once you receive the name of each participant’s selected cookie, print or write it on place cards and set them in front of the platters for easy identification and selection. Ask each guest to bring recipe cards for the other guests (or, for bonus points, gather all of the recipes in a computer file and print copies of them for each guest to take home). Provide inexpensive paper bakery boxes and festive twine for guests to package and take home their cookies–several smaller boxes per guest are better than one large one, as different cookies types should be kept separate to best retain their flavor. (Alternatively, for a greener spin on things, you can ask each guest to bring his or her own plastic containers or cookie tins).

5. Provide Snacks and Refreshments. While the cookies at a cookie swap are mostly meant to be taken home, of course, there is bound to be plenty of sampling during the party. Be sure to offset all those sweet treats with savory foods, like an egg casserole for a brunch-time party, or dips, cheeses and olives for an afternoon soiree (see our some one-bite appetizers here). You will also want to serve beverages that compliment the foods, like hot tea and coffee in the morning, or a festive punch and sparkling wine at cocktail hour. And a glass of either cold milk or hot chocolate is a cookie’s best friend at any time of day.

6. For the Kids. If you are planning to invite children to your party, a few special preparations, like a cookie-decorating station, will keep them happily entertained (and allow the grown-ups to talk without being terrorized by sugar-crazed youngsters). Set up a low table with undecorated sugar cookies in festive shapes and an assortment of icings, candies, and sprinkles. Provide the children with disposable paper aprons and chef’s hats and allow them to decorate the cookies as they choose.

Follow these steps and you’ll have a party with friends, food, festive cheer, and enough baked goods to last you the rest of the season. Sweet.

Party Supply Checklist
* 10-20 friends who bake
* Invitations with clear instructions
* Enough serving platters and tongs for each type of cookie
* Placecards to label cookies
* Festive decorations
* Disposable napkins, plates, cups and cutlery
* Savory party foods and beverages
* Cookie packaging
* 6 dozen of your own favorite holiday cookies
* Sugar cookies and cookie-decorating supplies

Now swap ‘til you drop!

I hope this idea adds to the enjoyment of your holidays!  Enjoy.

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