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Cookie Swap

Holiday Party Foods 2003, Special Issue 2003

Bundles of homemade cookies -- in flavors and shapes to please every taste -- make never-fail gifts at the holidays. Grandmothers are legendary for them. But with today's busy schedules, it can be tricky to juggle the season's shopping, wrapping, decorating, and socializing, let alone baking batches and batches. The solution? Host a cookie swap.

The idea is simple: Invite a group of friends, and have each person make enough of one kind of cookie to share. At the party, you sample the treats, then trade and package them in appealing assortments. Everyone leaves with finished gifts -- and plenty of new recipes. Read on for lots of suggestions for planning your cookie party. You can use our recipes, assigning one to each of your guests, or have everyone prepare her favorite. Either way, you'll end up with a delightful mix. Give it a try. It might be the start of a very sweet tradition.

The Invitations
Invite guests three to four weeks in advance. We think eight people is the ideal number -- manageable, with enough for a good variety of cookies. Have each person bring along copies of her recipe as well as some supplies for pretty packaging, such as ribbons, tags, or boxes.

The Cookies
Ask each guest to make a dozen cookies for every person in attendance, plus an extra dozen for sampling; you do the same. This way, everybody will go home with several dozen in different flavors to give as gifts. If that seems daunting, scale back; if eight of you have six dozen to swap, you will take a few less of each kind but will still have an ample number. Decide for, or with, everyone who will make what, coordinating ahead of time to avoid duplicates. Sturdy cookies are best (very thin or delicate varieties won't pack well). The ones on these pages are good choices; they're all easy to bake in large quantities -- and they offer a wide range of flavors.

The Swap
On the day of the party, brew plenty of coffee and tea, and clear a few tables for sampling, swapping, and packaging cookies. Provide several platters and cake stands, and have each guest put out a plate of cookies for tasting, with stacks of recipes alongside if you like. Let everyone sample the treats -- and maybe even take a vote on the best one. When it's time to trade, set out the remaining cookies and let each person walk around the table to pick up their share of each. Or have people take only what they need to package one gift at a time, and return to the table for more as they wish.

The Display
At the swap, it helps to know which cookie is which. Use folding place cards that set in front of each variety as a label. Write or print the name of the cookie and the contributor on the card: "Chocolate-Drizzled Spice Cookies, from Laura." It's also helpful to write or print a cookie menu that lists each of the different types displayed.

The Packaging Station
Ask guests to bring wrapping materials; you might also keep some on hand in case any are overlooked. Set everything out on large worktables.

Tags or sticky labels
Ribbons and twine
Cardboard boxes
Sturdy paper plates
Tissue paper
Baking papers
Cellophane
Scissors and hole punches
Other trimmings