Host a Holiday Baking Exchange

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There is a saying by John Heywood that states, “Many hands make light work,” and there is no better time to lighten my load than when it comes to my holiday to-do list. One way to accomplish this is to host a simple gathering of friends for a cookie exchange, allowing you to share and enjoy a variety of cookies without a long day of baking and expensive ingredients.

Before the holidays are in full swing, host friends to exchange cookies and great conversation. If this is your first cookie swap, here are some tips and ideas to make it easy and fun.

Establish the Guest List: It couldn’t be easier to invite your friends to a cookie swap thanks to Facebook. To keep it simple, set up an event and invite your friends to a fun baking exchange for the holidays. Be sure that you update the privacy settings on the invitation so that only those that are invited can view it. If you prefer a beautifully designed invitation, consider utilizing a free service like Evite.

If your friends are anything like mine, they are wildly busy and will have limited availability. I love the free scheduling tool Doodle for planning a gathering because I can create the optimal time for the most guests to attend and ensure that it will fit in to our family’s schedule.

However you decide to set it up, be sure to give your guests a three-to-four weeks notice so that everyone has time to shop for their baking supplies and make their cookie creations. Request that when people RSVP to your invite that they also include the type of cookie that they will be making so you can avoid having duplicate cookies at your swap.

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Don’t Limit Yourself To Just a Traditional Cookie Exchange: Some of my favorite treats for the holidays aren’t cookies, but other varieties of holiday goodies like cocoa mixes, tea mixes, homemade marshmallows, cinnamon rolls, and handmade candies.

In lieu of the traditional cookies, consider hosting a cookie dough exchange where you mix up dough and roll into logs to stock in freezers so you and your friends are all prepared when the holidays strike. There is nothing like ready-made dough for a quick holiday fix when the unexpected guest arrives.

Establish the Rules: Have each guest bring an appetizer or drink to share at the cookie swap. Make sure to also request that each has cookies packaged and ready to go with a designated amount of goodies in each bag. Finally, it is also great if you can remind your guests to bring a sturdy container to take their cookies home in at the end of the night, or make sure that you have containers for each guest.

If you are providing the containers make things beautiful and festive by offering plain white paper boxes, parchment paper, and simple ribbon for people to gather their cookies and box them up to take home. These boxes make everyone feel like they are all leaving with a gift and it creates a sturdy case for delicate cookies.

Set the Scene: Visit your dollar store to find inexpensive platters to set out the cookies for everyone to sample, or visit your thrift store to find cute retro cookie tins that can be left open for your guests to snack on. Next to the tins and platters, fold simple index cards in half to create tags for each platter to let people know what they will be sampling and to warn of any potential food allergies.

I also love to place cookies on cake stands to add height and variation to the table display and incorporate some festive holiday décor throughout the main table. Dress the table up with a festive tablecloth, elegant holiday scented candles, and add a little holiday greenery or scatter ornaments on the table to set that holiday mood.

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Make Your Cookies Stand Out With Beautiful Packaging: To make your cookies extra special this year, download our free cookie gift tags and recipe cards to share with your friends. These elegant tags (designed by Sarah M Style) will add a professional touch to your packaging this year.

Perfect Party Favors: Don’t forget to send your guests home with a little holiday party favor to add to the specialness of your night together. I love to buy a large package of cookie cutters and tie a small gift tag with raffia to the side with the simple words, “thank you,” on it. Watch for those coupons in your local newspaper for the craft store and apply those to a big barrel of cookie cutters that you can distribute as your note of thanks for attending and making the evening so special.

Download Your FREE Cookie Exchange Recipe Cards HERE 

Download Your FREE Cookie Exchange Printable Tags HERE 

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Homemade marshmallows make an untraditional cookie exchange treat that creates a large batch in no time flat. These are my kid’s favorite treat each holiday season and are impressive while easy to create! 

Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows
Ingredients

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice cold water, divided
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Nonstick spray
  • 4 drops red food coloring

Instructions

01 Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

02 In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

03 Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the peppermint extract during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

04 Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

05 When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Drop red food coloring onto marshmallows and use a toothpick to swirl the food coloring into the marshmallows. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

06 Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Photo Credit: Kristen Doyle at Dine & Dish, Recipe Source: Alton Brown

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Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark has been the driving force behind MomAdvice since 2004. In addition to running a successful community for women and running after her two kids, she has appeared on The Early Show, and in Parents magazine, Redbook, Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, MSN Money and The New York Times.

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