At Christmastime she made hard candy and we got to help. It was really cool to pull out huge strips of foil onto the kitchen table and cover them with white powdered sugar. She would then begin the process of bringing the sugar and water to the hard crack stage. The best part was when she added the flavor. The smell of cinnamon, anise, and butterscotch would takeover the whole house. She would stir in the appropriate food coloring and pour the glistening liquid sugar onto the prepared foil. It really engulfed all of our senses. The smells, the colors, the taste and once hard; the joy of breaking it into bite size pieces. We would then dust the candy with more powdered sugar and put it into baby food jars (this is where my recycle, reuse roots began). I am sure this experience is one of the reasons I am a chef and it is definitely the reason I make tons of cookies at Christmastime!!!
Over the years I have hosted or took part in many cookie exchanges so I want to share some of these experiences and what I learned from them.
My first dive into the cookie world wasn't really an exchange but more like a bribe to get our friends to spend Christmas Eve at our place. My sister Faith and our best girl friend Tina had an apartment right out of high school so of course we wanted to do our on thing and show off a bit but we didn't have a lot of cash. We decide to give cookies as gifts but there was a catch. We would send a brown paper lunch sack folded up to be the size of a post card (back in the day we only had to pay postcard postage, times have changed) with a note inside that said come to our place Christmas Eve and we will fill your bag with cookies. Our friends came and even brought REAL food to share. Becky brought a turkey one year. When you are young and broke this is a real treat. We would watch A Christmas Story and string popcorn for our tree garland. Everyone helped us decorate the tree with whatever we could find for free. One year a florist gave us old roses and baby's breath and we tied those to the tree. It was awesome we just toss the whole tree when Christmas was over. Another year the tree had returnables hanging from it (I am sure that this was the year we became of legal drinking age). The tradition of the brown paper bag bribe went on for years. It proves you don't have to have money to have a great time!
Okay enough about the good old days; let's get to the cookie exchange words of wisdom!
Before you join a cookie exchange or start one of your own know the expectations or set guidelines for the exchange.
Cookie Exchange Tips and Guidelines
- Set a date and place for the cookie exchange. Send out a group email and a deadline to participate. Evite has cool ones.
- Have participants on a group email and send it to everyone. Have each of them send back what cookie or candy they are making and click reply all. If there is too many of the same type of cookies the host should ask for someone to make something different.
- Once the the cookie exchange group has been decided set at a Cookie Exchange Guideline and email it to participants.
- NO STORE BOUGHT COOKIES OR DOUGH-This is a biggie for me. As you can imagine I get invited to participate in a lot of cookie exchanges because of my pastry chef background. Nothing sends me to the moon more than when I get a store bought cookie or a cookie I can have anytime of year like chocolate chip cookies.
- If there are any allergies please let the group know. Not liking nuts is not an allergy.
- Decide how many cookies each participant needs to make per person.
- Ask that cookies do not require refrigeration and CAN be frozen.
- Have guest bring 2 extra sets of cookies one for everyone to taste on the night of the exchange. Host should supply the coffee, tea and of course the milk! Adult beverages never hurt either! And one for an ARK (act of random kindness). The group can decide on one person or place you would like to donate them to such as a nursing home or a family in need. Ask a for a volunteer to deliver them. It's all about giving.
- Have everyone bring a container to take home their cookies.
- Have a blast!
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