A Cookie For You, A Cookie For Me

How to host the perfect holiday cookie exchange.

Story and Photography by Kerry Guice

Cookie Swap
 

’Tis the season for holiday parties! Whatever the setting, a cookie exchange theme is always a hit. All you have to do is bake a big batch of one kind of your favorite cookies and bring enough for partygoers to take a taste of your recipe home. Don’t forget to bring bags or boxes! What a great way to sample different recipes, and if the participants are nice enough, they’ll let you steal their recipes as well as their cookies! I have four great recipes to share. They are fun twists on classics.

I grew up on snickerdoodles. My mom’s recipe card is faded, stained, tattered and torn. Aren’t those the best recipes? It’s unfortunate that everything is digital now. How will we know which recipes get used over and over again without butter stains on paper? Sure, there are ratings, but the best gauge is knowing how often your own mother made them. Snickerdoodles are chewy and buttery, with a slight spice from the cinnamon sugar. I think the reason this recipe stands out in my mind is that my job as a kid every single year was to roll the cookie dough balls in the cinnamon sugar mix. Being a part of the cooking process changes “a good time” into a memory that will stick around for the rest of our lives. Drag that stool into the kitchen and let your kids be the big helpers. No one will regret it.

Peanut butter cookies are another classic. To make it my own, I added freeze-dried berries to the batter to make them taste like PB&J cookies! Fresh berries would add too much moisture to the batter, so try to find freeze-dried berries if you can. You can find them in most health food aisles or health food stores. Strawberries or raspberries taste the best.

Peppermint popcorn cookies may not be a recipe your grandmother made, but it’s a fun twist on the traditional chocolate chip cookie. The base is similar, yet you add popcorn, white chocolate chips and chopped candy canes! I guarantee these will be a major hit with the kids, and they taste so festive! They’re thin, chewy and full of peppermint flavor. You can’t make them only once!

Everyone has made a sugar cookie recipe before, but you need to remember and write down this recipe that I’ve adapted from The Kitchn Blog. I can’t count how many times I’ve made this recipe, and I can’t count how many times I get compliments on the cookies. I can’t teach you how to decorate them like an artist, but I’ll bet your child can!

It’s such a paradox to feel stressed out while trying to enjoy the holiday season. My advice is to make your favorite batch of cookies, invite some friends to make a batch of their favorite cookies, and then meet together with some hot chocolate (Bailey’s optional!), and enjoy the holiday season for what it’s really good for: enjoying the company of the people you love (and eating cookies)! Happy holidays!

Peppermint Popcorn

PEPPERMINT POPCORN COOKIES
Makes about 2 dozen
Adapted from Deb Perelman’s Popcorn Cookie recipe

1 stick butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups popped popcorn
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup crushed candy canes or peppermints

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and sugars for a few minutes until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt, then add to wet mixture slowly, until just combined. By hand, fold in popcorn, crushed candy canes and white chocolate chips (popcorn will seem like too much, but it will be crushed and will blend in eventually). Drop by spoonfuls onto lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or just until edges start browning. Let cool before storing.

PBJ Cookies

PB&J COOKIES
Makes about 18

1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup freeze-dried berries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine all ingredients. Drop by spoonful onto lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool before storing.

Sugar Cookies

SUGAR COOKIE SHAPES
Makes 2-3 dozen
Adapted from thekitchn.com

2 sticks softened butter
2 ounces softened cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt

Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and almond extracts along with the orange zest. Slowly incorporate the flour, baking powder and salt until dough forms. Roll into 2 equal discs, cover with plastic wrap and store in freezer for one hour. On floured surface, roll out to .-inch thick, then cut with festive cookie cutters. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 8-12 minutes depending on size. Don’t wait until the edges of the cookies are browned—check the bottom of the cookie. Take out of the oven when the bottoms start to brown. The tops should stay light. Let cool completely before frosting.

Snickerdoodle Cookies

CLASSIC SNICKERDOODLES
Makes about 3 dozen

2 sticks softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda

CINNAMON SUGAR

1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and almond extracts, and egg. In another bowl, sift together the flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda. Slowly incorporate the dry into the wet ingredients. Let chill in refrigerator at least one hour. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough into balls (about 2 teaspoons each) then roll in cinnamon sugar mixture to coat. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Let sit on cookie sheet a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.