There’s still time to organize a Christmas cookie exchange. Each participant bakes a different cookie and the group gets together to “exchange” their cookies, so that each participant goes home with a variety for the holidays.
FoodTimeline.org researched old newspapers and found that cookie exchanges (a.k.a. cookie swaps, cookie trades and cooky exchanges) first surfaced during World War I; the earliest reference is 1917. The first ones were not necessarily connected with Christmas, and may have been fundraising bake sales rather than cookie-for-cookie exchanges (an example, notes librarian Lynne Olver, of how some words and phrases mean different things in different times).
By the 1950s, cookie swaps became associated with Christmas parties. By 1960, newspaper reports confirm that cookie swaps were trending. Here’s an item on a “swap party” from the Los Angeles Times of November 27, 1960:
Your cookies don’t have to be this fancy; but those Santas deserve “best of show.” Photo courtesy WisDairy.com.
“Our Food Editor spots a rising trend. From coast to coast, cooks are trading cookies and recipes to make gift boxes for Christmas….It provides a glamorous array of cookies for gifting, plus a hatful of leisure hours to enjoy in the last mad holiday rush. This year club groups, neighbors, or again, just a few friends, are trading cookies and recipes and gift-pack ideas. Mrs. Robert Blanch of Minneapolis has held a cookie trade party for her bridge club three years in a row. ‘The November meeting,’ she writes, ‘is given to the planning. Swap day is held late in December. Each member bakes one kind of cookie, one dozen for each of the eight members participating….’ ”
According to Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book of 1963 (now Betty Crocker The Big Boook Of Cookies):
“A popular once-a-year party is the Christmas cooky swap party. Friends and neighbors gather, each bringing one dozen of her holiday specialty for each woman at the party. Cookies are set out to sample and admire and coffee is served. Afterward each one takes home a wonderful variety of festive cookies.”
The Wellesley Cookie Exchange in Massachusetts became famous after publishing “The Wellesley Cookie Exchange Cookbook” in 1986—some 200 recipes including Butter Horns, Lemon Snowballs, Melting Moments, Pecan Tartlets and Snowflake Cheese Tarts. A buffet lunch or dinner is served before the official exchanging begins. Each member arrives with three dozen cookies to share and an empty container to take home all of the swapped cookies. The crowd is called to order by ringing a bell. Then each person passes her cookies around for all to sample. By the end of the exchange, each participant has assembled a container full of assorted cookies and heard plenty of humorous stories: “…who left out what, or how the name of the cookies was changed because they were supposed to be fingers and they looked like blobs,” said one hostess, who always bakes an extra batch in case someone had a disaster and had no cookies to bring.
Although some people make the same cookies each year—traditional favorites such as gingerbread men or candy cane-shaped cookies—others try a different recipe each year. While some participants go all out and try recipes that would challenge a professional pastry chef, the atmosphere is more friendly than competitive. And not everybody makes a fancy recipe; brownies are fine. No matter what, there’s a wonderful assortment to take home.
Peppermint Butter Cookies. Photo courtesy
We’re one of those folks who look forward to the holiday season for the candy canes. We bake our favorite double chocolate cookie recipe (a chocolate cookie with chocolate chips) and add crushed peppermint canes. Sometimes, for added texture, we toss in some mint flavored chips.
The following Christmas cookie recipe was shared by the blog Taste and Tell with GoBoldWith Butter.com, you can substitute crushed round peppermint candies.
RECIPE: PEPPERMINT BUTTER COOKIES
Ingredients For 4-5 Dozen Cookies
For The Cookies
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1-1/2 cups sour cream
For The Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
4 cups powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons heavy cream
Crushed candy canes, for decoration
1. WHISK together in a medium bowl the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
2. BEAT butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, scraping between each addition. Add peppermint extract and sour cream, and mix well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating just until combined.
3. Divide dough in half and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or overnight.
4. PREHEAT oven to 425°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
5. LIGHTLY FLOUR a work surface. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Dough will be a little sticky, so use flour as needed to avoid sticking. Use a 2 to 2-1/2 inch round cookie cutter to cut out circles and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies until just set and still pale, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack or a piece of waxed paper to cool completely before frosting.
6. MAKE frosting. In a large bowl, beat butter until soft and fluffy. Add peppermint extract. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beat until combined completely. Add salt and cream and beat until light and fluffy.
7. FROST each cookie and then dip into crushed candy canes.
Find more of our favorite cookie recipes.