‘Tis the week after Thanksgiving and holiday baking is officially in season. As we gear up for all the hoopla and fa la la la la-ing, who has time to bake cookies?
You can kill two partridges with one pear tree and share the cookie duties with friends by hosting a cookie exchange party. You’ll all save money and time, get a great variety of cookies and have a low-effort, high-return holiday gathering.
Here’s ho, ho how:
Your invitation should state clearly that you are having a cookie exchange and that each guest is expected to arrive with cookies and that they will be taking cookies home. Each person bakes and brings the same number of one kind of cookie to share. I find that if everyone brings four dozen cookies, that works nicely.
Ask each guest to bring one dozen on a plate to enjoy at the party and three dozen to divide and send home. This way, no matter how many people attend, everyone goes home with three dozen cookies and a sugar coma.
Ask each invitee to let you know what cookie they plan to bring. This avoids duplications — and a potential showdown throwdown, or is that just my friends?. Ask them to print the recipe to share, noting any common allergens, and put their name on it in case there are questions.
Serve an assortment of beverages: coffee, tea, cocoa and, of course, ice cold milk. It’s also important to offer a contrast to all the sweet with a light meal, like soup and sandwich, and some savory snacks.
If you’re expecting children at the party, set up a cookie decorating station with sugar cookies, icing and sprinkles and have a holiday movie ready to keep the little ones occupied. Prepare a kid-friendly, protein-rich snack like chicken nuggets to minimize the sugar meltdowns.
Once all your guests have arrived, you’ll have a head count. Set out that number of plates and divide each bag of three dozen among the plates. For example, if you have 12 guests, you will have three of each type of each cookie on each plate. Wrap your plates in plastic wrap and be sure each guest leaves with one at the end of your frugal and fabulous party.
In honor of the crazy busiest, oops, I mean holly jolliest season, here’s the easiest buttery shortbread cookie recipe — ever. Only three ingredients. Now you can cross cookies off your to-do list, keep calm and merry on.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (I know! It’s the holidays!)
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, with hand mixer, or a wooden spoon and brute strength, cream together butter and sugar. Gradually add flour and continue to mix until mixture forms a soft dough. Form dough into a ball with your hands. If you mix by hand, you deserve an extra cookie.
If you’re making round cookies, you can take walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll them into balls, then flatten slightly. Place them on the baking sheet 3 inches apart, as the cookies will spread.
If you want to roll and cut out cookies, refrigerate dough for 1 hour to firm up. Roll dough 1/4-inch thick on a surface dusted with flour. Cut into desired shape and place on prepared baking sheets.
Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until cookies are light golden brown. Let cool on baking sheets at least 10 minutes before moving them.