Holiday baking should be a pleasure. In fact, baking has been scientifically proven to reduce stress. But this is a season rife with "shoulds". You should be getting extra sleep with the shorter days. You should have finished your shopping weeks ago. You should probably decline that third cuppa egg nog. Etcetera and so on. It's also the time of year that many of us are feeling exhausted and under pressure to pull some Christmas magic out of our...imaginations. It can all feel pretty impossible. However, we have two magic words for you: Cookie. Exchange. No, really! Stay with us here...
Once upon a time, seasonal baking was magic unto itself. Emptying diminishing larders of your very best ingredients—many with magical attributes—was a calculated risk, especially as the days grew shorter and the nights longer and colder. It was a sign of faith in good things to come, a celebration of surviving the changing seasons. And we didn't prepare these foods alone. Friends, family, and neighbours worked together to make special treats for everyone in the community. THIS is why a cookie exchange makes so much sense today. No need to beat yourself up for not being able to make six different biscuits, bars and confections. Our ancestors didn't. And while you might not be baking together, you are reclaiming some of that holiday magic by coming together and sharing. It's a great way to learn about your friends' seasonal traditions and walk away with a cookie platter that tells a story.
Now, if we've sold you on the idea, let's plan a cookie exchange! This doesn't have to be complicated. You can pull it off in five easy steps:
1) Find at least five friends to commit. If you can do that, you have yourself an exchange! Try to give everyone as much notice as you can to allow for digging for old recipes and calling their mothers for advice.
2) Ask guests to make one dozen cookies for exchanging with each guest, plus another dozen for sampling. If the group deems this too much, you can play with the numbers. Even if you ask for six cookies per person, you can still expect an impressive cookie plate at the end of the day.
3) You can decide who's making what ahead of time to avoid duplicates. BUT, if two guests want to bring shortbread, who cares? Shortbreads are like snowflakes, only considerably more fattening. The idea is to be easy going and have fun. No pressure. Also, ask guests to make a display card for their contribution with an ingredient list. This way when you're pretending that you made all those cookies to future holiday guests, you'll know what you're talking/fibbing about.
4) Provide bakery boxes or ask each guest to bring an empty one for taking their cookies home. You can also hit the thrift stores for cheery, old-fashioned cookie tins.
5) Set up your space to welcome your fellow bakers. Make sure there's table space for guests to display their cookies. Brew some tea, whip up some eggnog or open the bottles of wine—whatever strikes your fancy. Put on holiday music, light some candles and prepare to welcome your favourite people and their baked goods into your home!
Not too difficult, right? Now, all you have to do is bake your cookies! Set some time aside and try to put some thought and intention into your creations. Enjoy quiet time to yourself or invite kids or partners to bake with you. And hey, if you need help with any baking supplies, we can totally help. Happy cookie swapping!