If you've ever taken an entire day to bake batches of your favorite cookies for the holidays, consider this alternative: a cookie exchange. This gathering originated sometime between 1930s to 1960s, and possibly as far back as the 1830s. Friends, mainly women, would bring batches of one type of cookie to someone's home to swap, then go home with several different kinds of cookies.
Not only has this kind of party made a comeback, but now there are myriads of resources for festive cookie tins, platters and containers to make your cookies the star of the show and heartfelt gifts from your kitchen.
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My husband and I have been very fortunate to host a cookie exchange for the last nine years. It innocently started with eight people, but has grown exponentially with spouses and children to a whopping 50-plus in attendance. Our friends will take home anywhere between 17-20 different kinds of cookies. Now I'm not suggesting anyone start this ambitiously, but here are some tips if you would like to host or are invited to an exchange:
- Send out your invitations early since the calendar fills up quickly at this time of year.
- Make sure your guests respond so you can calculate how many cookies you would like everyone to make. Six dozen (typically two batches) seems to be an average amount. It's nice to take home four to six cookies of one recipe.
- It's also nice to avoid duplicate recipes.
- Have your guests bring recipe cards to exchange.
- Make your cookies three to five days before the party. Refrigerate if needed. They will set and be easier to transport. I can't tell you how difficult it is to move soft cookies.
- The day before your party, set up platters, plates, and dishware. Gather easy snacks and drinks for your guests, too.
If you don't have time to bake, take a spin over to Papagalino Bakery & Cafe on Milwaukee Avenue. They opened in 1998 and offer an assortment of cakes, cookies and traditional Greek pastries and desserts. There is no lack for honey, nuts or fruit on their sweets. You can also enjoy these desserts and more at their cafe next door.
The morning I visited, groups of regulars were busy chatting in the cafe and the bakery was so filled with that warm, sugary, just-baked-some-goodies aroma that you could almost taste the baklava. While I opted not to bring home some cookies, the individually sliced cakes caught my son's eye. So we tasted their Tres Leches (three milk) cake and brought home a slice of baklava. The creaminess of the cake was balanced with a half-sliced strawberry, though, it was still quite decadent. The flaky, golden brown baklava would satisfy any sweet tooth with its rich syrupy glaze. I may just have to go back and order some pastries for my cookie exchange party!
Local places where you can stock up on baking supplies include:
- Dominicks at Dempster Street and Waukegan Road, Morton Grove
- Super Tony's, Ballard and Greenwood Roads, Niles
- Jewel, Oakton and Lee Streets, Des Plaines