Cookie Parties

Cookie Parties Are No Longer Invitation Only

Christmas is almost here. Have you baked cookies yet? With all the tasks people juggle these days, it's hard to find the time. Don't feel like you're letting everyone down if you don't have the time to do as much as you did in past years. Instead, simplify the process and have fun at the same time. How? Have a Cookie Party!

When I was a senior in high school, I decided to celebrate putting end-of-semester finals behind me by giving a cookie party. With the stress of tests over and the fun of the holidays with family, friends, and boyfriends to look forward to, it was time to party. I invited seven of my closest friends (girls only – our boyfriends would have eaten all the cookies).

If you've never had the good fortune to attend a cookie party (also called a cookie exchange), here's how to get started. Pick out your favorite cookie and bake a batch. Most will yield at least several dozen. A bar or sandwich-style cookie might make less. In that case, make two batches. Look at your recipe's yield versus the number of guests to estimate how many cookies to make. I didn't have to choose; I knew which cookie my friends would want me to make (the recipe follows later). Doing some quick math, I figured that with a yield of 4 dozen – minus a few for tasting – my friends would get at least 5 cookies each to take home.

Once you decide on the date and time, get the word out ASAP. Call or e-mail invitees and include these details:

  • Date, time, and place
  • Approximate number of cookies to bring
  • Empty boxes or tins to take cookies home in
  • A note card with the name of their cookie, and a copy of the recipe for each person attending the party so no one will have to ask for the recipe later.

Use a folding table or your dining room table to display the cookies. Make it festive with a Christmas tablecloth (buy a paper one if necessary). I used my mom's clear glass bowl filled with Christmas ornaments to make a pretty centerpiece. You don't have to spend a lot of money. Brainstorm. Use what you have around the house.

To minimize cleanup later, I used disposable plates, plastic drinking glasses, and napkins. Have several different kinds of soft drinks in the fridge. You can help set the mood by playing Christmas music – not too loudly – in the background.

As your guests arrive, arrange their plates or tins of cookies on the table. Put the note card identifying each kind of cookie and the copies of the recipe next to each one. When all of the cookies (and their bakers) are present, have each guest take one of each cookie.

This is the time to relax and enjoy yourself – sample delicious cookies, laugh, talk, and give (and receive) compliments on each person's contribution. Each of us made our specialty. Linda made gingerbread men. As a special surprise, she made seven women, decorated with store-bought colored frostings to resemble each of us (mine had long dark hair and glasses). Cathy made thumbprint cookies with a dollop of seedless raspberry jam on top (recipe follows). My contribution was a favorite (I'd brought some to a sleepover and they were a big hit.). It was a wonderful evening topped off with a haul of homemade cookies.

When it's cookie-sharing time, have extra paper plates, aluminum foil, and plastic wrap on hand in case someone needs another container. I loved having copies of each recipe. Even if you don't make each one, they'll remind you of a special time spent with your friends. And who knows – you may have discovered a new cookie to add to your cookie-baking session next year!

Unfortunately, the passing of time and three changes of residence have caused my friends' recipes to go missing – only temporarily, I hope. I've found one that comes as close as possible to Cathy's cookies, but there was one ingredient missing from the new recipe that I couldn't find a substitute for: Good friends.

Thumbprint Cookies

These are easy to make and add some Christmas color to your cookie tray.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup seedless red raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter, brown sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla extract until light and creamy, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. At low speed, add flour and salt. Mix just until the ingredients are evenly moistened. With your hand, press the dough together to form a ball.

Using a fork, beat the egg white lightly in a small bowl. Spread the pecans on a sheet of waxed paper. Shape the dough by rounded teaspoons into 1-inch balls. Dip them in the egg white, turning to cover, then roll in the pecans. Gently press the nuts onto the dough balls. Place them 1 inch apart on a large, ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 5 minutes.

Working quickly, remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Using the end of a wooden spoon handle, make a small indentation in the center of each ball. Return the cookies to the oven and bake 8 minutes more or until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Let the cookie sheet cool before repeating with remaining cookie balls to prevent the dough spreading too much.

When cookies are cool, fill each indentation with a rounded 1/4 teaspoon of raspberry jam. If not serving immediately, allow jam to set, then store cookies, with waxed paper between layers, in a tightly covered container for up to 1 week. Makes about 3-1/2 dozen cookies.

Lemon Sugar Cookies

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Additional granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F and grease baking sheets.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, beat the sugar and shortening until fluffy; beat in the eggs. Stir in the dry ingredients and then the lemon juice, mixing well.

Drop onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between each cookie. Sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

"Please-ing" Chocolate Chip Pecan Bars

Whenever we gathered at a girl's house, someone was sure to ask, "Please, Lori, bring some of your cookies." Make cleanup easy by lining the pan with aluminum foil.

  • 2-1/4 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12 ounce package) semi-sweet chocolate chips (see Note)
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 15x10-inch jellyroll pan or line with foil.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Beat the butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in a large mixer bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and chopped pecans.

Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars. These taste great at room temperature, but they are best when you pop them in the microwave just long enough to make the chocolate chips gooey. Makes 4 dozen bars.

Note: You can use chocolate chunks in this recipe, if you prefer. When substituting chunks, use 1-3/4 cups (one 11.5 ounce package).

I wish you all Happy Holidays, a Healthy, Happy New Year, and lots of cookies to enjoy. And don't forget to leave some out for Santa!