El Segundo Eats: Holiday Cookie Exchange

Eat (cookies), drink, and be merry this holiday season.

By Jenifer Antonelli

As a kid, I loved the holidays because I knew there would always be a delicious assortment of holiday cookies and candies around to nibble on. My grandmother would make homemade fudge, buckeyes, oatmeal raisin cookies, melting moments, chocolate-chip cookies, peanut-butter blossoms, and snowball cookies for everyone—and bourbon balls for the adults. If you don’t have time to bake so many different types of cookies for your holiday gatherings, you’re in very good company! One delicious solution is to host a holiday cookie exchange. Here’s how it works: You invite up to ten of your friends, who like to bake, to the party. Come up with some simple rules for the event—maybe cookies must be homemade from scratch, and each guest should plan to bake a dozen cookies for each attendee, for example—and communicate these rules to your guests. Ask your friends to let you know what type of cookie they plan to bring so you can ensure there are no duplicates, and have them e-mail you their recipes ahead of time, so you can prepare a master list to print or email to all of your guests after the cookie swap is over. This way, they can make more of their favorites whenever they get the chance!  

A cookie exchange is also a great excuse to get people together to catch up in the midst of the holiday madness, so why not serve some refreshments and make a full-on celebration out of it? On the day of the swap, be sure to clear off a large table so there is space for everyone to display and share their cookies during the event. Don’t forget to remind your guests to bring containers so that they may easily take their holiday goodies home. Everyone leaves the party with a delicious assortment of treats and new recipes to add to their repertoire.  

For tasty inspiration, here are a few of my favorite holiday cookie recipes. Each makes three dozen cookies. I have a stand mixer, so I use it with my paddle attachment for cookie-making, but preparing the dough by hand in a large bowl works, too. Happy baking and exchanging!

Holiday Oatmeal Cookies (pictured above)

4 oz. unsalted butter, softened

1 c. light brown sugar (packed)

1 large egg

1 Tbsp. whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. all-purpose flour

½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. kosher salt

1 c. instant oatmeal

1 c. shredded unsweetened    coconut

1 c. dried cranberries (or raisins)

1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 c. chopped hazelnuts (or    walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and brown sugar. Mix in the egg, milk, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add the dry mixture into the wet ingredients and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.

Add the oatmeal and coconut, then mix until well-combined. Fold in the cranberries, chocolate chips, and hazelnuts. The batter will be very dense and sticky.

Scoop walnut-sized balls of cookie dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake approximately 10 minutes, or until the cookie bottoms are golden brown.

Allow the cookies to cool and set on the baking sheets after being removed from the oven for at least 10 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Snowball Cookies

8 oz. unsalted butter, softened

1/2 c. sugar

3 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. almond flour or finely chopped almonds

1 c. powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add in the vanilla. Mix in the all-purpose and almond flours until the dough holds together.  

Shape into walnut-sized balls and place one inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake about 15 minutes until the cookies are very lightly browned.

Transfer to wire racks to cool. Once cooled slightly (about 10 minutes), roll the cookies in powdered sugar. Once completely cool, roll them again in powdered sugar. 

Peanut Butter Blossoms

4 oz. unsalted butter, softened

1/3 c. sugar, plus more for rolling cookies

1/2 c. brown sugar (packed)

3/4 c. smooth peanut butter

2 Tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 egg

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

36 Hershey’s Kisses-brand chocolates (or similar), unwrapped 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars. Next, add in the peanut butter, milk, vanilla, and egg, and continue continue mixing until well blended.  

Add in the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix until a dough forms. Shape dough into walnut-sized balls, then roll in sugar to coat. Place two inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake about 12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

While the cookies are still hot, press a chocolate candy in the center of each one. The cookies will crack slightly. Let the cookies set and cool on the baking sheets. 

Jenifer Antonelli is the owner of Vino and Viand Personal Chef Services.

@vinoandviand on Facebook and Instagram.  

This story appears in the December 2019 issue of The El Segundo Scene.

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