If you want to do something new with your holiday baking routine, consider organizing a cookie swap party. A cookie swap is essentially where each person involved makes a batch of cookies (or 2) and shares them with everyone else. In a cookie swap, each person that participates walks away with a selection of cookies from each of the other participants. Although the number of cookies given varies depending on the nature and size of the cookie, it is generally around 4-6 cookies per participant. So, if you have 10 people participating, each person should prepare around 40-60 cookies and will walk away with the same.
Cookie swaps can be organized among friends, fellow congregants at shul, co-workers, or even with people who live far away from eachother. The actual swap activity can be a party or just a gathering in the lunch room, or mailed as in the case of a mail-order cookie swap. The format can vary depending on which aspect of the swap you love the most. Whichever format you choose, here are the basic steps to consider.
PLAN IT OUT
The first thing you will want to do is determine the who, what, where, when and how of the whole event.
- Who: Who do you plan on inviting? Consider whether these people love to bake or whether they have some issue that may make participating difficult or stressful (like if they are gluten free or dieting). Do these people know each other and would they enjoy attending the swap together or are they from diverse social circles? When considering who you want to invite, also consider how many cookies they will have to bake to participate. Like I said above 10-15 is usually not too onerous.
- When: A Hanukkah cookie swap can be conducted before or during the chag. Be sure to plan wisely when considering other events on your calendar and likely on others’.
- Where & How: Where will the actual swap be conducted? Is it a party and if so, are children allowed? If it is in your office or shul, be sure to ask about how to get permission for the space.
At this point, it is useful to jot down some notes. Create checklists for the most immediate elements.
INVITATIONS & INSTRUCTIONS
Here is the part where you formally invite people to participate. If you are crafty you can make a cute card or you can just email out the logistics to everyone. Again, do what’s right for you but the most important thing is to get real RSVPs to solidify who will participate. Don’t settle for a wishy-washy “maybe that sounds fun” type of responses. Be sure to include the following in your invitation:
- When and where the swap will take place
- RSVP deadline
- Number of cookies to prepare
- Homemade vs store-bought
- Whether children are allowed at the swap
- Recipe submission process (this is if you are collecting the recipes to be handed out at the swap)
- Kashrut and other food requirements (kosher only, no nuts, etc.)
Be sure to do this part early and gather your committed participants several weeks before the event. You don’t want to spring this on anyone a couple of days beforehand. You may also want to check-in with your invitees couple of weeks in to make sure you aren’t going to get 6 different rugelach recipes!
PREPARE FOR THE PARTY
This part of the swap is just like any party planning. If the swap is at your home or office and it is a get together in it’s own right, be sure of have other food on offer other than the cookies. Here are some things you won’t want to forget:
- All the typical party prep (food, drink, etc.)
- Empty platters for people’s cookies to be displayed
- Take away boxes for the cookies that are to be distributed
- Recipe print outs (if you are doing that)
- Children’s activities (if necessary)
Remember the whole point of the swap is that the participants take home cookies, so be sure people collect their cookies and don’t just nosh on them during the event until there is nothing left!
A cookie swap is a great way to theme a party AND walk away with new ideas for holiday baking. Whichever way to plan it, it is a great time to get together and celebrate the chag.