I’ve never been to a cookie exchange before, so when my friend Heather invited me to hers last weekend I was excited to share an afternoon in her home with friends.
But what would I make? The only rules were that it be something Christmas-themed and that I share with family and friends this time of year. I love to bake during the Christmas season and present friends and neighbors with a few treats that have become favorites in my home. Throughout the years, my annual baking selections have varied, but have traditionally included chocolate dipped pretzels sprinkled with peppermint, coconut bon bons and, of course, fantasy fudge that is whipped up with marshmallow fluff and chopped walnuts.
Another cookie that has become a favorite throughout the years is biscotti. A cookie that is double baked for a crunchy texture, biscotti is perfect for dipping in your morning coffee or hot cocoa. My husband’s beloved Grandma Jane (who passed from this life last year) waited each Christmas for a batch of my biscotti. And whether it was Double Chocolate Chunk or Chai Chocolate Chip, she coveted her stash that I neatly packaged and sent with love. She had biscotti with breakfast with her coffee and more for treats throughout the day. And if you visited her home and tried to sneak one, you were quickly reminded that she wasn’t about to share!
With the hint of tea and spicy undertones from cinnamon and allspice, the Chai Chocolate Chip biscotti is a wonderful treat to serve with black spice chai tea. So for the cookie exchange, I brewed up a pot of the tea used in the cookies and presented it with the cookies. (My presentation ended up winning me the Best Presentation Award!)
Chai Chocolate Chip Biscotti
2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 cup strong brewed chai tea, room temperature
1 egg white
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk the tea, egg, egg white, milk and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until combined. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips. Divide dough in half. Wrap each portion in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
On a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, shape each half into a 10-by-2-inch rectangle. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Place pans on wire racks. When cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board; cut diagonally with a serrated knife into 3/4-inch slices. Place cut side down on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake for 6 to 9 minutes on each side or until firm. Remove to wire racks. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 2-1/2 dozen.
A cookie exchange is an easy way to get your holiday baking done and share in other recipes you might not have tried. At last weekend’ exchange, there was seven different recipes that all presented a unique taste and fun holiday presentation. Above, from top left moving clockwise: Chocolate Coconut Macaroons, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, Mint Double Chocolate Chip Cookies, Peanut Butter Kissy Cookies, Orange Dreams, Santa’s Whiskers. 2011 Cookie Exchange Recipes
If you want to host your own cookie exchange, here is a simple description, courtesy Heather.
- The cookie exchange can be open for 10 to 12 people.
- Email your host the cookie recipe you plan to make. No duplicate recipes allowed. The host will compile all the recipes and have them ready to share with everyone.
- Exchange half-dozens for each person attending, unless you really want to make full dozens. Bring one extra dozen for the taster dozen.
- All cookies should be homemade and baked.
- No plain chocolate chip cookies, cookie mixes or meringues.
- Cookies should be Christmas/holiday themed, something you should traditional share with your family this time of year.
- Bring your own platter to display your cookies, and your own container to carry away your cookies.
- Award prizes for the Best Tasting Cookie and Best Cookie Presentation.