While I love the holiday season, December is always the busiest month of the year. I really enjoy going to cookie swaps, but they require time and preparation, often when I don’t have much spare time.
Then I face a dilemma. Do I add the stress of baking cookies to my schedule so I can enjoy the cookie swap, or do I just get overwhelmed and decline to attend? Usually, I try my best to make it, but I rely on some time-saving tricks to help me make the most of my time.
Often, I don’t have time to bake cookies right before a swap. What I do instead is to make up batches of cookie dough ahead of time and then freeze them.
Actually, I usually bake some of the cookies for my kids to eat right away and freeze the rest of the dough. It’s helpful to make double batches!
To freeze the dough, I scoop balls of dough onto a cookie sheet lined with a silicone mat and put it in the freezer. Once the dough is frozen, you can pop the cookies into bags and they won’t stick together. When you’re ready for fresh cookies, you can bake them directly. I try to keep some frozen cookie dough in my freezer at all times in case I *need* baked goods at the last moment.
You can also fully prepare cookies and then freeze them. Bake them as usual and then make sure to let them cool completely. With baked cookies, I usually freeze them in containers with parchment paper separating the layers so they don’t stick together. To thaw them, you just let them sit out at room temperature. Easy peasy!
Combine store-bought items with homemade touches
Not everyone has the time or inclination to whip up homemade cookies for a swap. That’s okay. When I’m running short on time, I use a boxed brownie mix and just throw in a bunch of chocolate chips. Everyone loves them!
You can buy boxed or refrigerated cookie dough from the store and add some decorative touches at the end. I like to add festive sprinkles or a dusting of sanding sugar. It saves time but still looks beautiful. Dipping store-bought cookies in chocolate makes them extra special. If you’re really busy, just buy something from a bakery! Your friends would rather have you at the party than miss you because you were too busy to bake.
You don’t have to bake
If you hate baking, or your oven is not working, there are plenty of cookies you can still make. My family always made cornflake wreath cookies every year. They are festive and come together quickly! My daughter loves edible cookie dough, which can be made festive with sprinkles or candies mixed in. Just make sure to follow a recipe that doesn’t use eggs and heat-treats the flour. While it’s technically not a cookie, you can also make peppermint bark. Classic Rice Krispy treats are always an option. You can dress them up with sprinkles or candies to make them look festive.
Bring empty containers
Make your life (and your cookie swaps) easier by bringing empty containers. I like to bring the plastic type with lids that stack together to save some space. That way, I can easily bring more containers than I think I will need. You don’t know how large the other treats will be, or if someone will come unprepared, so it’s nice to have more than one container!
Also, bring a big bag to keep the containers together so they are easier to carry out to your car. If you box up your cookies at the swap, you won’t need to do anything with them when you get home. Plop the container of cookies on the counter, or, if you have too many cookies to eat right away, you can freeze a container.
Most of all, remember to have fun and eat lots of cookies! Aren’t holiday cookie swaps the best?!?
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