'Tis the season to adorn your house with holiday lights, check off all the gifts for everyone on your list, and most importantly, decide what types of cookies to make for your annual cookie swap. These events are a great way to share your baking creations with others, and to taste a whole lot of cookies from different bakers. Plus, you get to enjoy eating diverse cookies without having to bake 10 different varieties!
We've curated a list of some of our favorite cookies to bring to cookie swaps. We've included some of the classics, from Italian almond cookies to plain sugar cookies to more elaborate recipes that are bound to make your cookies the talk of the swap. In creating this selection, we've also managed to select cookies suited for every level of baker, whether you're a kitchen novice or a bakery-level pro. Try one (or more) of them out this holiday season!
Read more: 30 Types Of Cake, Explained
Classic Peanut Butter Cookies
Peanut butter cookies are a classic, easy-to-make recipe that the whole family will love. Unlike other cookie recipes with elaborate decorations, these cookies have a straightforward recipe and require very few ingredients — primarily just peanut butter, flour, sugar, butter, and an egg. Just don't forget the double fork accent on top, which can be easily achieved if you coat the fork's tines in sugar before pressing the dough. We recommend dipping these cookies in a cold glass of milk.
Recipe: Classic Peanut Butter Cookies
Easy Christmas Shortbread Cookies
Shortbread is deceptively easy to make, but doing so with a soft texture is easier said than done. To get the perfect consistency, avoid over-mixing your batter. You'll also want to prick the dough with a fork to prevent it from rising up in the oven as it bakes.
These colorful shortbread cookies can be made ahead of time to freeze before your swap — no need to worry about them icing over. These bars will stay fresh for up to a month in the freezer, or a week on your counter.
Italian Rainbow Cookies
No cookie swap is complete without the Italian rainbow cookie. This triple-layer sweet features an almond-cake base interlaced with raspberry jam and a melted chocolate top. And the best part about these cookies is that you can use the same batter for all of them; just divide it into a trio of bowls and add your green and red dye to a couple of them. We recommend using a kitchen scale to ensure that your batter is evenly split into thirds, as the goal is for each layer to be completely symmetrical.
Recipe: Italian Rainbow Cookies
Classic Snowball Cookies
Nothing gets us into the spirit of the season quite like a snowball cookie. Although these don't really resemble standard cookies because they are rolled into balls and popped on a tray, they are a powdered-sugar-covered essential for holiday events. The trick to getting the signature coating is to roll the dough as it's still warm, which will lock in the powdered sugar and ensure it stays on the cookie — and your fingers, of course.
Recipe: Classic Snowball Cookies
Cream Cheese Christmas Cookies
Who knew that cream cheese was the secret to great cookies? This ingredient is full of fat, which will keep your cookies moist without making them too greasy. It will also extend the shelf life of the cookie for up to 10 days after baking. It's a score for leftover-cookie lovers, or for people who seek the taste of a traditional sugar cookie with a little bit of a softer bite to it.
Recipe: Cream Cheese Christmas Cookies
Reindeer Sugar Cookies
Somebody has to bring the aesthetically impressive cookies to the swap this year — and it can be you! These reindeer cookies are shaped with a cutter and accented with white chocolate antlers. The key to making this recipe is to ensure that the base cookies have enough time to cool before you dip them into the chocolate meringue-powder icing, and to wait again before piping on the antlers. This will create the smoothest finish, and have your cookie-swap guests in awe of your decorating skills.
Recipe: Reindeer Sugar Cookies
Molasses Gingersnap Cookies
At first glance, these molasses gingersnap cookies may seem like they're the plain Jane of the cookie world. But there's nothing wrong with tradition, especially a well-done tradition. Plus, the granulated sugar coating that accents the dough will create the perfect crispy outside and soft, spicy inside. We recommend adding a blend of cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves to these cookies and serving them with a warm chai latte.
Recipe: Molasses Gingersnap Cookies
Mexican Sugar Cookies
This recipe is bound to spread joy during the holiday season. The simple sugar-cookie dough is relatively foolproof to make, and only a few bottles of food coloring will make the magic happen. We recommend mixing the dough by hand to spread the color evenly, or use a sturdy mixing spoon if you're not a fan of tie-dyed fingers. Once the cookies are baked, you should also plan to leave them on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes to crisp up the bottoms before moving the cookies to a wire rack.
Recipe: Mexican Sugar Cookies
Christmas Wreath Cookies
These "cookies" are a bit of a misnomer, but they should definitely receive an invite to your cookie swap this year. Instead of baking a traditional cookie batter, combine cornflakes with melted mini marshmallows to make an upgraded take on a Rice Krispies treat. Once the mixture is dyed, you can assemble it into rings and accent it with festive red candies. You'll have these treats ready for your swap in under a few hours!
Recipe: Christmas Wreath Cookies
Our favorite Christmas cookie? Undoubtedly a snickerdoodle. Not only is the name of this classic cookie so fun to say, but it also inspires so many nostalgic memories. Plus, it's pretty fun to say.
The key to this snickerdoodle recipe is using more brown sugar than white sugar to give each cookie the proper chewiness. Our recipe also calls for coating the cookies in cinnamon sugar twice, both before and after baking, for a stunning visual effect and unmistakable flavor.
Recipe: Traditional Snickerdoodles
Buttery Sugar Cookies
Everyone should know how to make a batch of basic sugar cookies, since you can decorate them with sprinkles or icing of any color to make them festive. The icing for these cookies is made with simple ingredients — powdered sugar, water, and food coloring — so it's easily spooned on top of your cooled cookies. Once your icing has hardened, you can decorate these cookies to your heart's (and stomach's) content.
Recipe: Buttery Sugar Cookies
Simple Cranberry Pistachio Cookies
These cookies are perfect for a cup of afternoon tea, or for folks with refined palates at your cookie swap. The base is a simple shortbread cookie interlaced with pieces of dried cranberry and chopped pistachios. Every bite is filled with a balance of flavors and can be easily upgraded with other additions like dried apricots, walnuts, or chocolate chips. You can also make the dough ahead of time and freeze it in a log, and bake the cookies from frozen when you get hungry.
Ricciarelli (Tuscan Almond Cookies)
No cookie swap is complete without a selection of fine Italian cookies, like these ricciarelli. It's said that these cookies were originally eaten by only the wealthiest Tuscans back when the price of almond paste made it a luxury. But now that this product is available at almost any major grocery store, baking these nutty cookies is easy and relatively inexpensive. Beyond the almond flavor, you'll get pleasant mild notes of orange thanks to a hefty addition of its zest in the bowl.
Besides classic chocolate chip cookies, everyone should know how to make a great plate of pecan sandies. These shortbread-variant cookies are infused with pieces of pecans and a dusting of powdered sugar added after baking. They're a relatively easy cookie for novice bakers to master, and they taste great with a morning cup of coffee. Pecan sandies also have a relatively long shelf life on the counter before they start to get stale, so you can dig in well after your cookie swap has concluded.
Recipe: Pecan Sandies
Cannoli Thumbprint Cookies
Jam thumbprints might be a traditional cookie swap offering, but this recipe gives tradition an upgrade with help from an Italian favorite. The filling for the center of the cookies is made with ricotta, cream cheese, and powdered sugar, so it has the same texture and flavors as a cannoli. Accent your cookies with a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips, and you'll be on your way to having the most innovative cookies at the swap.
Recipe: Cannoli Thumbprint Cookies
Red Velvet Cookies
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas with these brightly-colored cookies. Not only are these cookies soft and plush like a slice of red velvet cake, but they're also studded with white chocolate chips (which can be switched out for other chips) for a sweet bite. Like many cookie varieties, we recommend leaving them on the hot baking sheet for about 15 minutes after removing them from the over to get the bottoms firm and the tops soft.
Recipe: Red Velvet Cookies
Best Cowboy Cookies
Cowboy cookies are the rustic treats that every swap needs. These cookies have more texture than the ones often served at a cookie swap, because they include additions like chopped nuts, oats, and shredded coconut — and with that much fiber, it's a cookie you can feel good about eating.
These cookies are perfect for keeping in the freezer. You can simply freeze the dough raw, or pop the cookies in your freezer after they've cooled on a wire rack.
Recipe: Best Cowboy Cookies
White Chocolate Raspberry Cookies
Jam thumbprints aren't the only way to introduce fruity flavor into cookies. This white chocolate raspberry cookie recipe gets its sweet taste from a combination of fresh and freeze-dried raspberries, which imparts a floral, fruity flavor without making the cookie too dense or causing it to bleed. If you're prepping the dough ahead of time, avoid mixing in the raspberries until you're just about to start baking to prevent the batter from becoming too loose and wet.
Chocolate Bourbon Cherry Cookies
Cookie swaps aren't just for the kids. These cookies are flavored with dried cherries soaked in liquor, which imparts a boozy flair without making the cookies too wet. You should plan to microwave your dried fruit in the bourbon to speed up the absorption process and ensure that your cherries are plump and prime for baking. Although the batter has cocoa powder already, you can also add in your favorite dark chocolate chunks to boost the cookies even more.
Recipe: Chocolate Bourbon Cherry Cookies
Best Meringue Cookies
Meringue cookies might just be the easiest recipe you can make. The batter is made with only four ingredients: fresh egg whites, vanilla extract, granulated sugar, and cream of tartar to help stabilize the foam. You should also allocate about three hours total to make these meringues, including the hour needed to bake and the two hours they need to cool down in the oven so they become thoroughly dry. We ensure you, though, that they're worth the wait.
Recipe: Best Meringue Cookies
Read the original article on Tasting Table.