Sweet swap: Host a cookie ex­change

Host an old-fash­ioned cookie ex­change

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Emily Ryan

Sit­ting at a ta­ble in the Down­ing­town Area Se­nior Cen­ter, Frances Del­con­tie and friends smiled as they shared sweet mem­o­ries of Christ­mas cookie ex­changes, be­gin­ning around 1956.

“My mother and her friends did it. It was al­ways a lot of fun,” she re­called. “My sis­ter and I started help­ing her. My mother used to bring can­no­lis, and she made her own can­noli shells.”

“Back then, they didn’t have any of these (can­noli) forms. My fa­ther, ev­ery year, he’d cut down a fresh broom­stick,” added Del­con­tie, 67, who also enjoys Ital­ian choco­late cook­ies and pizzelle. “You make your one best cookie, and you’re shar­ing it with those peo­ple you care most about.”

Ex­chang­ers typ­i­cally bring a dozen cook­ies for each guest and leave with a hol­i­day as­sort­ment.

“Make them special, not just a plain old choco­late chip cookie,” sug­gested Glo­ria Kristof, 77. “If you’re go­ing to make a choco­late chip cookie, do some­thing special with it.”

Her reper­toire fea­tures apri­cot stars, which are “not only beau­ti­ful, but they taste good,” and cream-filled lady locks.

“Some peo­ple call them clothes­pin cook­ies be­cause you wrap the dough around a clothes­pin,” Kristof said. “Oh my good­ness! They are de­li­cious.”

Fel­low baker Linda Wolfe, 77, fa­vors “a lot of va­ri­ety,” in­clud­ing “one with co­conut and white choco­late bits in it.” But, like Kristof, she closely guards her se­crets.

“It’s re­ally got­ten in­volved. Everyone tries to outdo one an­other,” ex­plained 76-year-old Diane Burns of Belling­ham Re­tire­ment Com­mu­nity in West Ch­ester, whose fam­ily started a cookie ex­change more than 20 years ago.

“It’s just got­ten big­ger as the kids have got­ten older,” she said. “We have a con­test. Ev­ery­body bakes 12 dozen cook­ies. We have an ex­change over lunch.”

Fam­ily mem­bers com­pete for brag­ging rights and the honor of wear­ing a “silly hat.” A peren­nial fa­vorite: a pressed cookie called a “cream cheese spritz.”

“My mother used to make this spritz cookie, so I’ve car­ried it on,” Burns de­scribed. “They used to say Christ­mas couldn’t come un­til I made those cook­ies.”

Now she’s passed the prover­bial torch and of­ten whips up Mex­i­can wed­ding cakes in­stead.

“I can’t wait to see what the rest of them are go­ing to do,” Burns said with a twin­kle in her eye. “They get so com­pet­i­tive.”

Fingerk­latschen IN­GRE­DI­ENTS

2/3 cup but­ter

½ cup gran­u­lated su­gar

2 egg yolks

½ tea­spoon al­mond ex­tract

1¾ cups sifted flour

½ tea­spoon salt Seed­less red rasp­berry, cherry or other red jam

IN­STRUC­TIONS

Pre­heat oven to 325 de­grees. Cream but­ter and su­gar; add egg yolks; beat un­til light. Add al­mond ex­tract, sifted flour and salt and mix well. Shape into 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheets. Press fin­ger into the cen­ter of each to cre­ate a small well. Bake cook­ies for 20 to 25 min­utes. Press again with fin­ger. Cool; fill cen­ters with jam. Sprin­kle with con­fec­tion­ers’ su­gar. Makes about 3 dozen.

Recipe cour­tesy of Edith Shep­ard

Pizzelle IN­GRE­DI­ENTS

8 eggs

1 cup oil or melted Crisco Le­mon or anise ex­tract, to taste

1 cup su­gar

4 tea­spoons bak­ing pow­der

Ap­prox­i­mately 3 to 3½ cups flour

IN­GRE­DI­ENTS

Beat the eggs un­til light. Add the oil, le­mon or anise ex­tract and su­gar. Mix well. Stir in bak­ing pow­der and flour ½ cup at a time for a to­tal of ap­prox­i­mately 3 to 3½ cups, de­pend­ing on the size of the eggs. The dough is on the soft side.

Heat pizzelle iron. Drop tea­spoons of bat­ter into the cen­ter of the pat­terns, close the lid and cook. The time de­pends on the iron. Cool on wire racks.

Recipe cour­tesy of Frances Del­con­tie

Ital­ian Choco­late Cook­ies IN­GRE­DI­ENTS

3¾ cups sifted flour

1 cup su­gar

½ cup co­coa

1 tea­spoon cin­na­mon

1 tea­spoon cloves

1 tea­spoon ginger

1 tea­spoon all­spice

1 tea­spoon bak­ing soda

1 tea­spoon bak­ing pow­der

½ cup cook­ing oil (canola)

1 cup milk Frost­ing:

2 cups con­fec­tion­ers’ su­gar

Milk

IN­STRUC­TIONS

Com­bine all dry in­gre­di­ents and sift to­gether four times. Put in a large bowl and make a well. Add oil and milk and mix thor­oughly. Dough will be firm. Break off pieces as big as wal­nuts and roll be­tween palms of hands. Press ever so slightly onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 de­grees for 10 min­utes.

You also can add 1 cup of raisins, ½ cup chopped nuts and 1 cup choco­late bits. These can be added alone or in com­bi­na­tion. Make a con­fec­tion­ers’ su­gar frost­ing and dip cook­ies in it when cooled thor­oughly.

Frost­ing: Add milk to 2 cups of con­fec­tion­ers’ su­gar un­til frost­ing is thick enough, so it won’t run off cookie.

Recipe cour­tesy of Frances Del­con­tie

PHOTO BY EMILY RYAN

Seed­less red rasp­berry jam fills these fingerk­latschen, easy-to-make thumbprint cook­ies.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — FRANCES DEL­CON­TIE

Frances Del­con­tie trea­sures this hand­writ­ten recipe from her grand­mother.

PHOTO BY EMILY RYAN

Beau­ti­fully iced and dec­o­rated su­gar cook­ies are al­ways a hit at a cookie ex­change.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — FRANCES DEL­CON­TIE

Frances Del­con­tie’s aunt used a type­writer to share this recipe for Ital­ian choco­late cook­ies.

PHOTO BY EMILY RYAN

Fel­low bak­ers Glo­ria Kristof, Frances Del­con­tie and Linda Wolfe of­fer their cook­ie­ex­change ex­per­tise.

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