Sweet swap: Host a cookie exchange
Host an old-fashioned cookie exchange
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.”
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
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
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
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
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
Seedless red raspberry jam fills these fingerklatschen, easy-to-make thumbprint cookies.
Frances Delcontie treasures this handwritten recipe from her grandmother.
Beautifully iced and decorated sugar cookies are always a hit at a cookie exchange.
Frances Delcontie’s aunt used a typewriter to share this recipe for Italian chocolate cookies.
Fellow bakers Gloria Kristof, Frances Delcontie and Linda Wolfe offer their cookieexchange expertise.