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Cookie Klatsch

Joy the Baker's tips for hosting a holiday cookie swap

Cookie swap parties are a sweet reminder of holiday seasons past, when Mom sent you over with a few dozen handmade treats in a tin, ready to trade with your sugar-frenzied pals. Making (and eating) cookies remains one of life's greatest pleasures, and now is the time to dedicate an entire gathering to the goodies.

Baking goddess Joy Wilson supports my crusade to bring back the cookie party. As the author of the incredibly popular blog, Joy the Baker (and of two equally excellent books), Joy is a champion of all things sweet. Her latest book, Homemade Decadence (Clarkson Potter, $30) contains 125 recipes, including an entire chapter dedicated to cookies, like Melt-y Chocolate Truffle Cookies and festive Vanilla Bean Confetti Cookies. We threw a dinner party together at her house in New Orleans this summer. So I know that in addition to being a phenomenal baker, Joy is also a great host. I asked her to share her tips for hosting her fantasy cookie swap.

Joy Wilson | Vanilla bean confetti cookies 

Get nostalgic. "I love the idea of everyone coming to the party with a recipe that has a story attached to it," Wilson says. "I have a recipe in my new book for Blackberry Pie Cookies based on my dad's pie crust." If guests are in a sharing mood, ask them to print out recipe cards to exchange along with the cookies.

Take it easy. "When you're hosting, you don't want to break your back," Wilson says. "Make two kinds of cookies, max, and ask everyone else to bring a different type." Invite 12 people, and if you ask everyone to bring at least two dozen cookies, there will be plenty to both sample and take home.

Tin is in. "Go to the dollar store and load up on cookie tins in different shapes and sizes," Wilson suggests. "And order a bunch of paper cup liners to separate the cookies in each tin." Have Sharpies and stickers on hand for DIY tin labeling.

Avoid a sugar crash. Although most people will probably sample only four or five kinds of cookies and take the rest home (see: aforementioned tin), having a few savory options to round things out isn't the worst idea. Try a colorful tipsy grapefruit salad, or a festive, hearty appetizer like deviled eggs, chickpea-and-mushroom poppers or creamy burrata with grilled bread.

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Drink well. "Champagne or Prosecco is always appropriate for the holidays," Wilson says. "I like making a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) infused with rosemary, then adding a dash of it to sparkling wine and garnishing with a rosemary sprig. Hot chocolate is an easy winner, too—just keep it simmering on the stove over low heat."

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