For Donna Armstrong, hosting a cookie exchange has become a Christmas tradition she looks forward to every December.
That’s why she’s been bringing friends together over bounteous plates of beautiful cookies since the early 1990s. This Sunday, friends from her church, her book club, her neighborhood and more gathered at her neighborhood clubhouse to share some light snacks, Christmas punch and conversation.
Elvis, the Beach Boys and Julie Andrews all contributed to the holiday soundtrack in the background while trays of cookies in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors piled up on a large set of tables that were easy to walk around.
As soon as all the guests — and their handmade baked goods — were on hand, the swapping began in earnest. Most people brought baskets that they filled with two or three of each variety, including gingerbread, painted sugar cookies, biscotti, fried dough, dark and white chocolate bark topped with goodies, and chocolate crackle cookies. Armstrong, who has baked for the Tootie Pie Company and Cafe, made her adorable Spicy Mice, a oblong cookie decorated with a pair of dried currants for eyes, slivered almonds for ears and a chow mein noodle for a tail.
Diane King brought a winning family tradition that her mother created, a brown sugar cookie with crushed candy canes and pecans. It will be fun trying to recreate that cookie. I brought a tradition of my own, one of my mother’s many cookie creations, a coconut-rolled ball of air called Melting Moments.
Tracey Ashenfelter, who professes to not being able to cook, brought some sugar cookies that a friend of her mailed in, so that the rest at the exchange would have something edible. Ashenfelter, a local artist, did paint the cookies with frosting and she brought some refrigerator magnates with both holiday images and some of her colorful scenes of San Antonio.
When Armstrong started the cookie exchange, she had people submit recipes for each offering and gathered them in a small cookbook. But that proved too much work. Besides, the hostess preferred spending her time with her guests, including her 8-month-old grandson, Harrison, who is a little young for cookies but not for taking part in the tradition.