How to Host the Perfect Holiday Cookie Swap

holiday cookies
Photo: Beringer Main & Vine
Recipes and tips from Valerie Bertinelli for an unforgettable cookie swapping party.

The holidays are a time for giving, sharing, and, of course, enjoying some seriously scrumptious meals. A holiday cookie swap is a fun way to celebrate all of this and share your favorite cookie recipes with your besties. It's a beloved tradition of Food Network star Valerie Bertinelli, and she shares her hosting tips, recipes, and—bonus!—her favorite Beringer Main & Vine wines to pair with your tasty treats.

Valerie's Cookie Swap Tips

Timing: Set the date for your cookie swap close enough to the holidays that cookies will stay fresh for the big day, but not so late that your party gets lost in the mix of the holiday rush.

Recipes: Ask guests to bring enough copies of their recipe that everyone can take one home or, even better, gather all the recipes electronically in advance, and print a booklet that guests can keep to reference for years to come.

Wine: Ask guests to bring their favorite bottle of wine to enjoy during the party and stock a few backups to keep the group happy. I like to have a few extra bottles on hand—Beringer Main & Vine White Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Merlot are my favorites, and offer different styles to give guests options for every taste.

Labels: Provide supplies for guests to make their own cookie labels—toothpicks with paper flags or place cards can identify each individual recipe, and who made it.

Packaging Up: Help your guests get creative with their packaging! Go to your local craft store and pick up a dozen bakery-style boxes, plain tins or, for a fun twist, Chinese takeout containers. Set out crafting supplies like wrapping paper ribbon, and patterned washi tape to help guests craft a festive and fun holiday cookie box to tote home.

Chocolate Cherry Brownie Bites

These addictive brownie bites are packed with coconut, walnuts, cherry extract, and chocolate chips. Trust us, these tasty little treats will go quickly.

brownie bites

What You'll Need

Makes 2 dozen brownies

  • Cooking spray, for coating the baking pan
  • 1 ⅔ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ⅔ cup shredded coconut
  • ⅔ cup chopped walnuts
  • One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • Big pinch kosher salt
  • Confectioners' sugar, for rolling
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Cherry extract


Directions

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Step 2: Combine the graham crackers, coconut, walnuts, condensed milk, chocolate chips, cherry extract, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press to the edges.

Step 3: Bake until the chocolate melts and the top is golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir the hot mixture in the pan until the chocolate is incorporated throughout. Press back out to the edges and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Step 4: Spread the confectioners' sugar on a dinner plate. Scoop out the cookie mixture by the tablespoon and shape into balls. While still warm, roll each ball in the sugar to coat. The cookie bites will keep, tightly covered, for 2 days.

Beringer Biscotti

What holiday party would be complete without a little biscotti? This simple recipe's easy to whip up just in time for the holidays.

biscotti

What You'll Need

Makes 3 dozen biscotti

  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 ½ cups chopped almonds, lightly toasted


Directions

Step 1: Sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder in a medium bowl. Stir in the pepper and salt. Set aside.

Step 2: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until pale and light. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the orange zest and vanilla and almond extracts.

Step 3: Fold in the flour mixture, then fold in the almonds. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Step 4: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick silicone liners.

Step 5: Divide the dough in half, place 1 piece on each sheet and shape each piece into a 12-inch log, about 2 inches across and 1 inch tall. Bake until the logs are baked through and lightly browned, about 35 minutes.

Step 6: Let the logs cool for about 10 minutes on the baking sheets (leave the oven on), then transfer them carefully to racks to cool 10 minutes more. Using a serrated knife, slice each log on the diagonal into ¾ inch-thick slices. Arrange the slices cut-side down on the baking sheets and return to the oven until well toasted, 15 to 20 minutes more. Transfer the biscotti to cooling racks to cool completely. They will keep, tightly covered, up to 1 week.

Caramel Chocolate Chip Sea Salt

Salty chocolate cookies loaded with ooey, gooey caramel are a true Christmas miracle. The flavor combo is absolutely delicious.

cookies

What You'll Need

Makes 3 dozen cookies

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cups dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup caramel bits or chopped unwrapped caramel candies
  • About 1 ½ teaspoons flaky sea salt


Directions

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375°F with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Step 2: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt together in a bowl.

Step 3: Beat the sugars and butter together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Step 4: Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine.

Step 5: Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips and caramel bits.

Step 6: Scoop heaping tablespoons out onto the cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between cookies (you will have cookie dough left over). Sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of sea salt.

Step 7: Bake the cookies, rotating the position of the trays halfway through, until golden brown, about 13 minutes.

Step 8: Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool. Cool the baking sheets and repeat with the remaining cookie dough.

Napa Neapolitan Cookies

These beautiful cookies are a holiday staple. They take a bit of time, but they're well worth the effort.

neapolitan cookies

What You'll Need

Makes 7 dozen cookies

  • Cooking spray
  • 8 ounces almond paste
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 20 drops red food coloring
  • 12 drops green food coloring
  • ¼ cup seedless raspberry jam
  • ¼ cup apricot preserves
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate chips


Directions

Step 1: Special equipment: 3 quarter sheet pans or three 13 x 9 x 2-inch jelly roll pans

Step 2: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat 3 quarter-sheet pans (or three 13 x 9 x 2-inch jelly roll pans) with cooking spray. Line each pan with parchment paper and coat the paper with cooking spray as well.

Step 3: Place the almond paste in the bowl of a stand mixer. Break it up into small pieces with a fork. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and add the butter and sugar to the bowl. Beat the mixture on high speed until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium, add the egg yolks, and beat until incorporated. Turn the mixer off and stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.

Step 4: Clean the mixer bowl thoroughly and fit the mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter until thoroughly blended.

Step 5: Transfer 1 ½ cups of the batter to a medium bowl, then transfer another 1 ½ cups of the batter to a second medium bowl. Add the red food coloring to one of the bowls and stir until the batter is tinted throughout. Add the green food coloring to the second bowl and stir until the batter is tinted throughout. Scrape each of the three batters into one of the prepared pans, using the spatula to spread the batter to the edges. Bake, rotating and switching the positions of the pans halfway through, until the edges are golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then invert onto cooling racks and allow to cool completely.

Step 6: To assemble, place the green layer on a large cutting board or a large inverted baking sheet lined with wax paper. Spread the raspberry jam evenly over the top. Place the yellow layer on top and spread with the apricot preserves. If there are large chunks of apricots, remove and chop them up to make them more spreadable. Top with the red layer. Cover with plastic wrap and place a heavy cutting board on top to weight it down. Refrigerate overnight.

Step 7: Place the chocolate chips in a microwaveable bowl and melt in the microwave on low power about 2 minutes. Spread the chocolate on top of the cooled cake and let dry slightly. Trim the rim of the cake with a serrated knife to make clean edges. Cut the cake crosswise into twelve 1-inch wide strips, then cut lengthwise into 1 ¼-inch strips. The cookies will keep, covered, up to 1 week.