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2019 Christmas Cookie Swap

Don’t tell me it is too early to start thinking about Christmas.

Sometimes, in order not to get caught up in the anxiety and thus spoil the festive atmosphere, a bit of organisation and bland planning are the only way to enjoy those days before Christmas, which otherwise always pass too fast. I’m not talking about buying gifts for everyone in August, or deciding on the Christmas day menu when outside the cicadas are still chirping. I mean planning ahead all those little activities that can be done weeks – or even months – in advance, dedicating a few minutes, and thoughts, to the people that are important to us.

Cookie swap 2019

The secret is planning ahead

In winter, around February, I make the candied citrus peels which I will later use to concoct my panforte in December (but you could use them also in the Easter colomba, or in the panettone, if only I had the guts to try the more complex sourdough festive baking challenge). Small investment big return: once you start using them, you can’t go back. Reduce the food waste using the orange peels, after you ate the fruit, and turn them into homemade candied peels with time, patience and sugar. And as a bonus, you’ll have a festive orange smell lingering in the kitchen for days.

From season to season, I make jams, marmalades, preserves, baby artichokes in oil, liqueurs and pickled vegetables. I store part of the jars in my pantry as a staple ingredient, while a few jars will later become a Christmas gift, paired with cookies or chocolate, based on the tastes of those who will receive them.

In September, it is time to bake the Christmas cake.

Rich in nuts and candied fruits, it is an English cake that has been part of my family traditions for some years now. From week to week, I feed it with brandy, or whisky, inhaling its spiced smell, anticipating the moment when I will finally bite into it, surrounded by friends and relatives, with the Christmas tree lights shimmering in a dark room and the smell of icing sugar lingering in the air. This year I baked a Christmas cake for us, plus six little ones to give to those who love traditional bold flavours.

During the year, I collect tags, ribbons, stickers, wooden clips, twines and decorations. I keep them, neatly organised, in a red box that is my pride. At any moment, I know I have a few jars in the pantry and everything I need to make them festive, to celebrate the moment, be it a Christmas party with colleagues, a birthday or a dinner at a friends’ house where you don’t want to show up empty-handed. Tiger and Ikea are a great resource for these decorations.

All of this, it does not make me anxious, quite the contrary.

I spend happy hours slicing the orange peel to make marmalade, pitting the apricots in the summer for jam, cleaning paper bags full of baby artichokes or choosing the cookies to bake. I think about who will receive them and I thoroughly enjoy that moment of peace that I grant myself in the kitchen. It is a safe space where I can create, express myself and give love through food.

When Christmas comes, the large part of the work is done, and I can try to live those bright December days with a more relaxed spirit, thinking about what really matters, the time I spend with the people I love.

panforte  Occhi di bue

Christmas Cookie Swap 2019

This year we managed to organise the Cookie Swap quite in advance, compared to the last time, in 2017. Two years ago, we had more than 70 participants, from Italy, Canada, France, Hungary, from England and the United States. We hope to be able to reach, and perhaps surpass, the number of participants of 2017: help us by sharing the initiative, so that in the days before Christmas there will be many little parcels of cookies travelling around Italy, Europe, and the whole world, bringing a smile and some sweetness to those who will receive them.

How does it work?

You just give us your address, we match you with two more people from your country and before Christmas you will receive two parcels of Christmas cookies. We will activate the Cookie Swap in a country when we reach two participants. The only request is to participate only if you know you can respect the time schedule, so that everyone will receive the cookies and won’t be disappointed just a few days before Christmas.

Cookie swap 2019

Some practical information. The 2019 Cookie Swap time schedule

  • Subscribe to our Cookie Swap within Friday the 29th of November 2019. Do subscribe, just fill out this form.
  • On Monday, December the 2nd we will send you your matches: you will receive the addresses of two people who will later receive your cookies. Bake cookies that can travel easily, and if possible choose typical local cookies, and let us know something about them.
  • You have time until December the 11th to ship the cookies to grant that your matches will receive your parcel before Christmas. Once you receive the cookies, enjoy them with your favourite tea or hot chocolate. If you want to share the cookies you received, use the hashtags #cookieswap2019 #julskitchen.
  • Share the recipe of your cookies on your blog or on Instagram in the week of December the 16th and send us a link to it within December the 20th. (If you do not have a blog or an Instagram account, don’t worry, you’re still welcome to participate in the Cookie Swap!).
  • On December 21st we will share a post with a round up of all the participants and their recipes, so that you will have lots of ideas to bake some last minute edible gifts.

It is open to every country with at least two participants. Are you ready to share some Christmas magic?

Cantucci

15 Christmas cookie recipes

Choose the cookies you like the best, the ones that tell something about you and your country, or region, or town, or even your family. If you’re looking for inspiration, though, here you can find some Christmas cookie recipes from the blog archive.

  • Dried fruit biscuits. These cookies are bursting with dried fruit and candied orange. These are delicate and tempting biscuits perfect to be served with ice cream, tea, chocolate, dessert wines… and most of all, you won’t believe how easy they are.
  • Calzoncelli. Small bites of chocolate and almond heaven, with a gentle hint of lemon peel. The outer shell, even if it has to be as thin as you can make it, almost transparent, has an important role in the taste balance, because it is made with olive oil and white wine, becomes brittle and golden when baked, preserving a moist filling.
  • Hazelnut, barley and cocoa cookies. This is a cookie meant to double the pleasure of the coffee and to break the silent pause with a crunching noise. The coffee, though, is supposed to remain the main character, so you need just a simple not too sweet cookie to enhance the roasted notes of coffee: hazelnut, cocoa and barley flour, nothing else is required.
  • Chestnut flour and chocolate drop biscotti. I slightly changed the original cantuccini recipe, trying to make them mirror the amazing colours and flavours of autumn. I chose the chestnut flour, so sweet, and a whole oat flour. Just to bring these biscotti a step further in the scale of indulgence, I stirred in a generous handful of 70% dark chocolate drops, strong and slightly bitter.
  • Pear shortbread cookies. This biscuit similar to the classic shortbread, buttery and full-flavoured; the filling is fruity and delicate. The dusting of icing sugar evokes images of the first snow during the winter mornings. At breakfast time, open the window and let a little light in, make yourself a nice cup of coffee and enjoy with a couple of these biscuits: the day’s off to a wonderful start.

Occhi di bue

  • Occhi di bue. Occhi di bue are a reassuring constant in any pastry shop, bar or bakery counter in Italy. They’ve always been there, since I can remember. I am recently hooked by the charm of the ordinary, the genuine flavour of home food: occhi di bue represent this authentic taste, just a bite and you are taken back to childhood and to those grand cookies, three-time the size of the average biscotti.
  • Dried apricot and white chocolate biscotti. This version of Tuscan cantuccini is softer and chewer: they are equally perfect when dipped in Vin Santo – our dessert wine – but they can also be enjoyed on their own, in the morning or during the afternoon tea, after a meal or as a midnight sneak. They can be stored for days in a tin box or in an airtight container.
  • Panforte bites. I took the classic panforte recipe and played some magic: not just the traditional almonds but also pistachios and walnuts, plus I replaced the orange and citron candied peel with raisins, cranberries, apricots and dried figs.
  • Sfratti di Pitigliano, walnut and honey Jewish cookies. The sfratti are the typical walnut and honey pastries of Pitigliano, still baked and sold in the bakeries and pastry shops of the village. They have the shape of a stick, a filling of chopped walnuts, honey, spices and orange peel covered with a thin unleavened pastry dough.
  • Tuscan biscotti with pistachios and white chocolate. Not only almonds are added to the Pratesi biscuits, but, depending on the occasion, also hazelnuts (and dark chocolate, something worth trying) or pistachios and white chocolate. This is perhaps my favourite combination, elegant, refined and simply irresistible. Along with a strong coffee or black tea, but also alone, as a mid-morning or afternoon snack, they can take the edge off your hunger and sweet-tooth cravings.

Ricciarelli

  • Ricciarelli. Ricciarelli are almond sweets typical of Siena, covered with icing sugar, with a soft heart that melts in your mouth, fresh and moist, characterized by the piercing smell of bitter almonds. They are precious and delicate, yet so simple to make. Bake a bath of ricciarelli for almond lovers, for those who would love to spend some time in Siena walking along the Medieval streets, for those who need a gluten free treat.
  • Almond and rice flour lemon cookies. Soft, almost melting, characterised by a subtle lemon flavour which I exalted covering them with a thin glaze made of icing sugar and lemon juice. The contrast of sugar and lemon in a cookie has the power to surprise you every time, seduces you and prevents you from stopping at the first cookie, or at the second one.
  • Mead and dried fig cookies. In 30 minutes you can have a box of biscuits scented with honey and dried figs, one of those cookies you usually indulge on during holidays, when calories don’t count. Carve out 10 minutes for yourself, relax and enjoy a cookie in silence. Then collect all the crumbs with a finger, lick it, do not leave anything behind. You’ll be ready to go again.
  • Wine and olive oil cookies. They are the easiest cookies I have ever done, fun to mix and shape. The recipe calls just for very few ingredients that you can always easily find at home, you can customise them as you prefer, adding spices and nuts, and, moreover, they are suitable for those who are lactose intolerant, not to mention that they are really fun to make for children.
  • Cavallucci. These Tuscan Christmas cookies are not nice to see nor colourful cool or chic… they are round, a bit flat on the edges and dusted with flour. When I was young, mum used to bring home a white paper bag from San Gimignano, full of cavallucci, a gift from my Grandad. For me, they still taste like Christmas.

Frollini alla pera

Link Love

I’m back with the collection of links, interesting articles, podcasts and books that I collected during the week, and that somehow made me stop, interrupting the idle flow of the feeds to read something thought-provoking, and well written.

Frollini alla pera

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This Post Has 26 Comments
  1. Just wondering if butter tarts and nanaimo bars would be good travellers. They are typically Canadian but are soft inside. Depends on the packaging I guess. Are you familiar with them??

    1. Hello Rosemary! I had to google them as I was not familiar… they look amazing! though I fear they would not travel well. Is it something you would keep in the fridge? or eat within a few days? if so, better not to send them in the Christmas parcel.

  2. Buonasera!
    che bella iniziativa!! anche a noi ci piacerebbe partecipare a questo cookie swap,…siamo una coppia italo-spagnola che viviamo nel chianti e pensavamo forse di fare due tipi di biscotti mescolati nello stesso pacco, un pò italiani un pò spagnoli…potrebbe andare bene?

    A presto
    Marta e Bernardo

  3. Hi Giulia
    I often read your blog, but today’s one about preparing for Christmas is outstanding and so I must write to compliment you. After my trip to Italy I bought your book and am looking forward to sitting down over the Christmas holidays to read it properly.
    Today though, I am inspired to make one of the cookie recipes to include in “pamper parcels” that we are making up for women in drought areas of our state of NSW, Australia. This is a program that has been started to give morale support to farming women who have been doing it tough because of the lack of rain over many years now.
    All best wishes, Coral

    1. Hello Coral, thank you so so much fo your words! It is such a generous thing what you are doing to support to farming women.

  4. Hi Giulia, we are Argentinian living in USA, I want to participate in the cookie swap and was wondering if there is a quantity of cookies that needs to be sent, how many dozens per participant? Just to have an idea. Thanks for doing this, sounds like a lot of fun! My grandpa was Italian hence the name of our small business. Ciao, Sandra

    1. good idea! we’ll be sending this info also via email with your matches, anyway I’d say a dozen is perfectly fine! grazie Sandra!

  5. Hi, I would like to participate in the Cookie Swap, such a great idea for those who love to bake, eat and share their cookies. I’m from Melbourne Australia.

  6. Cara Giulia vorrei partecipare e avrei pensato ai cantucci e ai befanotti…così anche i bimbi possono essere coinvolti. Pensavo di chiuderli nel sottovuoto…farò una prova.

  7. Hi Giulia, Living in New Mexico.
    Getting use to Baking at High Altitude
    It seems no matter where I live the Mexican Wedding Cakes or Russian Tea Cakes is always a winner.
    I will make up to 12 dozen.
    Have a Blessed Day.

  8. Hi juls
    I am from the top of the north island in beautiful New Zealand. I would like to participate in the Christmas bake, hoping there are other participants here. would love it if you could participate with someone from another country!
    Nicole

    1. How great Nicole! yes, we have already a participant from New Zealand, and we need at least 2 to activate the Swap, so we will make it happen! if you can share it we might find more participants from your country!

  9. Hi Guila,

    I live in Massachusetts, USA and would love to participate in the cookie swap.
    Thank you!!
    Denise

  10. I would love to participate in the cookie swap! I live in Perth, Western Australia and I love to bake, especially at Christmas time.

  11. Giulia, have you sent the cookie swap info out to participants? I did not receive any information.

    Thank you,
    Denise

    1. It was probably in there SPAM folder, anyway, I just sent it to you again, let me know if you receive it!

  12. Hi Giulia
    I just realized that I din’t receive the information about who I am matched with to send the cookies. Did you already sent it?
    Could you please send it to me again, I don’t see it anywhere.
    Thank you!
    Sandra

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