Once upon a time, in a land far, far away… Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but this story played out a long time ago. My kids were small, my husband’s job required him to take long trips, and I was
desperate thankful for adult interaction. I was beyond excited for the annual cookie exchange in which my friends and I participated every holiday season.
I was downright giddy about the opportunity to get into the car by myself, listen to grownup music on the radio, talk to women in multi-syllable words, and sample cookies of all kinds. I had my recipe with the ingredients required and all that stood between me, and my dream afternoon, was the chore of baking 13 dozen cookies.
How My Cookie Crisis Could Become a Bountiful Blessing from My Family to Yours
My plan was to make the dough and begin baking the day before the event. That way, my cookies would be fresh and delectable, and I could finish up the morning of, if something came up unforeseen. Well, come up unforeseen, something did! I went to preheat my oven and… nothing. No heat. No heat at all.
I may have panicked a little and I might have even cried. If I couldn’t make cookies, I didn’t see how I could attend the cookie exchange. Store bought cookies were unthinkable. The whole purpose of the cookie exchange was to trade homemade delicacies.
Are you familiar with the concept of a cookie exchange? I think they are an amazing idea! They can be organized in several ways, but my friends and I did it the same way each year, taking turns organizing and hosting. Maybe you’d like to put one together? Here is the format we used:
Our Cookie Exchange Format
- Twelve people participated. It was important to have twelve. If you confirmed your spot, you were committed.
- Each person baked 13 dozen cookies of one recipe (cleared with the organizer in advance to avoid duplicates) and packaged them by the dozen. They could be in bags, tins or covered plates, as long as each package contained 12 cookies.
- Each person copied, printed or handwrote 11 copies of their recipe.
- We all met up for one glorious afternoon. The hostess provided a huge table where we each stacked 12 of our cookie packages and our recipes.
- On a separate table, we each opened and placed our 13th package. Also on this table, the hostess provided plates, napkins and beverages. This is where we got to sample each other’s cookies.
- After a sweet afternoon of cookies and conversation, we went back to the first table and took one package of each kind of cookie, including our own. We took one of each recipe, excluding our own. This is the exchange by which a cookie exchange gets its name.
- Where each baker arrived with 12 packages of 1 kind of cookie, they went home with 12 packages of different kinds of cookies.
Personally, my tradition immediately following the cookie exchange, was to pack 12 tins, each with 1 cookie from each package. My kids loved taking these grand assortments to the neighbors and their teachers. It appeared like I’d done much more work than I had, since I gifted an amazing assortment, but only baked a single recipe. All of that was looking impossible this year.
God to the rescue!
Even, no – ESPECIALLY for busy moms, the cookie exchange was a lifeline. It was a simplified and fun way to get a giant check mark on a long holiday to-do list. Not only was I looking forward to it, but I was also committed. My oven breaking had me at my breaking point too. This was a crisis.
But God. That is all I remember about how what transpired next came about. Somehow, I found a recipe. God brought it to mind. Honestly, I don’t remember if I went to the computer or if it is one I had tucked in my recipe binder prior. All I know is that I had never made “Crock Pot Candy” before that day. But boy have I made it many times since!
God and Crock Pot Candy to the rescue. This recipe did not require an oven. I pulled out my slow cooker, raced to the store for the short list of ingredients, and this blessing came together in a fraction of the time it takes to bake 13 dozen cookies.
You know what else? These were the star of the afternoon. Everyone raved! And it was such a nice touch to have a decadent piece of candy on each plate of cookies.
My own family liked them so much that they have become one of our signature family dishes. My 25 year-old daughter, who was in preschool the first time I made them, called them “Nut Chocolates” and that is what they are to this day, in our house. She and I make them every October because that is her birthday month, and it takes us almost a whole month to eat them all. This recipe makes a bountiful plenty!
I have not been to a cookie exchange in years. But that is ok. People love getting a whole bag of “nut chocolates” and I enjoy the simplicity of giving them. If you have an army to feed, or several people to gift, or a birthday month to enjoy, let my cookie crisis become a bountiful blessing, from my family to yours!
What you will need:
- 1 pound lightly salted, dry roasted almonds
- 1 pound unsalted, dry roasted almonds
- 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 12 ounces white chocolate chips
- 1 pound vanilla bark
- 9+ feet of waxed paper
- Pour nuts into large crock pot. Add chips and bark. Cover and turn on low setting.
- Now go shower, fold your laundry, or write a blog. Come back in about an hour.
- Lay out the waxed paper. (You may have to weigh down the corners if the paper is too curly to lay flat.)
- With a large spoon, stir the now-melted chocolate into the nuts until the chocolates are combined and the nuts are well coated.
- Spoon the mixture onto waxed paper according to the size you want.
- Keep spooning – this is a bountiful recipe.
- Keep the crock pot on the low setting until all its contents have been spooned out.
- Once everything has been scooped out, unplug your crock pot and walk away again. Go back to your blog, play with your dog, or read a book.
- Let the candy cool until the chocolate hardens and it peels easily from the waxed paper.
- It will keep fresh in a plastic bag or airtight container for several weeks. But you might not be able to keep it around for that long. My family loves to share it as much as we love to eat it.
- The original recipe calls for peanuts instead of almonds. I’ve done it both ways and, seriously, you can’t go wrong. My family just prefers almonds. I’m sure you could use other nuts too, if you have a different favorite.
- In the photos I’m posting, you see sea salt sprinkled on top. This is the way my October birthday girl prefers her birthday treat. We have also experimented with toffee, sprinkles, and coconut. They are all amazing! I think the simplicity of the recipe is perfect and I prefer no toppings.
- I adore dark chocolate. If I am making these according to my taste, I substitute some of the chocolates called for in the recipe and darken it up a bit. If the measurements of nuts and chocolates are the same as the recipe, you can change them out any way you like.
- I have never had a batch not turn out. These are 99.9% fool proof. The reason I reserve that extra .1% is because you can overcook them. If you forget all about them and leave the ingredients in the crockpot for hours, the chocolate will burn around the edges. (Don’t ask me how I know!) Even still, you can use what is deliciously melted in the middle of the pot.
- If you make these on a hot day, you may need to refrigerate them to encourage the cooling process. The best way I have found to do this is to cut the waxed paper into cookie-sheet sized rectangles and slide them onto the cookie sheets to place in the refrigerator or freezer (wherever you have room).
There you have it. That is how my cookie crisis could become a bountiful blessing from my family to yours. I hope this recipe comes in handy for you this holiday season and beyond.
Do you bake or home-make gifts? Do you have a preference between white, milk or dark chocolate? Does anyone do cookie exchanges anymore?