Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Why wait until the holidays? Start planning your annual cookie exchange

(ARA) - 'Tis the season for delicious treats and festive gatherings. The fun of baking, sharing recipes and getting together for holiday parties such as a cookie exchange are what make the season extra-special.

If you're looking for party ideas, tips and recipes, visit It's the ultimate online destination to find and share recipes, as well as learn hints and tips from Hershey's baking expert, Linda Stahl:

"We've created the ultimate resource for holiday hosts this year - an online community where holiday entertaining enthusiasts can swap recipes, share photos and connect about their holiday baking traditions."

Plan your party this season by visiting where tasty recipes feature holiday staple baking ingredients like Hershey's Kisses Brand Chocolates, Cocoa and Baking Chips. Visitors will also have an opportunity to apply to host one of 1,000 cookie exchanges. If selected, applicants will receive event party packs complete with the necessary ingredients to host the ultimate cookie exchange, including: baking products, recipe booklets to share with guests and a special hostess gift.

Stahl offers the following tips to host a cookie exchange:

* Provide each guest with a sample recipe in their invitation for ideas to help get them baking.

* Set up an e-mail list allowing guests to share what cookies they will bring, so duplicates aren't an issue. If your guests prefer a surprise, have them RSVP with both their attendance response and the cookie they plan to bring to the exchange.

* Once you know how many guests are coming, let party attendees know how many cookies to bring.

* Since cookies are at the center of your gathering, offer simple refreshments like hot cocoa or warm apple cider.

* Provide containers or ask guests to bring festively decorated tins to ensure cookies can be brought home easily without breaking.

Don't forget to visit to apply for your chance to host one of 1,000 sponsored cookie exchanges through Nov. 15.

Can't decide what holiday cookie you should make as the host? Try the Kisses Cocoa Cookies or the classic Peanut Butter Blossoms.

Kisses Cocoa Cookies

Makes 54 cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Hershey's Cocoa
1 cup finely chopped pecans
About 54 Hershey's Kisses Brand Milk Chocolates
Powdered sugar

Beat butter, granulated sugar and vanilla in large bowl until creamy. Stir together flour and cocoa; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Add pecans; beat until well blended. Refrigerate dough about 1 hour or until firm enough to handle. Heat oven to 375 F. Remove wrappers from chocolates. Mold scant tablespoon of dough around each chocolate, covering completely. Shape into balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set. Cool about 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Roll in powdered sugar. Roll in powdered sugar again just before serving, if desired.

Peanut Butter Blossoms
Makes 48 cookies

48 Hershey's Kisses Milk Chocolates
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup Reese's Creamy Peanut Butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar

Heat oven to 375 F. Remove wrappers from chocolates. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

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