Thinking ahead....Christmas cookie walk help

evenshadeAugust 28, 2014

Our women's group at church always has a cookie walk for a holiday fund raiser. We want to go a step further and do some baking sessions ahead of time in the church kitchen. I'm the organizer and haven't done this before. Does anyone have any ideas what will make the process as efficient as possible? How to organize recipes/ingredients? Does each person bring her own? Buy in bulk and just make a few kinds of cookies? Easiest cookies but still festive? Any ideas would be welcome.

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What is a cookie walk?!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 5:00PM
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Is a cookie walk the same as a cookie swap? You may want to set down some ground rules. I know I've looked at a few cookie swap rules online and sometimes they read like you're in military school!

But a few rules so everyone is on the same page is a good thing.

1. Please bring X dozen cookies
2. Cookies should be home baked or from a bakery. Please no box cookies from a grocery store.

You may want to suggest recipes for people to bake.
You may want people to email you with what cookies they are bringing so there are not a lot of repeats.
You may want people to email you the recipe or bring recipe cards to share the recipe.

I found the link below in looking up a cookie walk. I hope this helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to host a cookie walk

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 5:13PM
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Our local CASA has a cookie walk every year as a fund raiser. The community brings preferably home baked cookies on trays. The cookies are displayed on long tables. To buy cookies, you are given a box (corsage size) and disposable glove and you fill your box. The price is $5 lb.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 5:44PM
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I have some similar experience. Please forgive the gender specified below. I just realized that while my experience is within the women's groups, you might have men baking too. Please consider "ladies" to include them. :)

A#1 first bit of advice: At least a couple of days before you'll be baking, hopefully after the last use of the kitchen by any other groups (unless yours is a big congregation with a soup kitchen and a professional kitchen manager and all that), go into the kitchen with a friend and clean and organize everything. While you're there, make a test batch of cookies--it can be supermarket dough if you don't want to bother with making a batch (and if they come out well, the custodians might really appreciate a gift)--and make sure the the oven is working correctly and calibrated right. Even right today, you can get and save the contact info for the repair service.

Check the temperature in the coolers too. You can't do the checks too early because then something happens...but you can do a pre-check because if they're already broken couple of weeks out, that gives you cushion time for repairs. If there's a mixer, food processor or similar, that you intend to use, make sure they're operational and you know where all the parts are.

2. Use parchment paper. If there isn't any in the kitchen, you can get precut sheets from the restaurant supply for a great price, or you can get a roll and set the kids to cutting them ahead of time. Make sure you get wide enough paper for the pans at the church.

3. If you're baking ahead, make sure there's plenty of plastic wrap, and either stiff cardboard, wrapped, or containers. Also, while you're cleaning, make sure there's room in the freezer and that there aren't a bunch of freezer burned old cakes and rolls that need tossing.

4. If you're allowed to bring in equipment from home, and there are some useful things that aren't available in the kitchen, make sure the ladies label their names on their tools ahead of time. I'm thinking about things like scrapers and cookie scoops.

5. The worst thing is when you run out of something, unless there's a grocery literally next door. Doing the cogitations to change a recipe from a butter cookie to an oil cookie on the fly is no fun (ask how I know!).

You can have everyone bring her own recipe's supplies, but it depends on how you account for things. When I run a fundraiser, I want to know exactly how much it cost--it can be hard explaining to the committee that no, we didn't make money on XYZ because it cost as much as it brought in (XYZ might have been popular enough to get people to contribute more elsewhere, but I prefer for all aspects to make at least a little money).

It's much easier to account for costs (and also prevent donor fatigue), if the supplies are bought at once. Then they can also be bought in bulk and cost less. For the ladies who say, "Oh, but I'm happy to contribute a pound of butter!" ask them to put their butter money into a kitty, and add their donation to their total. They get donor credit, you spend less, and there's none of that, "oh, I forgot the ..." and you don't have to worry if you have enough vanilla (if you just tell them we have a big bottle of vanilla and don't know how much they need, you can run out).

Organizing this is one of those herding cats kind of things, but, if you can, get them to submit--in writing--their recipes and supply lists at least a month ahead of time. You can even do it now. Then, in person or on the phone, read through each recipe with the person who submitted it to make sure it's actually the way she makes the cookies. You'll find that someone will insist that this is the recipe, but then when you're making it, she says, "Oh, but it needs a quarter teaspoon of fresh orange peel. Are there any oranges? It doesn't taste like anything without the orange peel!"

GAAAHH!!!!! Can of worms spilled all over the floor! As in, just opened a can of worms.

Better idea: The point is to come together as a community and enjoy each other's company while preparing for the event. The advice above is about having it all well organized so that on the day it's low stress, no emergencies or unpleasantness (can I tell you what luck it is we also have a catering kitchen and were able to get the key when the oven in the daily kitchen just wouldn't get hot?). Rather than letting each person choose a recipe, you'll have an easier time of it if you go autocratic and declare what will be made. You can solicit recipes from the group, still, and quiz them about what's not on the page, but if you can just choose what will make a good variety and is easy enough to do in the church kitchen, you'll save yourself a lot of aggravation.

Definitely do some easy cookies, but a group activity is also a good time to do ones that are fussier. Not French macarons! But iced gingerbread and painted sugar cookies take a lot of fuss, both rolling/cutting and decorating, and are much more fun done in a group (ban alcohol! You don't want them to have too much fun or things get weird). Chocolate chip cookies are always, always top sellers and dead easy. You can do four different kinds and not have too many (Toll House, white chocolate macadamia nut, M&M's or mini M&M's, milk chocolate and pecans, or whatever floats your boat). Drop cookies are all pretty easy: Oatmeal, peanut butter, apple spice, lemon drop, etc. The base ingredients are similar.

There are also slightly more fussy ones that can be done in a group like pfeffernüsse, linzer, even meringues if you have a mixer that'll whip (yes, I hand whipped a couple dozen eggwhites for meringue cookies, but I sure was sorry when I was done). Just don't try to do pressed cookies in a casual group situation, especially at church. There's just too much swearing and too many people who think it's easy but can't get it right.

Summary: Organize as much as you can as far ahead as you can (but if you buy ingredients ahead, store them at home if you can, and if you can't, seal them in taped boxes and write your name in great big, thick, easy to read letters and add "for use on X date" so people don't think you're done and have abandoned them). Then you can just have fun! And raise lots of money... :)

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 6:30PM
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Partymusic and booberry85, a cookie walk is where all the cookies are set out on trays and the buyers come along and choose the cookies they want to purchase for so much per pound. I have overseen that for a number of years and it always goes smoothly. The difference this year is that we want to really concentrate on the cookie part of our fundraiser so we want more to sell than our small church usually bakes at home.

Yes, suzyqtexas...that's exactly it. We've had to go up to 7.50/lb due to the cost of ingredients. Our congregation has been really supportive in the past even at that high price because all our profit goes to church missions.

plllog, your post was chocked FULL of information and it was all helpful. It sounds like you have definitely "been there, done that". I liked the idea of being the "dictator" this time :) and doing the various kinds of chocolate chip cookies. Since this is our first year for baking in quantity at the church, this seems like the way to go. Easier shopping, too. We can get more complicated next year after we learn the ropes. And I agree with you....having fun doing it together is a huge part of the satisfaction. We'll remember to wait and have that glass of wine after the baking is finished!

Thank you all SO much! You have eased my mind.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 7:13PM
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Thanks for explaining a "cookie walk", evenshade. That's a great way of doing it. The closest thing around here would be called a "bake sale", where the volunteer bakers bring whatever they want to make (cookies, pies, candies, breads, rolls, etc) and whoever is running the sale sets the prices per unit/quantity to sell everything. They usually sell things like cupcakes and cookies individually, while things like pies, cakes, and breads are sold whole.

Sorry I can't offer help on how to best utilize a commercial-size kitchen for massive cookie baking. I'd definitely be trying to think of good bar cookie recipes! :)

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 9:32PM
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We may be heading the "bar" cookie direction at some point!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 10:10PM
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I don't want to be contrary, but while bar cookies save some effort, they're not the best choice for this kind of event. Generally, they have more ingredients per piece, than drop cookies, though it helps that you're selling by weight, and they squash, break and crumble, so have to have wrappers or papers.

Perhaps if you did them in small boxes (also available from the restaurant supply), and pre-pack half a dozen together so it's not much work wrapping them. Use parchment paper scraps between if you stack them. Then they don't squish when people pick them up and the crumbs are contained, and you can price them per box to make sure you get a premium. You could also do sampler packs of the cookies (only a few, and replenish if they go fast).

In general, however, I'd stay away from items that are sticky, soft, gooey, or crumbly.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 10:26PM
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But, but, but... why would I spend $7.50/lb on cookies that aren't "sticky, soft, gooey, or crumbly"? ;-)

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 10:44PM
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Now that both of my kids are off to college and I'm no longer in charge of fundraising for anything I hear of a fundraiser I haven't done and that would have been right up my alley.

The problem I see here is that every time you asked for baked goods, folks bring store bought. I don't know if that many people can or would bake cookies. But I really like the idea.......

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 10:56PM
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I'm wondering about biscotti? Lots of ways to make yummy versions of that. Snickerdoodles with Christmas colored sugar. I used to make M&M cookies every Christmas before they made the special small M&Ms. I made chocolate chip heath crunch cookies one year, drop style, they were a hit. Here's a link to the recipe, but I wouldn't use hazelnuts, plain old walnuts would do fine. I'm thinking cost here. Chocolate chip hazelnut cookies with toffee by Giada DeLaurentis. I think I got toffee bits in a bag, I can't imagine me taking time to break up a heath bar!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 11:01PM
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LOL, Larecoltante!

I should have said "comparatively". Cookies with sealed edges and a little crispness just travel better. I didn't mean that they should be cardboardy!

LPink, those heath bar cookies sound fab!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 1:00AM
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Have you thought about making rolls of "ice box" cookie dough ahead of time, freezing them, then baking the day of the walk? I have some really good recipes for ice box cookies, my favorite ls Lemon Cranberry, if you are interested.

The rolls of dough last 3 months in the freezer, are easy to make (thus freeing up those bakers who like to make the fancier more time consuming cookies). You will need rolls of wax paper and foil and tape to label the rolls before they go in the freezer.You could have a day to prep the ice box cookie dough at the church or in members homes in September for fellowship and working together. I don't even wash my mixer between batches unless there are strong ingredients that would taint the next batch. I just scrape out all the dough clinging to the sides of the mixer bowl.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 7:19AM
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plllog, of course you're right about the bars. And not contrary at all!

larecoltante - LOL!

lascatx - We are a small "country" church in Eastern NC and we do still have a lot of cooks. So far, no store bought items have appeared.

lpinkmountain - Giada's Biscotti is my "specialty" for the cookie walk every year. We host breakfast that day, too, and they are also included in the menu with coffee. I will definitely check out her toffee cookie sounds like a winner. Thank you for all your ideas. I'm printing everything and saving it to keep me inspired.

teresa nc7 - We don't have time to bake the day of the sale, but I like the idea of the rolled dough ready to go. I've' been collecting some simple decorating ideas from Pinterest that would make them festive but not be too fussy. Of course, those fabulously decorated ones do catch everyone's eye. I would be *very* interested in your Lemon Cranberry ones if you'd be willing to share. Thank you so much. And yep, we're planning several group baking days before the sale. It's our first time doing that....wish us luck! I had accidentally double posted on the Kitchens forum and one poster there suggested starting out with several versions of Chocolate Chip at our first session to "learn the ropes", so that's what I'm going to do.

I will try to remember to come back after the event and post the results. Thank you, everyone, for your responses and suggestions!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 10:29AM
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Oops...that wasn't on the other was plllog right here! Sorry about that plllog!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 10:31AM
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Here is the Lemon Cranberry Icebox Cookie recipe:

1 cup butter, softened at room temp
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 t grated lemon peel
2 TB fresh lemon juice
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped roughly
3 1/2 cups a-p flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

1.Using an electric mixer at medium speed (or by hand) beat the butter and both sugars until fluffy.
2.Add the eggs to the creamed mixture one at a time, beating well after each.
3.Add the grated lemon rind and lemon juice to the creamed mixture and beat well.
4.Add the dried cranberries to the dough and mix until well blended.
5.Combine the flour, soda and salt in a bowl. Slowly add a portion of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and blend just until well combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until well blended. Do not over beat.
6.Divide dough into 3 equal portions.
7.Take each portion of dough and shape it into a log about 12-inches long. Form the log into a round by rolling the dough back and forth on lightly floured parchment or was paper.
8.If you plan to bake the cookies right away: double wrap each log in plastic wrap; chill until firm, about 4 hours (or freeze about 2 hours). Preheat oven to 350F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper; unwrap dough log and using a sharp knife, cut each log into 1/4-inch slices. Rotate the dough log 1/4 turn after each cookie is cut - this will help keep the cookies round.
9.Place each slice 2-inches apart on the paper on the sheet.
10.Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown.
11.Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
12.Repeat the process for the next batch of cookies
to freeze the dough
1.Wrap the plastic wrap dough logs in freezer paper, or put them in a freezer zip bag. Be sure to label and date the logs of dough. Remove as much air as possible from the zip bag. Store up to 4-6 weeks in the freezer.
2.Thaw log of dough in the refrigerator for 4 hours or more before slicing and baking.

source: 30 Delicious Icebox Cookie Recipes, Lori Burke, Kindle Edition

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 1:34PM
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LOL! No problem, Evenshade, but it really was your own interpretation!

I thought you should make a test batch of something easy before the real day to make sure the oven is working, and I said that chocolate chip are dead easy and top sellers. You had the idea to start there and to learn the ropes. :) Which is an excellent idea.

I'll add a tip for that, though. Instead of using the exact same batter, with different mix-ins, try making each flavor a bit different. For instance, put the spoon of water in a chewy batch one, and not in a crunchy one. Use lemon extract instead of vanilla in one. If you do a white chocolate, maybe use a recipe that calls for all white sugar (no brown--you can substitute one for the other, but if you do use all white add a little water to maintain the texture. Having a proven recipe is safer). So, it's basically the same method, but each cookie gets its own identity.

That holds for the one batter/twenty cookies kinds of recipes too. If you just change the flavoring a little bit--that isn't the kind of recipe to go changing the texture much on--you prevent the cookies from all tasting the same. That's why extracts are so great! They have intense flavor and don't mess up the texture enough to be an issue. You can make your own extracts by reducing various fruits in simple syrup, if you don't like the chemical ones they sell for baking. Strain through cheesecloth to get all the solids, and reduce further. You can take it down to a paste consistency. Reduce the liquid a bit when you use it. Sugar is a good preservative, but I'd refrigerate. Nuts, citrus and vanilla should be done in alcohol, and I'd rather buy them.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 2:54PM
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plllog, I agree about the different cookie batters. I can buy the basics (flour, sugars, eggs, leavenings and butter) and we can go from there. I contacted out kitchen person and can set up a date to familiarize me with everything.

You all are the best! Thank you again.

This post was edited by evenshade on Fri, Aug 29, 14 at 16:46

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 3:47PM
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Having volunteered in our synagogue's kitchen at times, plllog's suggestions regarding kitchen management (e.g. checking the equipment before hand, marking ingredients as for your event) are all right on.

Also make sure you have some volunteers lined up to do clean up so that you leave the kitchen in the best shape for the next crew.

For drop cookies, it helps to have cookie scoops (like small ice cream scoops) to portion them out and keep the sizes about the same.

Supplies like flour, sugar, vanilla can be much cheaper bought in large quantities at places such as Smart and Final, Costco or Sam's Club.

Biscotti is a good suggestion - it holds up well to freezing and doesn't fall apart.

Bar cookies can be low effort per cookie to make. I didn't suggest them on the other thread because my favorites are fragile. Hermits which are one of my favorite cookies are also unfortunately fragile. I include them in my Mishloach Manot boxes (for the Jewish holiday of Purim when it is traditional to give friends food - often baked goods), but they have to be handled carefully to not break.

But there are some that aren't as fragile. 7 layer bars are very good, easy to make and reasonably sturdy. They don't need a mixer so they could give people something to start on while the first dough batches are being mixed.

I like to get a variety of flavors - e.g. not have everything be chocolate (though I know that is sacrilege to some :^) ). So I try to have cookies that cover at least 3 flavor groups. Flavor groups meaning things like:
hot spices like cinnamon, ginger,
citrus fruit,
other fruit (dried fruit like raisins or cranberries, or jam like a thumbprint cookie),
other spices such as anise or poppy seed,
ones where nuts predominate, and, of course,

Of course, some of the flavor groups can be combined like a chocolate chip cookie with nuts or a lemon poppy cookie, but if so, I try to not have one element that shows up in all the cookies.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 3:20PM
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Do consider baking Springerle cookies. I love the pressed decoration, and if you actually bake them according to tradition, you do so weeks ahead so that they are crunchy. I love them freshly baked. However, the pictures pressed into them make them a special cookie. I love to bake spritz pressed cookies when I need lots of cookies, though they are delicate and crumble easily. Someone ought to bake some kind of rolled out cookie cutter cookies with a little hole and string loop attached for the cookies hanging on the tree as treats for special children.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 5:45PM
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cloud_swift: unfortunately, the vanilla at Costco's is not pure vanilla.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2014 at 1:12PM
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New to this forum, but have been reading with interest. Lots of good tips and ideas. I would encourage those who want to contribute, but are unable to attend the bake session to do "fancier" cookies at home. Let people know you will be doing "such and such" kinds at the joint session, and would encourage other kinds to be brought from homes, so as to minimize lots of duplication.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2014 at 12:03PM
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