Holiday tradition brings cookies, cookies and more cookies

by Karen Schafer
Staff Writer

December 23, 1999

It seems the ever-so-sweet cookie exchange hasn't disappeared -- at least at the home of Robin Olson. The Gaithersburg mother of three has hosted an annual cookie exchange for the past 11 years, calling it the one social event she does without her family.

It is also "the only three hours in the year when my house is spotless," she says.

And this annual event has brought this freelance Web designer a taste of fame -- if not fortune. Her 1999 cookie exchange was taped for the Food Channel, which can be seen by satellite and Prince George's County cable viewers on Friday at 7 p.m.

She started baking cookies with her mother and sisters-in-law some 20 years ago. For three days the house would take on the atmosphere of an army boot camp with each recruit sifting, mixing and baking literally hundreds of cookies.

With all this hands-on experience she has created a list of cookie exchange rules for anyone new to this tradition. She does not allow no-bake cookies or bars. And as for the perennial favorite -- chocolate chip cookies -- forget it, unless the recipe is unusual. Participants must tell her in advance what kind of cookies they will bring so there are no duplications.

For those who absolutely, positively do not have time to bake or have ruined the recipe, there is an option. The partygoer can purchase three dozen cookies, but forget bringing a box of the Pepperidge Farms Holiday Collection. The cookie buyer must "go to a real bakery and buy yummy cookies," notes Olson's on her Web page: www.

The Web page also has all 19 recipes from this year's exchange as well as tips on how to make better cookies.

It was Olson's Web page that brought her to the attention of the Food Channel. The Denver based company was looking for a cookie exchange to tape and came across her site.

After seeing a taping of the show, Olson concludes TV makes everyone looked bigger.

"I looked old, short and fat," she says.

Ah, the life of a television star.

Peanut butter cookies

From the kitchen of Robin Olson

2 1/2 cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup soft butter
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix flour and baking soda, set aside. Mix all other ingredients in another large bowl until smooth and fluffy.

Pour the flour slowly into the wet ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Chill for one at least one hour.

Roll the dough into 1 inch balls. Dip fork tines in flour and crisscross each ball, flatten with fork.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Remove from oven, cool and serve.

Carol Neill's Chocolate Crackles

Makes about 4 dozen

4 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar

Melt chocolate, blend with oil and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla, flour, baking powder andsalt. Mix. Chill dough severalhours. Shape into small balls and roll in powder sugar. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.