Christmas Cookie Swap 2017
As we push through the first whole week of 2018, allow me shake off my holiday hangover by documenting a festive morning that brought me all the Christmas feels. If you are like me, you probably never knew such delicious events ever existed. But apparently, my friend and the other half of Mother's Who Brunch, Michelle Aventajado has been hosting Christmas cookie swaps in her home for years.
Now, before you begin patting me on the back for contributing my cookie baking talents, let us make it clear that I did not participate in the swap. I was selected to judge and taste-test the delectable baked goodies - alongside two respectable foodies, Joey and Nino, Michelle’s hubby of course.
Seven baking enthusiasts came together to battle head to head for the winning title for their yummy holiday creations. Each chef was to produce 12 dozen cookies of their own unique recipes, following a certain theme for sampling and swapping afterwards.
The 2017 MNM Cookie Swap took place on December 2nd, the most perfect morning to kick-start the Holiday Season. The Aventajado home was decked with festive Christmas décor, red and green adornments, fresh local blooms and a spread that would put all other cookie swaps to shame.
My tummy grumbled in anticipation. However, I did not have to wait entirely long to chow because hordeurves such as, liver pate and Spanish charcuterie were set around the gathering place. A casual buffet served fresh greens, the infamous crunchy, slow roasted pork belly from Manila Belly, and a make-your-own hash station – with an egg cooked to your preference, a protein selection such as breakfast sausage, veggies, tomatoes and choice sauces – to name a few.
Once all participants and judges were gathered, Michelle shared opening words and an explanation of the mechanics. She then handed the floor to the participants to introduce themselves and their creations.
1) Maggie Agustin baked beautiful chai spiced shortbread wreath cookies.
2) Bertha Armiras presented us with peanut butter oatmeal cookies.
3) Ginger Diaz brought chocolate espresso thumbprint cookies.
4) Sabrina Go created butter cookies with a deliciously unique manchego cheese dip.
5) Lady and Stef Badoy magically whipped- up delicious keto friendly coconut lime cream cheese cookies using coconut flour and stevia as sweetener.
6) Gia Aventajado’s put a twist on a Twix bar with cookies using her own recipe of dulce de leche.
7) Michelle Aventajado, the hostess (Yes, really! She had time to create and bake 12 dozen cookies and throw a holiday brunch) showcased her superpowers with white chocolate and cranberry biscotti.
As the judges were given the go to begin tasting the entries, we were instructed to select 3 winners, one for best presentation, most unique and an over all winner.
Walking into this, I was all too excited to feast on the cookies (duh) but when it was crunch time, I seriously felt the nerves. Since I knew most, if not all of the participants, I needed to ensure to taste and analyze each bite to justify my decision for the winning titles.
Nino suggested we break a piece from each cookie as not to waste them with one bite each. We initially agreed, but found ourselves repeatedly reaching for seconds. Joey and I needed to extra bites and to ensure we were judging fairly. I had never met Joey prior to this event. But, like you, I would stalk her delicious Instagram account as @chichajo and drool. We three made a great team and our decisions were all unanimous.
Now, for the winner. This was exciting. I get butterflies reminiscing this moment. I remembering being so nervous to make the announcement.
Best presentation: Chai Spiced Shortbread Wreath
Maggie is a professional cookie decorator and the face behind The Little Whisk, so it comes as no surprise that her cookies were decorated beautifully - just look at how festive! They tasted like Christmas too.
Most original: Twix cookie
This work of art by Gia Aventejado was made with milk chocolate and dulce de leche topped on a shortbread cookie. The bite-sized cookie was just the right amount of sweet and salty. Gia truly takes after her mother.
Over-all winner: Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
This peanut butter sandwich inspired cookie was not a sandwich at all. But, the fullness of flavor was a true testament that less is always more. Bertha hadn’t decorated with fancy trimmings. At first glance, it was just an ordinary cookie. It was firm to the touch with a crunchy coating, but incredibly chewy inside. It had just the right amount of salty but also just semi sweet. We munched silently, with almost a lost for words to describe how impressive the flavors were. Joey paused, then described this to be a Netflix cookie because this she could envision snacking on these, one after the other while binge watching her favorite series. It was at that moment that we agreed Bertha's peanut butter creation to be the overall winner.
After all that hard work, I made my way to the brunch spread, piled on the grub and officially declared it the holidays. We dined among great company, laughed and chatted over frozen rose.
As we wrapped up our morning, we were each given cards with all the cookie recipes, souvenirs from Clink Collective, a crate of brown, organic free range eggs from Egg Grange and tin containers to fill with the baked sweets. It was a joy to watch the ladies collect their take-home from the other cookie piles.
I was so excited to share my baon from the swap when I returned home, that I completely forgot to place my own cookies aside to enjoy the next morning. Yup, they were all gone and Mom was left to enjoy the crumbs, of course.
Big thank you, Michelle for inviting me to your beautiful home to partake in your family’s holiday tradition. This was an experience I will not soon forget. Who knows, maybe this Christmas, I may be invited to attend as a contestant?
How are you holding up after the holidays? I still find myself struggling to get back to my routine. But, reminiscing fun days like this make my holiday hangover more bearable.
Well, until next Christmas. Let us make most of the next 11 months ahead.
Happy New Year!