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Welcome to Hill Reeves, a blog where I write about the things I cook and bake in NYC.

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How to Approach a Cookie Exchange

It's cookie time.

Happy cookie exchange season. And if you come from a family like mine, filled with competitive sisters, every RSVP you send is really a friendly way of saying, "OH, IT'S ON." Happily, you can never really go wrong with cookies. I shouldn't blame my sisters; I admit that I put the pressure on myself to be creative with my recipe. But there's just something inside challenging me to be the one to cook the cookie that stands out, the cookie that relieves us all from sweets fatigue that inevitably sets in around the holidays.

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I have two cookie exchanges lined up for this year, and I thought I'd share a few rules I have for myself in regards to the cookies I deem worthy of sharing. They help me to focus in on one idea when the cookie recipe options feel overwhelming.

First of all, oats are for farm animals, not dessert. It's true that I should probably grow up and embrace oats beyond the kind that has "dinosaur eggs," but even those people who claim to love oatmeal cookies can admit that these are always the last cookies to go. If I see a recipe that calls for oats, it's immediately nixed.

Second, cookies should have mix-ins, the most basic (and essential) being chocolate chips. I used to work at a bakery and it baffled me how many people bought sugar cookies over chocolate chip cookies. They were the same cookie, except one had chocolate pieces in it. I don't mean to be judgmental; this just seems like common sense unless you have an allergy or something, no?

Third, take a hit for the team if you must. All the best cookie exchanges cover the basics and shouldn't be without a classic chocolate chip, the peanut butter cookies with fork patterns on top, something with a Hershey's kiss stuck into it, and jam thumbprint. I kind of love when I decide to take on one of these, though. Perfecting a classic can be way more invigorating than trying out something new.

Last, keep in mind that these cookies are going to do a lot of travelling, so try not to get too crazy with the frosting!

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This year, I'm going with Cornflake-chocolate-chip Marshmallow Cookies, a creation of Christina Tosi, the lady behind Momofuku Milk Bar. I tried out the recipe and while the super-sweet cookies aren't totally my personal style, they were a big hit with my book club. The leftover Cornflake Crunch was right up my alley, though. With the added milk powder, this ingredient creates a flavor dimension that everyone seems to like, but no one can put their finger on. Here's the recipe, found on Milk Bar's website. If you try out these s'mores-in-a-cookie, definitely don't skimp on refrigerating. I recommend making the batter at least a day ahead of time and refrigerating overnight. All cookies are better if you let 'em sit, but these specifically need some resting to prevent the cookies from spreading too much while baking.

Have any great cookie recipes? I'd love to hear them. Leave in the comments or email me (hill.reeves@gmail.com)!

French Onion Mac and Cheese

Leftover Mashed Potato Pancakes!