There's a little bit of magic in homemade cookies. Plain or fancy, soft or crispy, they somehow carry the ineffable essence of home and hearth, love and kindness, tradition and family—and they say Christmas loud and clear. This holiday season we're blessed with three fabulous new cookie cookbooks.

SWAP AND SMILE

In Very Merry Cookie Party, Barbara Grunes and Virginia Van Vynckt tell you how to plan and host a Christmas cookie exchange, a wonderful way to amplify your holiday array without going crazy. You simply ask six (or any number that suits) friends to bake six dozen (one per every guest) of one of their most favorite cookie and then you swap, everyone going home with different kinds of cookies. You can make rules or go with the flow—either way, you'll have a great day. They've included more than 100 inventive recipes for everything from Dressed-Up Classics to pink and white Candy Cane cookies, Mint Meringue Wreaths, Stained-Glass Ornament Cookies made from fruit-flavored Life Savers to no-bake coconut Christmas Mice with red current noses and almonds for ears.

BEST OF THE BEST

The Gourmet Cookie Book showcases the single best cookie recipe from each year of Gourmet's almost seven decades as our epicurean magazine of record. And every recipe is a gem, starting with  the almond-scented Cajun Macaroons that appeared in 1941 to James Beard's 1969 Galettes de Noël to a 2006 recipe for Chocolate Peppermint Bar Cookies and last year's Grand Marnier Glazed Pain D'Épice, the honey-tinged Christmas bread of Dijon, France. There's a scrumptious, almost-edible photograph with each recipe so you'll know exactly what you're aiming for.

A MULTITUDE OF TASTY TREATS

Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies is Alice Medrich's paean to the perfect cookie, cookies that reflect "our modern culinary sensibility" without losing their home-sweet-home appeal. To achieve this delectably honorable goal, Alice revisited her cookie repertoire, experimenting with ingredients, constantly tweaking, tinkering and tasting, tuning up classics, never settling for "pretty good," and wound up with an extraordinary selection that is "whimsical yet practical, quirky but comforting, eccentric but engaging"—though I'd say all Alice's cookies are definitely divine. You'll find must-taste innovations like Lavender Tuiles, Carrot Masala Macaroons, large, flat, ultrathin Chocolate Chunk Cookies, wheat-free Double-Oatmeal Cookies, Whole Wheat Hazelnut Cookies, ultra-chocolaty Bittersweet Decadence Cookies, Dulce-de-Leche-filled Alfajores, Chestnut Walnut Meringues and more.

All these creative treasures are arranged by texture—a cookie cookbook first, as far as I know--just check out the title again. Though most cookies don't require demanding Cordon Bleu techniques, Alice doesn't leave much to chance, providing detailed instructions, plus lots of extra info on beating and folding, piping and prepping. She starts off with a User's Guide that demystifies recipe language and answers 38 of the cookie world's most-asked questions.

Commercial cookies beware: Your days are numbered. 

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