The holiday season has a way of putting people into cookie mode — that festive mood that sends them scurrying off to their baking pans. We’ve baked this special edition of Let’s Eat with expert guidance from Philly notables and baking pros. Need ideas? We have them. If you prefer to head to the bakery for your fix, read on to check out our picks for 21 outstanding cookies.

And stay tuned next week for another special edition of Let’s Eat, in which we will answer that burning question: “Where do I take my out-of-town friends who are visiting over the holidays?”

The ultimate Philly cookie swap — and you can get in on it

We asked people around town for their favorite cookies, and before we knew it, we had a dozen recipes from across the region, from people of all backgrounds, including Philadelphia chef Eli Kulp (the Italian fig cookies known as cuccidati) and muralist Marian Bailey (chocolate chip and peanut butter cookie sandwiches). Contributor Kae Lani Palmisano found stories of family, tradition, and memory with every recipe. We asked our friends at Drexel University’s Department of Food & Hospitality to help us bake and test the recipes. If you bake any of these cookies, post a photo and tag us on social, at @phillyinquirer.

How to host your own perfect cookie swap

Cookie swaps are “a chance for everyone to share their creativity,” says Vallery Lomas, the Season 3 winner of the Great American Baking Show. Contributor Anna Rahmanan offers up six steps for a fun cookie swap. Worried about gluten allergies? You need to consider meringues.

How a celiac diagnosis threw the LaBan household for a loop

And speaking of gluten allergies: Critic Craig LaBan says his daughter, Alice, had always been “the flour-dusted supernova of dessert” in the family, baking for friends and neighbors. When she was diagnosed with celiac disease in her senior year of college, she steered her career in a different direction. She’s now a baker, “and it has only fanned her passion more,” her dad writes.

The 5 tools every cookie baker needs

Name five tools every home baker needs. Contributor Carolyn Desalu sought the advice of Jezabel Careaga of Jezabel’s Café in West Philadelphia, an experienced baker known for her dulce de leche-filled alfajores. Among the must-have tools are a rubber spatula and a digital scale. That’s a small scale for weighing ingredients, for that precise measurement you need. (We’ll leave talk about a bathroom scale for weighing your cookie-filled body for another time. Maybe January.)

Don’t feel like baking? Sample the 21 best cookies in Philly.

Cookies are probably the most convenient of baked goods, writes contributor Michelle Reese, and there are so many different varieties that it’s hard to find someone who claims they don’t like at least one. (I’m a Toll House fan from way back.) But don’t be confused by their simplicity. A lot of work goes into it. We’ll leave you today with 21 examples of the best cookies from area bakers, and offer you best wishes for a happy, carb-filled holiday.

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