Thursday, December 17, 2009

Headache Free Holiday Baking--Overview

Last weekend the hubby and I did our annual holiday baking. We enjoy baking and once a year we get to indulge in a weekend-long bake-a-thon and reap surprised thank yous in return. It's win-win for everyone involved. Lest you think you have to channel Martha Stewart in order to pull this off, I'm going to let you in on a few of the tricks we have picked up over the years.

Full Plates

1. Divide and Conquer
Pick a buddy. I bake with my husband, but you could bake with a friend, child, neighbor...anyone who likes to bake and makes good company. Bonus points if their "old standbys" are recipes you've never made before. Two pairs of hands not only make the work go faster, but greatly simplifies the process of making up the next thing while pulling the first out of the oven every 6-9 minutes.

2. Choose Your Battles
Pick recipes with varying levels of difficultly. I usually do our recipe selection and I try to pick 1 that's time/labor intensive but worth it, a few recipes that take an average amount of time, and 1 that's either dead simple or a "cheat" (using box mixes).

3. Make a Map
Read all your recipes in advance and know if your dough needs to chill, approximately how long things need to bake for, what your oven temps need to be, etc. We start with anything that will need to chill or set. We'll plan for something that bakes longer in the middle of the madness, so we can stop for a meal. As much as possible, we start by baking things at the lowest temperature, and work our way up to the things with the highest baking temps. That way we never have to worry about the oven needing to cool off between batches.

4. Time Travel
Earlier, this year I learned that most drop cookies can be made in advance. Simply create dough balls (or logs) and freeze. Then simply bake (or unthaw and drop onto cookie sheets then bake) and enjoy. This is a fantastic way to spread out the prep work and allows you to maximize your time in the kitchen.

5. Finishing Touches
I began this cookie baking tradition at home with my mom and over the years we tried a variety of methods for gifting our creations. Hands down, the simplest, most transportation friendly method is to place the cookies on a plate and slide into a gallon ziploc bag. Add a cute tag or label and you are done. The cookies will stay fresh and moist, they travel safely and stack well, and the recipient does not end up with a random container. I've used glass plates in the past, but here in the South people Freak Out thinking you are handing out your dishes. So cute, seasonal paper plates it is!

Over the next few days, I'll show how we put each of these into practice this year.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the tips, chica. Greatly appreciated, in fact!! I'm not much of a baker and tomorrow I plan on having a bake-a-thon all by myself. I foresee holiday music, wine, and hopefully a few edible cookies in the end. I have a few things to do while I'm at work tonight, but I'm hoping that by the time I leave I will have a plan of attack for tomorrow utilizing some of your tips!


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