Holiday Baking Tips

Holiday Baking Tips

It’s so fun and rewarding to bake holiday treats with friends and family to help you. Even if you prefer to bake alone, there’s a satisfaction of knowing you created delicious treats that will spread cheer to everyone. What do some seasoned bakers know that would help you this year? Read on to find out.

Great bakers use fresh ingredients. That flour that’s been in your pantry since last May is probably not going to yield the tastiest results. That chocolate that’s been in the freezer over a year? Toss it. You’re going to spend the time and effort to bake for the holidays. You need to invest in good quality ingredients to make memorable treats. Go for the finest chocolate chips you can afford. Get fresh butter, eggs, flour, sugar, yeast, confectioner’s sugar and brown sugar. The better the ingredients, the better the outcome. Throw everything that’s expired out. Canned foods (like condensed milk which many recipes call for) do have expiration dates. Check them before you begin.

Once your pantry is cleaned out, you’ll want to stock it with the basics. In addition to the flour and sugars you’ll need to have on hand, you should also pick up walnuts, pecans, sprinkles, icing for decorating, chocolate chunks, unsweetened chocolate, condensed milk, shortening, non-stick spray and any specialty items like pignoli nuts.

Before you head out to the store, print out all the recipes you want to bake and then create one giant list of all the ingredients. You can find lots of holiday cookie recipes online that are easy to print in index card format for easy keeping.

With ingredients in hand, where do you start? If you’re baking for holiday gift-giving or sharing, now’s the time to clean out your freezer. Several weeks or even up to two months ahead, you can freeze cookies you intend to give out. So, you’ll need room. Start using up your freezer stock and you’ll have enough room to store the goodies.

When you bake, plan to do one type of cookie a night so you don’t get overwhelmed. Make double or triple batches of the same type of cookie and you can decorate in an assembly line fashion. The beauty of working on one type of cookie at a time is that you have everything you need out once and then you can put it away. You’ll have all the decorations you need for the one batch and then you can store them. The next day, move on and make the next batch in bulk.

Invest in a silicone mat for each cookie tray. This will help the cookies cook at an even temperature and prevent them from sticking. Have five baking sheets so you can always have two in the oven, two on the counter being filled and one with the cookies that are cooling.

Do all the washing up as your cookies cool so that your kitchen will be clean by the time you’re ready to decorate. Once your cookies are decorated, you must let them cool or the frosting will smear. Wrap cooled cookies in wax paper, then a layer of plastic wrap then a layer of tin foil. Or you can use locking bags that are made for the freezer. No matter how you choose to store your cookies, ensure that no air can get in. Air will spoil all your hard work as the cookies will not taste fresh when thawed.  You can also store your baked goods in plastic lidded containers. Just make sure they are airtight.

When you’re ready to bring out your cookies for the holidays, allow them to thaw on the counter before assembling them on your presentation basket or tray. You’ll be glad you spent the extra time to make your cookies ahead and freeze them in batches.

Now you can present your family or friends with wonderful holiday gift baskets that you’ve already made! Not only that, but it saves lots of work on the backend and you can actually enjoy the days leading up to the holidays instead of baking at a frenzied pace.

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