Holiday Baking 101 - My Favorite Tips & Tricks

The winter holidays season is here, and it is time to warm up the oven. Baking goodies is a cherished holiday tradition for most families. I have compiled some of my best baking tips & tricks to help make your work easier and more efficient. Whether you are a novice or a seasoned baker, these helpful hints offer sweet success to everything you bake for family and friends!

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How to Pick the Perfect Recipes for Your Holiday Baking

Holidays are meant for family, friends and delicious food. With so many recipes to choose from and limited space on the table, how do you decide what to make? Consider some of my tips & tricks for choosing the perfect recipes for your holiday table.

  • Make Items That Are Freezable Preparing food in advance saves time—especially during the holidays. Consider dishes that can be frozen, thawed and re-heated, like casseroles and many desserts.
  • Stock Up On Staples - Many holiday dishes feature staples that you keep on hand in the pantry. Stock up on staples when they are on sale and buy the extra ingredients as you need them.
  • Revisit Recipes from the Past – Make holiday dishes that your family has enjoyed for generations. Add an exciting modern recipe to create new family traditions.
  • Ask Your Guests What They Want – Everyone has a special dish they love for the holidays. Ask for suggestions from your guests if you need recipe ideas.
  • Consider Allergies & Restrictions - If a family member or guest has food allergies, consider a couple dishes he/she can eat safely. Warn him/her in advance of any dishes that may have allergens. For those who have dietary restrictions (i.e. vegan/gluten-free), find a few recipes they can enjoy.
  • Consider Your Limitations – Don’t feel guilty if you do not have the time or skills to make everything from scratch. If you need to buy some pre-made ingredients, like frozen pie shells, it is fine. People will still see the love & effort you put into the meal.

With some planning, you can easily make a holiday menu. Create a list of dishes you want to make and the ingredients and equipment needed. Coordinate these with your schedule to see what can be made in advance and dishes to make that day. The time you save in the kitchen means more time to spend with your loved ones.

Make Your Life Easier – Build A Grocery List for Holiday Baking

Holiday baking is a fun way to celebrate the season. Researching baking recipes and deciding what to make takes time. Since the holidays are so frantic, creating a grocery list for your baking recipes will save time and needless trips to the store for forgotten items. Let me share some tips & tricks I have learned over the years for making an efficient holiday baking grocery list.

Read your recipes

Prepare a list of all ingredients and amounts each recipe requires. You will be less likely to forget an ingredient and make a mad dash to the supermarket.

Do Inventory

Use your ingredient list and go through your pantry, spice cabinet and refrigerator to check off what you have on hand. If you have an ingredient, be sure that you have enough for your recipes. Check expiration dates on spices and replace as needed.

Categorize your list

After your ingredient list and inventory are complete, it is time to organize the shopping list. Group like items into categories according to the layout of the store. You will save time running up and down the aisles to find things and you will be less likely to forget something.

Look for sales and coupons

Once your grocery list is finalized, peruse the weekly ads and circulars from your local supermarkets. Most stores run sales during the holidays on most of the baking staples people use. Save even more cash by clipping coupons and taking advantage of loyalty discount cards. Compare ads to see which stores offer you the best savings.

Pick the right time to shop

Consider shopping during the early morning or middle of the day when the supermarkets are less crowded. Shop when you are not in a hurry and can pay attention to your list. Remember never to go grocery shopping hungry, or you will be tempted to bust your budget for items not on your list.

When you have so many things to do for the holidays, shopping for baking ingredients can be overwhelming. With advance planning and an organized shopping list, you will have less stress and more time to bake the yummy holiday treats your family and friends enjoy.

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Make Sure To Organize Your Kitchen For Holiday Baking Success

Baking can be one of the most enjoyable holiday activities. An organized kitchen will save you time, ensure everything you need is within reach and make cleanup a snap. The best part of an organized kitchen is that it will not just be helpful over the holidays but all year. Try some of my favorite kitchen organization tips & tips.

Store Dishes and Tools Within Reach

When you keep your tools and dishes where you need, you save time and energy. Consider keeping herbs, spices and oil near the stove for easy seasoning while cooking. Store your measuring cups, spoons and mixing bowls close to the largest area of counter space.

Put Seldom Used Items Out of Sight

Maximize your kitchen space by storing rarely-used dishes, appliances and kitchen gadgets in the pantry or on a shelf in a spare closet. If your holiday baking essentials are stored together, you won’t waste time searching for what you need. Plus, you will have plenty of room for rolling out cookies and pastries.

Keep A List

Review your holiday baking recipes and make a list of ingredients you need. Do an inventory of what you have in the refrigerator and pantry, including staples. Ensure that all the herbs & spices in your spice cabinet are still fresh and replenish as needed. Check off things you already have and prepare a shopping list of the ingredients to buy.

You Don't Have to Bake All in One Day

Save time by preparing baked goods ahead of time. Most dough for cookies, pastries and bread can be frozen and thawed when needed. Some of your recipes may be baked then frozen, saving you even more time in the kitchen. If you divide your baking recipes among the days before the holiday, you won’t be frazzled trying to do them in one day.

Bring the joy back into your holiday baking by organizing your kitchen and planning your dishes. You will spend less time working in the kitchen and more with your loved ones. Enjoy your goodies and the holiday cheer!

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A Secret - Batch Bake for Holiday Success

If you're in charge of baking this year's holiday treats, one way to save time (and some stress) is to bake in batches, freeze, and store them until the big day. Streamlining the baking process makes the most of your time.

Find a Basic Starter Recipe

Many baked goods use the same basic recipe. Add ingredients to create a variety of tasty treats. For example, a simple sugar cookie recipe can be turned into a plethora of cookie varieties by changing the ingredient list. Use the same pie crust recipe for all your pies. Using one ingredient in different ways saves money and time.

Get Prepared

Planning is a key component of batch baking. Decide which days you will be baking each dish and how long it will take. Add a little extra time for the unexpected so you stay on schedule. With a baking plan, you will have the dishes you want without crunching for time.

Get Everything Ready to Go

The French call it mise en place, or everything in its place. Read the recipe closely and arrange your baking utensils & measured ingredients accordingly. Make sure you have enough space to bake, cool, and store your baked items. The process will run smoother and there will be no running to the store for missing ingredients. Designate spaces for each task, like a mixing area and rolling-out surface. It makes clean- up a cinch.

Clean as You Go

Before you begin mixing and baking, fill the sink with hot, soapy water, Wash pans and utensils while things are baking and cooling. You will have little cleanup to worry about when your baked goodies are finished.

All -Day Batch Baking

Set aside a day on the weekend or a non-busy weekday for batch baking. Depending on what you are preparing, you will probably need at least 8-10 hours to complete the job. Start with recipes that require resting periods for the dough or long baking times. You can prepare other things while the dough is rising. Place cookie dough and pies in the fridge while the bread is baking. When the bread is cooling, you can bake the pies and cookies.

After- Dinner Small Batch Cooking

While you are preparing dinner in the oven one evening, why not make a small batch of cookies or other holiday treats? Anything you can make in advance and freeze will mean less work for your family feast.

Sharing

Consider having a cookie party with a group of friends or family. Each participant makes one type of cookie and trades until everyone has some of each kind. It is a fun and stress-free way of getting a variety of baked goods without baking them all yourself.

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Tips For Freezing Your Holiday Treats

Try some of my tips & tricks for baking and storing your goodies ahead of time. Supplies You Will Need:

  • Parchment paper
  • Freezer- safe containers
  • Resealable Plastic Bags
  • Butcher paper
  • Cooking spray

Cake Layers

Spray freezer paper with cooking spray. Wrap the cake tightly in the paper, then cover with plastic wrap. Freeze the cake until completely solid and place in tin or freezer- safe box. Remove the plastic wrap and parchment paper before thawing.

Cheesecake

You can freeze cheesecake in or out of the spring form pan. If taking out of the pan, place the cheesecake on a round of cardboard covered in foil. Wrap the entire cake in multiple layers of plastic wrap. Freeze until solid, then place in solid container. To thaw, remove plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Make fruit toppings the day the cheesecake will be served.

Pies

Freeze pie crusts in tins. After crusts are frozen, place in a freezer bag until needed. When ready, place in a 425-degree oven for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350 degrees for 45 additional minutes. To freeze a fully-baked pie, place it in the freezer until solid, then place in freezer bag. To thaw, open the freezer bag and place the pie in the fridge overnight. You can also thaw it on the counter for 3-4 hours.

Cookies, Brownies, Muffins, Yeast Breads, and Snack Cakes

Cool these baked goods to room temperature then place in refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Wrap in freezer paper and place in freezer bag. To thaw, remove from the freezer bag and place on the counter. If the baked good contains eggs, thaw in the refrigerator.

Cookie Dough

Make a large batch of cookie dough and separate it into batches. Freeze each batch as a long bar that you can cut up to make individual cookies. For recipes where dough is baked as a ball, form individual dough balls into disks and place in a freezer bag. To thaw, remove the wrapping and place on the counter.

Raw Yeast Dough

Mix the dough and let sit for the first rise. Shape the dough into the form you want to bake it in (log for bread loaf, balls for rolls, etc.) Freeze dough on a tray in freezer. Then wrap dough in parchment paper and place into a freezer bag. Thaw dough in the container you will bake it in. Place in fridge overnight or within 3-5 hours of baking. It will rise as it thaws. Bake according to recipe directions.

Fully-baked Cookies

Place a layer of baked cookies in the bottom of a freezer- safe container. Cover with parchment paper. Repeat cookies and parchment paper until container is full. Cover with a final layer of parchment. Seal the container and freeze. To serve, place frozen cookies on a serving platter and let thaw 2 - 3 hours.

Stressing out over baking shouldn't be part of the holidays. Get organized ahead of time so you can make the best memories possible with your loved ones. Please share this handy guide with your family and friends and make sure to post your holiday treats with the following tags #RecipeSavants #ICookedThis.

As always I am here if you have any questions.

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About The Chef Bear

Robert Felkins

My food philosophy is simple; food should be a feast of all five senses. Meals should be based on simple, tasty and smart recipes that are easy to follow. Instead of serving processed junk, I prefer to use fresh & seasonal ingredients. I gravitate towards all cuisines that are BIG on flavor. By cooking at home, we can all eat healthier and save money.

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