Prepare for the holiday season with my favorite holiday baking ideas and tactics, which range from grocery shopping to restocking your pantry to wrapping cookies to deliver to pals!
It’s that time of year again, my friends, the Christmas baking season!
- The season when you stock up on excessive amounts of wheat and butter and completely ruin all of your friends’ and family’s diets.
- It’s that time of year when sprinkles abound and the kitchen smells like gingerbread and vanilla.
- Baking during the holiday season isn’t complete without Christmas music screaming at full force.
impressive. If I looked at my yearly expenditure, I’m quite sure half of it would be in December and would be primarily made up of wheat, sugar, butter, eggs, and cream cheese. It is disturbing to me.
So enough about my frivolous spending! I thought it may be useful to share some holiday baking strategies that I’ve learned and developed over the years to help you get through the holidays with as few cookie fatalities and cupcake disasters as possible.
While unrelated, Cookie Casualties & Cupcake Catastrophes might make an excellent band name.
- Make a list (and check it twice)
- Recommended baking ingredients to stock up on for holiday baking
- Organize and prep your work station
- Ingredient preparation tips
- Tips for brownies and bars
- Tips for working with cheesecake
- Tips for baking cookies
- Tips for making cupcakes
- More Baking Basics
- What are some good tips to remember when baking?
- What are the five tips for successful baking?
- How early to start Christmas baking?
- Why do people bake during the holidays?
- What are 3 common baking mistakes?
- What is the golden rule in baking?
- What are the three 3 principles in baking?
- What is the best baking secret?
- What is the first skill of a successful baker?
- How long will cookies stay fresh in Ziploc bag?
Make a list (and check it twice)
- Audit your refrigerator and pantry. Toss out expired baking items (if you need assistance judging if they’re still OK, see this page on ingredient shelf life), and create a list of what you need. As in, a physical list on your phone or on paper.
Don’t tell me I won’t remember! If you don’t write it down somewhere, a Christmas candy display will seduce you and you’ll end up with three pounds of peppermint bark and no butter.
- Create a list of the recipes you intend to cook, along with the ingredients. I prefer to compile a list of all the ingredients required for all of the recipes so that I am more aware of the proportions required.
I keep note of how much I need for each dish (allowing for some wiggle space) and how much that translates to in terms of packing, as seen below:
7 cups unsalted butter (14 sticks = 4 packages)
Granulated sugar (6 cups Equals 3 pounds; purchase a 5 pound bag)
All-purpose flour (12 cups = 4.5 ounces every cup, therefore 54 ounces = 3.4 pounds = 5 pound bag)
- Don’t overextend yourself. When you have lofty ideas to bake twelve different cookie recipes for friends and family, it might be difficult to be realistic about what supplies you really need to get from the supermarket, but try not to overcommit yourself.
Recommended baking ingredients to stock up on for holiday baking
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should get you started on replenishing your pantry and fridge for all of your Christmas baking:
|All purpose flour||Molasses|
|Baking powder||Pure vanilla extract|
|Baking soda||Almond extract|
|Cake flour||Cream of tartar|
|Cocoa powder||Ground cinnamon|
|Powdered sugar||Ground ginger|
|Chocolate baking bars||Heavy cream|
|Granulated sugar||Unsalted butter sticks|
|Light brown sugar||Cream cheese blocks|
|Dark brown sugar|
Organize and prep your work station
The finest thing you can do for yourself is to make sure you have enough space to work.
- Begin by cleaning off your countertops and removing any clutter.
- Ensure that the countertops are clean. No way, no how! Wipe them down quickly to ensure you’re dealing with a clean slate.
- Place all of your tools in plain sight. I’m referring to your measuring spoons, measuring cups, cookie cutters, prep bowls, and so on. Putting everything in front of you will expedite things and relieve the stress of trying to locate what you need in the midst of time-sensitive procedures.
Ingredient preparation tips
- Check that your eggs are at room temperature. Let eggs to get to room temperature before incorporating them into the batter, or put them in a dish of warm water for 10 minutes.
- Furthermore, room temperature butter. Have you forgotten to put out the butter? If you cut it into cubes and set it on a dish, it will soften to room temperature faster than if you leave it whole. For further information, see this page about room temperature butter.
- Take the time to accurately measure your components.
Always scoop flour, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar into a measuring cup and level it off using a knife. If you compress it down too tightly, you’ll wind up with too much!
Similarly, when measuring brown sugar, always pack it down into a measuring cup. Otherwise, you risk having too little.
For more on the many sorts of ingredients, see this page on correctly measuring ingredients.
- It is not need to be afraid of melting chocolate. What if you don’t have a double boiler? Chocolate may be melted in the microwave.
In a microwave-safe dish, place your chocolate (chopped or broken into bits if using baking bars).
Heat in 15-30 second intervals, stirring after each, until smooth and melted.
Transfer the chocolate to a pastry bag or heavy duty plastic baggie, cut off a little portion of one corner, and drizzle away!
Tips for brownies and bars
- Prepare your pan as needed. Coat your pan well with nonstick spray, or use parchment paper pinned down on the edges with little binder clips to make removal more simpler. Just pull it out with no bother and no worry! Also, your pan is pretty clean and ready for the next batch.
- Use a serrated knife to make clean cuts. To obtain sharp edges, cut your bars using a serrated knife and clean it with a paper towel or cloth after each slice for the best appearance.
Tips for working with cheesecake
- Put your cheesecake on a baking sheet filled with water as it cooks to provide the moisture it need, keep it from drying out, and help avoid surface cracks.
- Wrap as least two layers of aluminum foil around the outside of your spring form pan. If you’re very worried, feel free to add more (like me).
- Refrigerate your cookie dough before shaping it into balls and baking it. I’m serious about this for at least a couple of hours. This makes the dough less sticky and simpler to deal with, and it also prevents the cookies from spreading excessively. Even better, you can freeze most recipes and then take them out to come to room temperature before baking. You may then work in batches and pull them out as needed.
- Get some nonstick silicon baking mats. There are several advantages:
You don’t have to spend money on parchment paper that you just use once and then discard.
Your pans do not get filthy! Not quite as filthy. You should still wash them on a regular basis.
There are no added calories as with certain nonstick sprays.
- When it comes baking sugar cookies, flour is your best friend. While working with sugar cookies, flour your rolling pin, flat surface (preferably a counter coated with wax or parchment paper), and hands. You may also coat your cookie cutters with flour to help the dough release from the cutter more readily.
- Let everything to totally cool before storing or packing it. Place your cookies in sealed containers only after they have totally cooled. If you do, the moisture will make them soggy, and no one likes a wet cookie!
In terms of packaging goodies, see my article on packing and sending cookies.
- If you want lovely cookies, sprinkle a few chocolate chips (or white chocolate chips, M&Ms, or whatever you like) on top of the cookies just after they come out of the oven so they don’t melt into the dough.
Tips for making cupcakes
- Cupcakes bake more evenly as a result. If you don’t have enough batter to fill a muffin tray, fill the remaining empty cups with a little water to help the remaining muffins rise.
- If the frosting is too thick, add a little amount of milk at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
- If you don’t have pastry bags, you may simply use a heavy-duty plastic Ziploc bag with the corner clipped off.
- To fill a pastry bag with icing, place it inside a pint glass and drape the top of the bag over the edges of the glass. This will make spooning in your icing much simpler!
- If you need many colors of frosting, just create a large quantity of vanilla frosting and split it among tiny portions. Next, for each color, add food coloring to a separate bowl.
- There is a proper technique to pipe icing onto cupcakes!
Hold the pastry bag with one hand on the twisted end and the other towards the bottom.
Hold the bag straight up and down while moving in a circle (either from the outside in or the inside out depending on the appearance you want) and gradually release pressure as you draw the bag up. This will result in a very clean peak on the cupcake.
- After taking the cupcakes out of the oven, allow them in the pan for a few minutes before gently removing them and placing them on a cooling rack to cool entirely. If you leave them in the pan, they may continue to bake due to the heat of the pan, resulting in drier-than-desired cupcakes.
What trade secrets do you have in your back pocket? Tell me in the comments!
More Baking Basics
How to Measure Ingredients Correctly
The Importance of Room Temperature Butter
5 Baking Steps You Should Never Skip
Common Baking Ingredients’ Shelf Life