Nothing is better than homemade baked goods during the holidays. Everyone loves how the house smells, and they cannot wait until the big day to bite into the delectable goodies. But, many times Christmas baking can also be overwhelming, especially for the cook.
It’s difficult to find time to bake at any time, but it can be even harder during the holidays with all the added activities associated with this time of the year. However, if you follow this guide, you’ll be able to share wonderful times and delightful treats with your family and friends, and maybe even donate some of the goods too.
How to Pick the Perfect Recipes for Your Holiday Baking
One way to save time, money and effort is to start out by picking the right recipes for your holiday baking. You want to ensure that you make something for everyone, so that everyone has fond memories of the wonderful food, the smells, and the joy. But, you also want to make sure that you choose recipes that make it easier to get the baking done. Picking recipes with these things in mind will make the holiday baking so much more enjoyable.
- Make Items That Are Freezable – If you can make it ahead and freeze it and still get a good result, consider the recipe a winner. It doesn’t matter if you can freeze the entire finished product, or just the dough; freezing will help tremendously with ensuring that you have enough time to make the holiday baked items your family enjoys.
- Make Baked Goods with Similar Ingredients – Most baked goods actually do have very similar ingredients, just in different amounts, mixed in different ways. You know you’re going to need sugar, butter, flour and then a variety of different spices and additions to make each recipe complete.
- Revisit Baking Memories from the Past – Gingerbread, sugar cookies, bread pudding and fudge might come to mind. If you have a childhood favorite, don’t skip it. It’s always great to share those things with your children. It is part of the wonderful traditions that make up the holidays.
- Ask Your Family and Friends What They Want – Everyone has something that makes the holiday for them. For some it’s pumpkin pie, for others it’s their grandma’s apple pie. Whatever it is that is special to them, try to accommodate them if they’re coming to your house at any point through the holidays.
- Consider Any Allergies – If you have family and friends with allergies, be sure to find out what is seriously an issue for them. For example, if someone is seriously allergic to nuts and they are coming to your house for a holiday dinner, you probably want to ensure that absolutely no nuts are anywhere to be found.
- Consider Food Preferences – Do you have someone who has a dietary preference who is going to be around for the holidays? If you do, try to make at least one baked item they can enjoy. For example, if you have someone who is on Weight Watchers, you can go to their website and find recipes that fit their diet. Perhaps your aunt is a vegan; find some recipes online that are vegan. Taking the extra time to include them won’t be that difficult and you might find that everyone can enjoy that item, not just the one with the dietary need.
- Make Items That Consider Your Limitations – We all have issues that prevent us from being the perfect “Betty Crocker,” but don’t let that stop you. If you only have so much time, or space, no one is ever really going to mind that your sugar cookies were store bought from the refrigerator section, or that you made bread from a box. As long as the flavors are there and you get to experience the joy of baking with your family, they’ll love it.
Don’t worry; you can get it all done if you’re prepared, organized, and create a holiday baking schedule. Creating your schedule will depend on how much time you have left before the holidays and which holidays you’ll be responsible for in your home. You can do a lot of baking in one day, freeze, and thaw later. Or, you can do some baking each night until you’ve filled your freezer. Alternatively, you can do it all the day before. It’s up to you and depends greatly on the time and space you have available.
How to Organize Your Holiday Baking Shopping List to Make Shopping Faster
One of the best ways to save time with holiday baking is to organize your shopping list. Sometimes it can be really confusing to figure out how to do this, but of course the best way is to organize it in the order you will go through the grocery store. The problem is that stores are always mixing up things on different isles. So, that might not always work.
The next best thing is to organize your shopping list by types of food that you will be purchasing; putting the cold foods last so that they spend less time in your shopping cart before checking out is a good thing too. So, try to shop in the order that best fits this purpose. The problem here is that many stores have produce on one end and frozen on another, so you may have to adjust how you go through the lines.
Keep a Running List
Even though you’re planning a special shopping trip for your holiday baking, it’s a good idea to always keep a running shopping list on your fridge. Use a magnetic clipboard to hold paper and pen, and each time you run out of an item that you know you’ll need again, write it on the list. This makes planning for shopping day a lot easier.
This is especially important for commodity items like milk, flour and eggs as well as things you purchase less often like vanilla and spices. These are things you are likely to forget or think you have, or you have something and buy more “just in case” when it’s not needed. Spices, for example, have a short shelf life so you really don’t want to purchase them if you don’t need them.
Read Your Recipes Closely
It’s really important to go over your recipes while making your grocery list. Read them over so you can add together the amounts of the items you’ll need. For example, if you are making bread, cookies, and pies, you’re going to need more of a number of items than you would typically buy. It’s important to add these items up to ensure you get the right amount.
Some people use a spreadsheet that will add the amounts up for them. Others use shopping list programs like the one Walmart has available or an app like ones available on Google Play or the App Store on iTunes. Just do a search and you’ll be surprised what you come up with.
Know What You Have
Your running list should help, but after you have written down what you need for your recipes, go shopping in your cupboard first, marking off anything that you don’t need. You don’t want to skip this step because once again, you want to make sure you really do have enough cinnamon, or nutmeg or vanilla to get the job done, and you don’t really want extra of dry spices since they don’t last that long. On a side note, if you’ve not purchased sage since last holiday, throw out what you have and buy new. Your dishes will taste a lot better.
Gather Coupons Together
If you have any coupons, it’s a good idea to gather them together now and match them with items that you know you’re going to buy. This will help you save money at the checkout, and also it might give you other ideas of things to bake that you didn’t think of before due to a good sale. Be sure to note on your list that you have a coupon so you’ll remember to pull the coupon at checkout.
Finalize Your List
It’s really better to type your list out if possible. Today you can type the list off, send it to your smartphone and mark off things as you buy them that way. Or you can do it the old-fashioned way. As mentioned above, you want a good typed or well-written list that is in order of your grocery store if you know it well, or in order of the type of goods you’re purchasing such as Dairy, Canned, Fresh Produce, Frozen, Spices and so forth. Remember that “Dry Goods” in the grocery store is called “Baking Items”.
You can try the list of items here at Grocery List Maker to get you started. In addition, check your grocer’s website to find out if they have a list maker too. There is also a program online that is called Ziplist.com which helps you generate shopping lists from recipes. You will have to type in all the recipes, or you can find them online too, add them, and then generate the list. Of course, if it’s “Mom’s Secret Cookies” then you’ll have to type the recipe in yourself. But, it can be a good way to organize your shopping list and next year it’ll be that much simpler.
However you choose to organize your shopping list, the important part is that you do try to take a list with you, that you’ve checked with your recipes, and with what you have or do not have on hand at home. The fewer times you need to run back to the store for a last-minute item, the more time you’ll save when it’s time for holiday baking.
How to Plan Enough Time for Holiday Baking By Organizing Your Kitchen
Baking during the holidays is supposed to be fun, but sometimes it can feel like just another chore that you have to get done. Thankfully it doesn’t have to be that way. You can ensure that your kitchen is organized for holiday baking and that you know how to plan enough time for the baking that you want to do.
It all starts with a super organized kitchen. Don’t wait until the day you bake to get this organization done. Start today getting your kitchen properly organized. This organization will not just be great for holiday baking but for all year long. You’ll not only save time baking but also save time in your daily household chores with an organized kitchen.
Store Your Dishes and Appliances in Logical Places
Anything that you regularly wash in the dishwasher should be stored as close to it as possible. The reason is that you save valuable time and steps by being able to unload the dishwasher quickly. Likewise, anything you normally use near the stove should be as close to the stove as possible such as spices, oils, and vinegars.
If you’re right handed put them to the right; if you’re left handed it’ll work best to the left unless the cabinet on the left opens in your face. Ideally you want the cabinet to open easily so you can grab what you need and put it right back. Try using special spice cabinet inserts like a lazy susan or other device to make it easier. Using a logical method to store your dishes will save time today and on baking day too.
Put Extra Dishes and Appliances Out of Sight
If you have special dishes or extra place settings and other appliances that you do not use on a daily basis, put those in a hutch or other location when not in use. This saves space, and makes your kitchen less cluttered. For example, if you have a family of four, you really only need a place setting for four in your cabinet at any given time.
It may seem like it’s better to have more, but that just means more to clean up. Running out faster will signal time to clean faster. If you only use the pressure cooker once a week, put it away when not in use to save counter space. Plus you are more likely to have to wipe down appliances that you’re leaving out all the time than if you put them away. Taking that extra step will save more time on a regular basis than you realize.
Keep Your Counters Clear
The clearer you keep your counters, the easier it will be to bake a batch of cookies from the dough you froze when you have 20 minutes to spare. If you have a tendency to put coupons, bills, and other things on the kitchen counters or even in a kitchen junk drawer, try to figure out an alternative. One good way to organize that type of thing is to use your fridge and a magnetic box or clips to easily store coupons, notepads, grocery lists and whatnot.
It’s definitely a good habit to have a grocery list and pen hanging on your fridge so that when you run out of something you can write it down on the list right then. Eliminating the need to scan your cupboards for the basics when it’s time to make your baking shopping list is a good habit to get into any time of year. Be sure that you have stored your baking items, bowls, tools, pans, and even ingredients if there is room, in the cabinets nearest to the largest area of counter space. Try using clearly labeled containers to make it easy to see what’s there.
Now that your kitchen is organized you can more easily find time to bake. You don’t have to do all the holiday baking in one session. There are several things you can make in advance. Here are a few ideas.
These tricks will help you find more time to get baking done because you soon realize you do not have to do it all in one day. You can do a little bit, each day, over a few weeks if desired and have delicious and wonderful results.
How to Bake in Batches to Make the Most of Your Holiday Baking Time
One way to handle your holiday baking is to bake in batches, then freeze and store for the big day. You can do this successfully over a couple of weeks with batch baking and batch preparing.
The biggest thing to remember is to only try a few different types of things in one day, or focus on just one type of baked good in one day. For example, you might want to bake all your quick breads in one day. Another day you can prepare all your cookie dough. Yet another time, you can bake all your fruit pies and so forth. This process makes the most of the time you have, the space you have, and your skill level.
Find a Basic Starter Recipe
Every type of baked good has a basic starter ingredient mix. You could start with one basic cookie dough, or a basic quick bread recipe. These are mixes that you can add a few extra ingredients to in order to make them into new recipes. For example, a basic bread mix can become several different types of bread and a basic cookie recipe can become several types of cookies. For pies, you can make one type of pie crust, and freeze them as they are, or you can fill with different fruit mixtures for fruit pies. It’s up to you how to do this.
Don’t try batch baking without a plan of action. Be sure to write down your plans in advance so that you are sure you have enough time to do everything that you’ve planned. To figure out a basic time line, add up the prep time, the baking time for each oven full, and then multiply that by 1.5 to account for a little extra issues happening. Then you should be sure that you have enough time.
Get Everything Ready to Go
Your kitchen should be spotless when you start, and ensure that you have all the ingredients and appliances necessary to make each item ready to go. If you know, for example, that today you’ll be using about 10 pounds of flour, consider using a large bowl to hold the flour so you can easily spoon the flour into the measuring cup, flatten off over the bowl, without having to get into the bag over and over which usually means spillage.
Clean as You Go
Fill your sink immediately with hot soapy water so you can clean as you go. You will want to wash your mixing dishes and other utensils during the baking process so that you can use them again. There’s no point in totally destroying your kitchen as you batch bake, and you don’t have to. Set out a draining board, fill the sink with hot soapy water, and wash as you go. There are many opportunities during baking to wash a couple of dishes, and this will make the clean-up faster, and the process more organized.
All Day Batch Baking
You can set aside a day for batch baking such as a Saturday. Plan for all day baking, which usually entails 8 to 10 hours of work. Ensure that any other chores are done, including the shopping, and the kitchen is clean and ready prior to baking day. It’s important to organize your recipes with some logic behind them.
For example, if you need dough to rise, start that first, so that it can be rising as you are preparing other things such as cookie dough or pie crusts. Both can be put in the refrigerator or freezer after preparation while you bake the bread, then baked after you bake the bread while the oven is still hot and ready.
Read each recipe that you plan to use and pay close attention to certain clues. For example, if an ingredient requires a cold kitchen, you’ll want to start that first. If something takes an hour to bake like banana bread, you can use that hour to mix other batter, dough, crust, filling and so forth that you can store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake them.
Organize the kitchen in stations. You will want a station for each type of baked good that you want to create. It’s a lot easier to lay out four pie crusts in pie tins, ready for fillings, than to do one at a time. As much as you can do for one type of thing in one run, do so. A bread making station is also essential. It needs to be a place you can freely flour the counter space, and easily clean up.
Be careful about combining batches in one recipe. If you have a cookie recipe that uses measures instead of weights, it’s better not to do them in more than one batch at a time, but you don’t need to clean the bowl between each batch that you make. Make the lightest type of batch first; for example, make sugar cookie dough before you make chocolate chip cookies, before you make peanut butter cookies. Consider the flavor, the ingredients, and everything before making the batches so that you can wash as little as possible.
The important thing about all day batch cooking is that you can choose to make only one type of baked good or you can make a number of different baked goods depending on how many people you need to feed.
Don’t try to stuff your oven too full. At most, you’ll want to cook two pies, four loaves of bread, and one large sheet of cookies at a time in one oven. Putting too many things in one oven can drastically change the temperature settings. Also, putting a dry item with a moist item in the oven at the same time can change the temperature needs. Read directions, plan ahead, and you’ll be fine.
After Dinner Small Batch Cooking
Another great way to do batch cooking is each evening after dinner or even while you are preparing dinner. Anytime you make something in your oven is a good time to throw in a few loaves of bread. For example, if you wanted to make one loaf of bread for dinner tonight, why not make four and save three.
Feed the freezer – In some circles this type of baking is called feeding the freezer. It can be done with any type of baking, not just desserts and bread. If you’re having lasagna tonight, why not prepare two pans of lasagna and freeze the second. You can do this with many things. You can also take one night to prepare a lot of cookie dough, bread dough, and pie crusts for freezing, then the next night bake all the cookies, freeze, and the following night bake the bread and freeze and so forth until you are done.
Use the time available – What’s important is that you use the time you have available the best that you can. It’s important to be honest with yourself about the time you have to get things done. If you only have evenings after work, and don’t get a lot of time off, then you’re going to need to bake a little each evening for a couple of weeks to be ready for the holidays. Thankfully nothing smells better or more relaxing than freshly baked bread, cookies and pies.
Downsize – Small batch baking isn’t about trying to do a marathon on a night you have to work; instead it’s about just adding in a batch of cookie making, dough making, or something that takes an hour or two at the most after dinner or in conjunction with cooking dinner. Remember that you’ll be adding to these items later, so even if it seems like a small amount over the course of time it will be plenty.
Baking in batches is a great way to increase your production amount, as well as to save time. After all, the holidays are so that you can enjoy your family and guests. There is no reason to get stressed out about the baking part. Instead, craft a plan, stick to the plan, and hey, why not ask for help from family and friends.
You could have a cookie party where you don’t eat the cookies, but instead you meet together and each of you then trade a few dozen of a different type of cookies. So one family would make sugar cookies, another chocolate chip, and another peanut butter and so forth. Trade, and then you each have some of all of them.
Freezing and Storing Tips for Your Holiday Baking Delights
One way to make your holiday baking go better is to have a plan for freezing and storing your holiday baked goods so that you don’t have to do all the baking in one day or that you can spend a day or two baking and freeze for later. It all depends on the type of time you have available but learning to freeze and store the delicious creations will help a lot.
The first thing you need to be able to freeze and store your holiday baked goods is the right supplies. You’ll need parchment paper, freezer safe containers, plastic zipping bags, butcher paper and spray oil. These things will help you save your baking goods properly so that they taste freshly baked on the day you enjoy them.
Some of the baked goods that freeze the best are brownies, quick breads, cookies, muffins, snack cakes, yeast breads, regular cakes, cheesecake and pies. All of these need various methods of freezing to ensure that they are still fresh and tasty when it’s time to eat them. One important tip to remember is not to freeze any of your baked good recipes that are low fat or fat free. They are best cooked and served the same day as they get dry or conversely gummy when frozen.
The hardest of the above to freeze are fully made cakes, cheesecakes and pies. These require specialty containers to ensure that they don’t get too much frost and that you also thaw them properly for best results. We’ll start with these.
- Fully made cakes – If you completely frost and prepare a cake you can still freeze it. It takes a little more work, though. Use parchment paper or freezer paper oiled up really good with spray oil that is flavorless like corn oil or you can also use Crisco. Then wrap the cake tightly with the freezer paper, wrap that with plastic wrap, freeze until solid and then put the entire container into a tin or hard freezer safe box to protect it from other things in your freezer. Unwrap completely before thawing.
- Cheesecakes – These have very high moisture content, but can be frozen if you are careful. Most cheesecakes are made in a spring form pan. You can freeze directly on the spring form or you can make a round of hard cardboard (or buy one at the craft store). If using cardboard, the best way to do it is to wrap the cardboard with foil. Slide the cheesecake onto the foil-wrapped cardboard; you can spray some spray oil on it first to help remove it later. Then wrap with plastic wrap (bottom and all), spraying oil on the top layer too. Wrap with multiple layers, freeze fully, and then place in a harder container to protect. Unwrap completely to thaw in refrigerator. When almost completely thawed, put back on spring form bottom or other serving platter for serving. For fruit-covered cheesecake, make that at the time of serving for added freshness.
- Pies – Freezing cream pies doesn’t work very well, so use these instructions for fruit pies and make creamed pies closer to the time of serving. You can freeze pie crusts in their tins and bake from frozen. To freeze a fully baked fruit pie, place it in the freezer uncovered, freeze, and then pop it in a freezer bag. To serve, unthaw overnight in the refrigerator or thaw on the counter for three to five hours. Break open the seal so that the moisture from freezing can escape to avoid a mushy crust. You can freeze unbaked pie crust the same way. Just don’t slit the crust, unwrap, slit the crust and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 Fahrenheit and bake for 45 more minutes.
The other items mentioned above can be frozen very easily just by first bringing to room temperature, then starting in the refrigerator. Finally wrap with freezer paper or parchment paper, and then pop into a freezer bag. You can freeze these items for six months. To thaw, just take out and put on the counter. Or for anything with eggs in it, start in the refrigerator.
Other Tips for Freezing Your Holiday Baked Goods
- Cookie dough – The great thing about cookie dough is that it can be frozen and saved for up to six months. You can make a lot of dough, separate it up into “serving” sizes and freeze in a long bar to chop into the right size for baking.
You can also save in balls for cookies like peanut butter cookies that are supposed to start as balls. Thaw, and then process as usual. Always unwrap fully before thawing.
- Raw yeast dough – Shape the dough after the first rise into the shape you will bake it in. A ball for a roll, three balls for a clover roll, a log for a bread loaf, and so forth. Shape the dough, freeze on a pan in the freezer, then pop into freezer bags. You can also wrap the dough in parchment or freezer paper, then pop into a larger freezer bag to keep more in one bag. To prepare, thaw in the prepared baking pan that you want to cook the bread in. It will rise as it thaws. You can start in the fridge the night before or you can do it within 3 to 5 hours the day of. It’s up to you. Bake as usual according to your instructions.
- Fully cooked cookies – You can also freeze fully cooked cookies. Find a round freezer save container and put a single layer of fully cooled cookies in the bottom, top with parchment paper, adding layers until the container is full, topping again with parchment, and then sealing the container. To thaw, just remove cookies to a serving platter and let thaw for about 2 or 3 hours the day you want to enjoy them.
- Quick breads or muffins – Fully cool the bread or muffins after baking, then wrap tightly in freezer paper, parchment paper, or foil. Then wrap with plastic wrap tightly and put inside a freezer bag. The extra steps will ensure that your bread is moist and delicious after thawing. To thaw, unwrap and thaw on the counter for 2 to 3 hours, or in the fridge overnight. Wrapping in foil is especially good with coffee cake. You can thaw in the foil, then toss in the oven to warm.
Freezing your holiday baked goods and storing them for later is a great idea because you can bake just a little at a time, or have a quick bread baking day, a cookie dough mixing and freezing day and so forth. Most of these items will still taste fresh with proper storage for up to three months, some for six months. If you have extra freezer space, this gives you quite a long time to prepare for your holiday baking.
Finding a way to organize your holiday baking is important because you want this time to be filled with joy and fun memories. You don’t want to be stressed out about something that is supposed to be fun. Get organized in advance, enjoy a glass of nog while you’re baking, and maybe even ask the kids, grandkids, spouse or friends for help and you can make even more great memories.