Best Tips for Your Christmas Baking

I must admit – I love making a large assortment of Christmas cookies and arranging them on decorative serving trays. And that’s not to say that I don’t share – I also take smaller trays and boxes to everywhere we go and hand them over to people who come to visit.

I start baking about 10 days before Christmas – and really – just like with everything else – having a plan and organizing what I will do and when is the key to success.

By spending only couple of hours each day in that time period, I get everything done in time and without stress. That is why I am starting this book with a sample of schedule you can adopt and follow if you wish.

Find what you want to make by going through your cookbooks, recipe cards, magazines – whatever you feel will give you the information you need. Or just follow this book – there are plenty of tested, great recipes here!

Decide on how many varieties you want to make – and that goes for baking and for cooking. You can make your plan for all your cookies, cakes and meals that you will be planning to prepare.

Write it all down , making sure you not only put down the name of the recipe, but also the source of it – so you don’t have to spend too much time looking for it when you are ready to cook or bake. That is why this book can be your best friend – it’s all in one place already!

When choosing your recipes, take into consideration:

  • How difficult is it – read through it and if you think it is something you would rather not attempt. Save it for later when it will be the only thing you will need to make
  • Cost of special ingredients the recipes call for – it is a good idea to try to choose the recipes for which you have most of the ingredients in your kitchen cupboards already (this is a great advice for your budget!)

Now – create your shopping list and calculate approximately how much you will need to spend to make everything you are planning.

You will be able to get all the ingredients at once for your baking and just save the portion of your shopping list that has fresh items on it for shopping at a date closer to the time you will be preparing a specific meal.

The one thing you may also want to double check on the tools you will need – like pans for baking, etc. If you have pans and tools that are old and worn, consider replacing them – it can make a difference in the way your creations will taste!

The other items you should check out are containers for storing your baked goodies – they should be clean and airtight. Then you will not have to worry about your cookies – they will be just fine! And it is a good idea to have containers that are large enough to hold a full batch of each variety – then just take out the quantity you need when it is time to serve them!

I also find that it is helpful to organize the shopping list by store where I am planning to purchase various items – especially if you need to purchase items such as the tools, or anything special you will not be able to find in your supermarket.

And then its’ time to go shopping! The one advice I can give you is to do everything first and leave the grocery store as your last stop – you maybe purchasing frozen or refrigerated items. I live in a cold climate, so I usually don’t have to worry about that too much – but – grocery bags full of perishable stuff in a trunk of a car on a sunny day – even in the winter…. not a good idea.

When you bring your supplies home, you may want to consider designating one of your kitchen cupboards as you baking supply centre. That way, you will everything in one place and not spend time looking when you need something.

It is actually possible to make a few kinds of dough one day, wrap them tightly, store them in your refrigerator overnight and bake several kinds of cookies the next day. That can actually be very efficient since quite a few types of cookies will have same ingredients and you will also have your tools handy at the time.

There is one thing I want to remind you do: you need to use items like butter, eggs and cream cheese at room temperature, so take them out of the refrigerator at least couple hours before you start making your dough.

And another good tip for you – if you are going to make several types of dough at once is to write the name on each package after wrapping – you don’t want to try to have to figure out which dough is which type of a cookie the next day!

If you are ready to bake the next day, again I want to remind you to take all hour prepared dough packages out of the refrigerator and leave them in room temperature for couple of hours. The only exception would be cookies that you need to slice into rounds – those work really well if you form the dough into the needed “before cutting” shape before wrapping and storing it. Then when you are ready to bake, slice them cold – it will be much easier!

Now you can start baking!

I would start with cookies that require the lowest oven temperature and increase the temperature depending on what each recipe calls for.

You may have one little challenge when you start taking your cookies out of the oven – enough cooling racks. You can actually spread double thickness of aluminum foil on your countertops and use that for cooling your creations.

Once your cookies are cooled to the room temperature, line your storage containers with waxed paper and place cookies in layers – one layer at a time – with putting sheets of waxed paper between each layer.

Store your containers in a refrigerator or a cool place in your basement or a garage.

If you have chosen cookies that need decorating, you will want to do that as close to serving them as possible. Those cookies that are chocolate covered can be finished couple days before use – just make sure you are keeping them in a cool place and let the chocolate cool and harden completely so it won’t stick to the paper.

And if you are frosting your cookies with creams – I would do that just before serving them, unless you have lots of storage room, since you will be able to stack them after decorating them.

You can follow similar process of planning for your meals – you can in fact prepare quite a few items ahead of time – like potato salad. I find that it is actually better the day after you made it when all the flavours blend in together.

You can have salad dressing, glazes, vegetables, etc. ready ahead of time in your refrigerator and save some time a frustrations when it is time to put together that special feast!

Hope this information was helpful to you – please send in your comments, suggestions and experiences, your input is always welcomed and very much appreciated!

About the author

Hanna Trafford

Hanna is the mother of two grown sons Dan and Dusan Nedelko, step mother to Abbie Gateman and is also a brand new Grandmother. She is the lead editor of Mama Knows and is hoping to create an exchange of communications with other grandmothers, mothers and daughters - giving everyone the opportunity to learn and share about everything that is "Mama"

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