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With December just around the corner, we are getting into full holiday mode. Christmas books are out, we’ve made our first batch of holiday cookies and we are about to get out the Holiday decorations.
It’s funny how you can take for granted knowing stuff that you just “know” until you are talking with someone and see how they didn’t gain that same knowledge that was passed on from your family. I never thought of my family as huge bakers, but every year around the holidays my Mom would bake with my sisters and I.
We had our standard recipes – fudge, sugar cookies, Russian tea cakes and sometimes Spritz cookies. My sisters and I would always pick out at least one additional recipe that we wanted to try that year too.
We would spend all evening busy baking together, then bring the baked goods to family Christmas parties. Both my Mom and Dad have large families and so all the yummy goodness went quickly. Good memories were made and we still get together occasionally to bake our holiday desserts together. As well as baking holiday goodies with our kids and passing on all the baking knowledge.
Our first holiday party this year happens in two weeks, so I’m in planning mode to figure out what to bring with us. I tend to bring dessert a lot of times.
When I’ve baked with people in the past I’m always surprised they don’t have all the same baking “common knowledge” that I grew up with. So I thought I’d pass some of this knowledge onto my readers.
Holiday Baking Tips
When you first open a bag of flour it has compacted down into the bag. I like to take my measuring cup and pick up some of the flour and dump it a few times, then measure it. I do this everytime I need to measuer out flour for a recipe.
To measure dry goods such as flour, sugar (except for brown), baking soda, baking powder and spices you scoop it so it is overflowing, then level it with a flat edge (such as the back of a butter knife). See the video below to see what I mean.
To measure brown sugar you want to pack the sugar into your measuring cup/spoon. So scoop some brown sugar into your measuring cup/spoon and push it down. If there is space between the brown sugar the the top of the measuring device, add more and compress this down into the cup/spoon again. Repeat, until it is level with the top. Again, see the video below to see what I mean.
Flour your surface and rolling pin before rolling out dough.
If you don’t have a silicone pastry mat, you can use your kitchen table or kitchen counter to knead and/or roll out dough. Just make sure the surface is very clean and dry, then put a generous amount of flour on the surface and rub it around before placeing your dough on it.
If a recipe calls for softened butter, you can use a cheese grater and grate chilled butter to use.
Make sure to pre-heat your oven and make sure it is totally preheated before placing anything in to bake.
If you are worried about how to get everything baked ahead of time, with many treats – either the whole recipe or part of it can be made ahead of time then frozen. Cookies can be made ahead of time, roll the dough into balls and place about 1″ apart on a baking sheet and freeze. After it has frozen, put the balls of frozen dough into a ziplock bag or other freezer container and label with what it is, when you made it and directions on how to cook it. With cookie dough, I put it in the oven for the specified time, then keep an eye on it once I reach that point. Cooking the frozen dough takes a few minutes longer to cook than if you had made it from scratch right then.
Pie dough is another item that you can freeze. Make up your pie crust, roll into a ball, place into a freezer bag and freeze. Pull out of the freezer the day before you plan to bake it and place in your fridge. Then pull out of the fridge about an hour before using it. Use it as you normally would.
Make sure cookies are uniform in size. If they aren’t all the same size or thickness, some will cook quicker than others.
If you are baking any cakes or breads, use a toothpick to check for doneness. Just insert the toothpick into the center of the cake or loaf and if it pulls out clean then the baked good is done. If any dough is sticking to the toothpick when it’s pulled out, the baked item is not done and needs a few more minutes. Add a couple minutes to the timer and check it again with the toothpick when the time is up.
Here’s to wishing you a happy and successful baking season! Let me know in the comments what you plan to bake this holiday season.
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