Roll up the sleeves on your Christmas sweater, crank up the volume on your Christmas playlist that you’ve been putting together since January, and break out that rolling pin.
But wait. How many times have you had extravagant holiday baking plans that include some sort of an elaborate dessert just to impress your guests, only to have one minor mistake ruin the whole mission? There is quite possibly nothing more upsetting.
In general, special occasion baking projects just seem to carry so much more weight than something you whip up on any random weekend. The added pressure of delivering something promised just seems to entice bad vibes into the kitchen.
How do you avoid performance anxiety? I compiled my personal holiday baking survival tips. I may not always follow them. And I’ve ended up crying on the kitchen floor one too many times. But I promise, they do help tone down the effect of the inevitable break down.
Number 1: Set a Game Plan and make a Master Baking List.
This is absolute key. Start by making a list of the items that you want to bake and the ingredients that you’ll need. I actually start compiling recipes and ideas early on throughout the year. Well since Christmas IS the only holiday that matters. So when I get close to the date, I already have an idea what theme I want to go with, what cookies I want to make, drinks, sides dishes…. Always start several days prior to “D-day” and make sure you have a plan of attack so you can get right to the good stuff on your baking day. This includes making sure you have your ingredients ready, and deciding what can be made ahead of time to freeze and be used used in coming weeks such as cookie dough and pie crusts.
Number 2: Get Organized.
After setting your game plan, you’ll have an idea about what you’re making, and what your work space should be like. Here you can split your
office kitchen into two different zones: Active Zone and Storage Zone. Clean out your pantries and refrigerator to avoid fiddling around while holding wire racks and cookie containers and finding room for all your baked goods. You really don’t want to open your fridge and have that box of cookies crash on the floor just because you had over piled everything.
Number 3: Pantry Check
Nothing is worse than getting hyped up to start your baking only to realize you’re low on sugar, ran out of butter, or your dairy is expired.
Go through everything you usually use when baking. Prepare your dry ingredients by order of use. Naturally, you want to have your flour, cocoa powder, sugars, leaveners, and and your fall and winter spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, and ginger close at hand.
Now that the essentials are in check, include the add-ons, such as an assortment of nuts, a variety of chocolates, your molasses…
Here’s the time you should start watching for sales at stores. You can get great deals.
Number 4: Inventory your Baking Tools.
I’m sure I’m not the only person out there who buys baking tools with a ton of creative ideas in mind and then forget them in the back of the baking cupboards because life got in the way. Here’s their time to shine!
Go through everything you have. Toss out what’s old and over used (yes, apparently even baking pans have an age limit). Bring out the new pans and molds that you’ve once been dying to use, and get creative. And if you feel like there’s something you won’t be using, now’s the time to let the Holiday spirit in and maybe donate it or give it away (not the overused bake ware of course).
Stock up on parchment paper, ziplock bags, piping bags…
Number 5: Clean Your Ovens
This really goes without saying. But just in case you got overwhelmed by all the prep work, I’m going to set this in as a reminder. Our ovens basically work nonstop around this time of the year, so it’s inevitable to have some splitter splatter, some oozing drips here and there. Give it the love and pampering it needs.
Number 6: Get Ahead
Make ahead holiday desserts are life savers. Most doughs will bake perfectly from the frozen state (especially slice and bake cookies), and doughs for roll out and spritz cookies thaw beautifully overnight in the refrigerator. Just make sure to follow these simple rules:
- Cool completely before storing. You don’t want water condensing and turning your cookies soggy.
- Wrap very tightly to avoid freezer burns.
- Label everything. Write down what it is, the date it was made on, the date it was frozen on and add some baking instructions. This will come handy for the final tip.
Number 7: Delegate
Lots of things need to be done during the holiday season, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it all yourself. No one expects you to do everything on your own. And since you’ve already prepared most of the major parts of the baking plan, all you have to do is recruit your most skilled friends and family, sip on a glass of wine as you see them take some of the heat from the kitchen. Maybe get everyone to bake a couple dozen of their favorite cookies. This can save you time who knows, you just might happen upon a brand new cookie recipe.
I have created some amazing memories and overabundance of favorite recipes over the years, and it’s a pleasure sharing them with all of you.
With all that said, you need to try not to let the stress take away the joy of the holidays. Choose what’s important and prioritize. No one is going to notice that missing batch of cookies that you decided to scratch off your list last minute because you didn’t have enough hands to multitask.
Don’t get too busy with your lists and baking that you forget to savor the season.
Happy Baking 🙂