Trees are going up, lights are being strung outside, commercials are airing this year’s must-have toys, and radio stations are playing Christmas songs. Yes, it’s that time of the year again!
I thoroughly enjoy this time of the year. However, there was a time when the Christmas season was a bit stressful for me, as well as my family. The time would just fly by, and well intended plans would fall through. Finding the time for it all was nearly impossible, especially baking.
Baking can be time consuming on any given day, let alone the holiday season. It’s something I enjoy, when I’m not on a tight schedule. And of course, my family also enjoys when I bake.
So, I had to find a way to be able to bake for the holidays, while keeping my sanity. I discovered some shortcuts that have helped significantly, without sacrificing quality.
Tools for the Task
There are so many gadgets available for the kitchen to help create meals and treats for the family. My favorite tool for the kitchen in my food processor. But, I also found some other items to be helpful such as a bench blade, bowl scraper, and food dishes.
- Food Processor – I found my baking and cooking buddy, otherwise known as a food processor, through the Cuisinart food processors reviewed online. I was able to find the one that would best fit my kitchen and my expectations. A food processor is blessing, as it can take on any big and small food-related tasks, and quickly.
- Bench blades – These are used to cut dough, as well as cleaning up a counter, with quick and swift strokes. If you work with your own dough, this is a great tool to have in your drawer.
- Bowl scrapers – Used in place of a spatula, a bowl scraper can work to remove the ingredients with a quick and easy clean up. They are typically stiffer than a traditional spatula, allowing you to work with heavier ingredients with less difficulty.
- Food dishers – This is a scooper, also often used as an ice cream scoop. This tool works great for scooping out dough for cookies, or muffins, with less mess. Make sure it has a release lever. In a pinch one year, I tried to use a standard scoop without one, and realized that it was no different than using a spoon.
The tools that will work best for you will depend on what you want to accomplish. For what I like to bake, the above mentioned tools cut corners in the time I spend preparing and baking, which is important in a busy season.
Make a Checklist
Creating a checklist is as simple as printing out the recipe. This allows you to check off each ingredient as it’s added. I have made the mistake of adding an ingredient twice, because I couldn’t remember that I had already added it. If that happens, it either doesn’t turn out, or you have to start over, both resulting in a lot of wasted time and ingredients. Using the checklist diminishes the risk of this happening.
Employ the family
Turn your baking time into a family affair. This could add some quality time spent with the kids, your spouse, and even Grandma. We have made it a tradition in our home, with Grandma coming over to bake, the kids helping with the decorating and licking the bowls, and of course someone has to sample the treats: enter my husband.
Make your own mixes
Buying prepared mixes for cookies, muffins, cakes, and other baked goods can certainly save time. However, the quality of your baked goods tend to suffer. I have found that if I mix the dry ingredients ahead of time it saves significant time. You can mix these up and store them in an air tight container, for up to 2 months. If you know what you are going to bake ahead of time, it’s a great time saver. Just make sure to label what is in it.
I have also done this with soups, which allows a good homemade soup easy in the winter time.
Prep the Kitchen Ahead of Time
The night before baking, I like to get all the ingredients out that I am able to, such as the dry mixes, and those that need to be at room temperature. I also like to organize the recipes and tools the night before. This shaves a little time off the prep time on the day of baking, by allowing you to jump right in.
One way to save time when baking is to make the dough ahead of time, and then freeze it until you are ready for it. Simply make the dough with cold ingredients, divide it into portions, wrap with plastic wrap, and then freeze. When you are ready to use it, defrost it fully, and bake as normal.
I have taken the shortcut to dough to the extreme, however, by using pre-made pie crusts for my pies, and banket. It tastes wonderful, and is incredibly easy to use and produces consistent results.
Shortcut to Sweet Treats – and Sanity
I hope I have given you some ideas on how to remove some of the stress that baking can add during the holidays. Perhaps, you have read something here that can even help you throughout the year.
Have a Sweet and Merry Christmas, from our home to yours!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melissa Cameron, a freelance writer, enjoys sharing helpful ideas with other households, anything from parenting to a Cuisinart toaster, as a self-proclaimed walking infomercial. She and her husband live in Texas with their 2 young children.