- Holiday baking doesn’t have to be an insurmountable or expensive task.
- Here, author Sarah Wells lists five tips that can help your holiday baking while saving you time and money.
As December creeps to a close, you may suddenly find yourself inundated with holiday party invitations, work get-togethers, and family gatherings – usually all run potluck-style.
Sure, you could bring a bottle of wine or pre-packaged cheese plate, but why not take the last chance of 2018 to whip out your baking skills?
And if the mere thought of watching your yule log go uneaten on the communal table in favor of superior baked goods leaves you panicked, I can guarantee your treats will shine just as brightly as the rest with these few simple tips and tricks.
1. Plan ahead
Like any great plan of attack, a truly successful sweet table spread must be planned in advance. Before even choosing your recipes, one of the most important things to consider is how many treats you’ll need to crank out.
If you’re serving a more intimate get together, then maybe something like a gingerbread cake or a yule log (which both serve roughly 10 to 12 people) would be a good option. But if you’re serving a family reunion or an office-wide party, mixing up a recipe like sugar or gingerbread cookies (which usually make about 20 to 30 per recipe) might be a better option.
An added benefit of high-yield cookie recipes is that they can stay chilled in your fridge for a few weeks – ready to defrost and roll out whenever you are.
2. Doubled recipes are twice as nice
Another time-saving tip is to consider how many different treats you can create from just one basic recipe. For example, you make one batch of sugar cookie dough, split it in two, and flavor one with chocolate and one with peppermint. Roll out flat both sheets, place one on top of the other and re-roll tightly into a log. When cut, you’ll have delicious chocolate-peppermint pinwheels.
For another multi-purpose recipe, try making a double batch of a basic spice cake. You can frost one half and save the other to turn into festive cake pops. All you’ll need to do is crumble the cake, combine with a few generous spoonfuls of buttercream, shape the dough around lollipop sticks and place in the fridge to set. After that, the cake pops can be dipped in melted chocolate and decorated.
3. Look for sales
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Around the holidays you’re likely to see baking essentials like flour and both granulated and powdered sugar go on sale. If you know you’ll be baking for a big group or that you’ll need to make a lot of frosting for your creations, this is a great time to stock-up! Not only that but your stock pile might just come in handy when you get a sweet craving come mid-January.
4. Add simple, special touches
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Even if you’re a seasoned baker, it can be a difficult task to make your holiday classics stand-out from the crowd, but achieving star baker status doesn’t have to take much effort at all.
One of my favorite additions to treats like sugar cookies and even frosting is to add a half-teaspoon of almond extract along with my vanilla. Almond extract is strong stuff so a little goes a long way, but it can also go a long way to impress your friends and family with its subtle, nutty sweetness.
Another easy upgrade is to spice up your classic gingerbread recipe with a little freshly grated or crystallized ginger. The former will add some nice fresh zip to accompany your dried ginger, and the latter will add a nice chewiness when diced up finely.
And finally, if you’re venturing away from holiday spice and into chocolate territory, about a teaspoon of espresso powder can help bolster the richness of the chocolate without a noticeable coffee taste.
5. Buying premade is OK
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If it’s the night before the big day and you find yourself without ingredients and with no time left to buy them – no problem!
While baking from scratch can be a great, creative stress relief for some, if you don’t have the time or the inclination there’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying a boxed mix or even picking up some premade treats from a bakery or grocery store.
As cliché as it may sound, your friends and family will be more grateful to see you than they will be disappointed in your baking skills. And hey, you can always bring a bottle of wine, too.