10 tips for holiday baking

11 Nov

Tis the season to toss on an apron, grab a rolling pin, and make the christmas cookies of your dreams.



Well, not so fast.

Before you start your holiday baking, here are 10 tips to keep in mind – whether you’re a seasoned professional or baking cookies for the first time.

1) Make sure you have all the ingredients before you start. No, really, line them up on the counter. Nothing worse than getting halfway through a batch of snickerdoodles and realizing that not only are you out of cinnamon, but that your grocery store closed 10 minutes ago.

2) Put the butter out to soften at least 30 minutes before you want to start. Sometimes miracles happen and it softens faster – but you’ll cut down on your baking time, and save yourself some frustration, if you make sure that butter is nice and soft before you start.

3) Invest in a mixer. Personally, I recommend a KitchenAid stand mixer – but if that’s not in the budget or doesn’t fit in your kitchen, a simple handheld mixer will do. You don’t want to do holiday baking and mix things all by hand – despite being a great workout, it’s exhausting and your cookies won’t turn out as evenly.

4) Check whether you’re using baking powder or baking soda – then check again. This is probably the single biggest error I make while baking – rushing through, grabbing the wrong one, and not realizing until it comes out of the oven. It’s worth the extra ten seconds to double-check.

5) Clean up while you go. The worst part of baking are the dishes afterwards. If you put things in the dishwasher, or start them soaking, as soon as you’re done with them, cleanup time can be minimized and baking will feel like less of a chore.

6) Taste your dough. Somewhere near Cleveland, my mom is rolling her eyes and warning about salmonella but it’s true – especially if it’s a new recipe, your best bet is to taste the dough as you go. This way, you can notice if it’s bland, doesn’t have enough salt, is too sweet, etc – before you waste the time cooking it.

7) Don’t skimp on ingredients. Real vanilla extract is worth it. Butter that costs more than $2 is worth it. And eggs that don’t come from your drug store really do make a difference.

8) When in doubt, add bourbon. Or chocolate. Or vanilla bean. Baking is all about trying new things, and seeing what works – and very few things in life aren’t improved by bourbon, chocolate, or vanilla beans.

9) Use salted butter. Your food will be seasoned more easily, you don’t have to add salt, and really, unsalted butter is just sad-making.

10) Have fun. Unlike cooking, baking is something you don’t have to do – you want to do it. Make sure you don’t get so wrapped up in the holiday stress, or even the stress of doubling a recipe, that you forget to enjoy it.

What tips would you add?


2 Responses to “10 tips for holiday baking”

  1. dryan November 11, 2013 at 10:21 PM #

    I’d always heard to use unsalted butter so you can control the salt levels. Have to try this one.

    On the baking powder/soda thing, in a pinch you can substitute 3x baking powder for baking soda or 1/3 baking soda for baking powder.

    • Sara Lang November 11, 2013 at 10:22 PM #

      I’m sure in a super sensitive recipe, controlling the salt yourself might be worth it, but I always have better results with salted butter.

      I didn’t know about that substitution – super helpful!

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