The holidays: for budding bakers and seasoned chefs it’s a dream come true. After all, nothing can quite compare to a fun-filled festive holiday spent with family enjoying home cooked food and sweet fresh-from-the-oven cookies, cakes and desserts. For the novice it’s a veritable cooking minefield and potential baking disaster waiting to happen! Can’t cook? Won’t cook? Not used to cooking? If you’re new to the kitchen, read on for our ultimate tips for baking with success this holiday season.
Get Geared Up
Unlike your signature throw-it-all-in-the-pan spaghetti sauce, baking is one kitchen endeavor that takes a lot of precision. That means precise oven temperatures, real measurements and exact recipes. So, before you start baking, be sure you’re set up with everything from measuring cups and hand mixers to cookie cooling racks and other kitchen items. Stock up on parchment paper and you’ll also save plenty of time on washing up all those cookie sheets in between cookie batches. Think of it as setting the scene for success!
Just Add Chocolate!
Oh chocolate, it can cover a multitude of sinful treats. When it comes to misshapen cupcakes, just try a rich chocolate frosting. When it comes to slightly over baked cookies, simply dip in smooth milk chocolate. And, when it comes to potluck desserts it’s a boon for any non-baker. Why? With chocolate you can simply let all the rich chocolate flavors speak for themselves with a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe, yummy no-cook French chocolate mousse or fool-proof chocolate brownie recipe. After all, every holiday table needs a few chocolate classics.
It is the holidays after all! Invite the kids into the kitchen, choose a simple sugar cookie recipe, roll up your sleeves and get baking. Who said you had to whip up a complicated triple chocolate Bavarian German torte? Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best. Mix up fluffy bowlfuls of yummy cookie frosting to decorate, buy sprinkles in 101 colors to create a whole wide selection of cookies et voilà!
Alternatively, make your batter do double or triple duty with a simple cookie recipe that can be spun into several other cookie treats. Just enlist the help of some chocolate chips or a topping of crumbled candy canes. Then, remember to turn up the holiday music, serve up festive holiday drinks and keep the whole experience fun. So you might not have a recipe book full of variety in your Christmas cookie jar, but you’ll have tasty treats galore.
Practice Makes Perfect
It goes without saying: Nobody’s going to go from running a 5 K to completing a full marathon without training, so why should holiday baking prove any different? If you’re a self-anointed disaster in the kitchen, a baking newbie, or quite simply a kitchen virgin who’s determined to ace all that holiday baking, the only way to eliminate last minute stress is to get into training and start baking and perfecting your recipes ahead of time. Once you’ve perfected your go-to recipe, simply freeze cookie batter so that it’s ready and waiting for go time! Forget stressing over finding the right ingredients come the holiday weekends, baking up your cookies at the last minute will be a total breeze. Or, perhaps you’re worried about perfecting the perfect cutout cookies. In that case, go for brownies that don’t require the decoration perfection of a delicate frosted recipe. Or, switch things up with lemon bars.
The Beatles got it right, we all get by with a little help from our friends. One fail-safe way of enlisting a little baking help this holiday season? Host a baking party! That’s right, if there’s one thing expert bakers and newbies alike can enjoy, it’s a baking get-together. Simply invite a host of gal pals, tell them to bring a favorite cookie recipe and a grocery bag full of ingredients and get cooking. You’ll all get to gossip, chatter and leave with a whole varied platter of cookies at the end of it. The bonus? Stressed out expert bakers will have laughter, entertainment and company as they blitz through their holiday baking routine, and the -- ahem – less than accomplished cooks will have the watchful eye of friends on the lookout to prevent any cookie disasters. Did somebody say win, win scenario?
Enlist the Professionals
Friends as desperately bad at baking as you? Head to your nearest cooking school! With the holidays approaching, everywhere from small independent cooking stores, to culinary schools and even department stores are hosting hands-on holiday baking demonstrations and classes. You can even find fuss-free tutorials online. Sign up for a little baking 101 and you’ll be navigating yourself around the kitchen like a professional in no time. Or, failing that, you’ll have one foolproof recipe in your back pocket that’s all ready for holiday entertaining, treating the kids, or bring to the work pot luck.
Can’t Bake it? Fake it!
And failing all else, don’t bake just buy! If you can’t knit, you would never consider trying to make your own sweater as a gift, so why should baking be any different? Head to your favorite local bakery, try a new specialty dessert shop or simply treat yourself to a visit to that fancier gourmet supermarket you save for special occasions. Of course, presentation is still key, so be sure your pick is beautifully presented on a bright and bold seasonal serving plate. Yep, ditch the Styrofoam or plastic covering. Buying a simple cheesecake? Why not add a few of your own festive finishing touches with a chocolate seasons greetings plaque, fun edible Santa figurine or dusting of sparkly sugary sprinkles? Alternatively, if you’re looking for a few bought-in cookies that will tempt and tantalize, go for a professionally assembled frosted cookie bouquet. Not only will your cookies taste expertly made, they’ll become the centerpiece for any holiday dessert table. Whether you ‘fess up to your store-bought dessert or not? The choice is yours! Happy baking!