It was about six or seven years ago I started doing holiday baking. This “tradition” started partly by my anguish not being able to find pastries I liked and inspired by a good friend’s generosity. Year after year, she always sends a box of Christmas cookies during the holidays and all of them are exquisitely made (You should really check out her blog and entries on holiday baking. You will be astonished on the varieties and thoughts she has put in the delicatessen).
Recalling the first two years when I started doing the holiday baking marathon, it was rather stressful because I had done it without much planning. Thankfully as the years pass, I start to acclimate the work involved and do some preparation work, so that Mission Christmas cookies can go more smoothly. Hopefully, these tips will help you with your baking adventure as well!
- Do some “egg math”: Have you been in situations where you have a dozen egg whites in the fridge because recipes only call for the yolks? I understand the temptation of making all interesting recipes, so select a handful and eliminate with a goal of no waste.
- Identify make-ahead doughs: Instead of squeeze all the baking within a day or two, see if there is any dough that can be mixed ahead and be refrigerated. While waiting for the doughs that need to be chilled, you can bake the make-ahead ones. Once those are done, the doughs in the fridge should be ready to be rolled!
- Have at least 2 half sheet: I used to think, why 2? Shouldn’t one suffice? In most cases, not all the cookie dough will make it onto one sheet. While one is being taken out of the oven, the other one can go in. It does save you time when you can alternate, allowing the previous batch to cool. This also brings me to the next point.
- The freezer is your friend: For cut-out cookies, it is ideal to freeze them for a short time ensuring the dough stays cool. While one sheet remains in the freezer, you can roll out the next piece of dough. Another time-saving measure. Be sure to make room in the freezer prior to your baking marathon!
- Have wax paper handy: Recipes usually instruct to flour the surface for cookies that require being rolled out then cut; however, too much flour can make the cookies chewy. One trick that I learned recently is to sandwich the dough between two sheets of wax paper and roll it out. You can chill the dough as it is in the freezer if the oven has effectively warmed up the environ, and less buttery mess to scrap up on the rolling surface.
- Invest in a marble rolling pin: I looked at one very dubiously before, thinking, why would I wield something as heavy and cumbersome? Despite its potential to be a murder weapon, marble rolling pin works miraculously with any dough that is heavy in butter: the coldness will keep the butter in check. Best yet, you can freeze the rolling pin for 5 to 10 minutes to ensure that it remains cold during your rolling session. It works fabulously with wax paper as well.
Do you have any holiday baking tips you would like to share?