I love to make baked goods for family, friends, teachers and business associates during the holidays. They all seem to enjoy the treats and appreciate that I spent time to make them personal. By making dozens of cookies, fudge and other treats, it’s an inexpensive gift for the budget conscious. These tips are ideas I’ve thought of and found over the years and they will most definitely make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable.
Tip number 1: If you’re making sugar cutout Christmas cookies, make decorating easy by putting all your sprinkles, colored sugars and frosting in a muffin tin. Each compartment keeps the decorations neat and if children are helping in the kitchen, it’s easy for little fingers to pick up the right amount to sprinkle on the cookies.
Tip number 2: Keep clean up to a minimum when you measure ingredients like sugar, brown sugar, and flour by measuring on a piece of waxed paper or a paper towel. Any excess that spills over the measuring cup can quickly be put back into the canister or dumped in the trash.
Tip number 3: If you’re making a cake, bread or cookies that calls for chocolate chips or raisins, toss them with a small amount of flour before adding them to the batter. This will prevent them from falling to the bottom during baking.
Tip number 4: When baking cookies, cool cookie sheets completely between batches to keep cookies from spreading too much. Do not eat raw cookie dough.
Tip number 5: If you’re making a Bundt cake and don’t know big your pan is simply fill the pan with water poured from a measuring cup. Once the size is determined, empty the pan and wipe dry. Is there too much batter for your pan? Use the remaining batter to make cupcakes.
Tip number 6: Watch your supermarket ads. When staple baking ingredients like sugar, flour and vanilla go on sale before the holidays, stock up on what you think you will need. Vanilla extract will keep indefinitely but flour, baking powder and baking soda will not so be sure you begin with fresh ingredients. My supermarket often has buy one get one free vanilla during the holidays.
Tip number 7: Read and reread through your recipe to make sure you have all of your ingredients and there are no surprises because you forgot to buy something. Your neighbor may not bake and may not have the almond extract you forgot to buy.
Tip number 8: Use the right measuring tools. For wet ingredients, like oil or water, use liquid measuring cups. For dry ingredients, like flour or sugar, use dry measuring cups. Dry measuring cups are usually metal or plastic and come in sets of 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup and 1/4 cup. Wet measuring cups are usually plastic or glass and have a spout to pour. By using the wrong cups to measure you could ruin your recipe.
Tip number 9: Look for decorative Christmas tins when shopping. They are an inexpensive and easy way to present your treats as gifts. Over the years I have purchased tins at stores like Dollar General, Big Lots, and Dollar Tree in sets for little money. If you are packaging your treats in cellophane bags, make sure they are food grade. This can be a pricey option. When using tins, I separate layers with parchment paper or put the cookies, fudge and other treats in paper muffin liners. White, silver, gold and decorative liners are available at craft stores like JoAnn’s and Michael’s or on-line at www.wilton.com.
Tip number 10: An easy way to flour cake pans is to reuse empty spice bottles. Thoroughly wash and dry the spice bottle and fill with flour. When needed grease your pan as directed and shake flour from the spice bottled to flour the pan. This works well for dusting powdered sugar too.
Hopefully these baking tips will simplify your holiday baking. So what are you waiting for? Put on the Christmas music and happy baking.
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