Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas baking 101

Confession: I've become slightly obsessed with the sun recently. The moment it chooses to show its face. I literally stop everything I'm doing and bask in the vitamin D glow. This is clearly the most logical thing to do when it only surfaces every five days. Welcome to the dreary Northeast winter days. Thank goodness for Christmas joy, twinkle lights, and holiday baking!

This year instead of leaving all my baking for this last week before Christmas. I've been slowly and steadily planning my attack and filling our freezer to the brim. I've now completely run out of containers and our freezer is maxed out. I am by no means an expert, but thought I'd share a few tips and tricks I've learned when it comes to enjoying your time in the kitchen this Christmas...

1. Whisk and stir to the tunes of your favorite Christmas music. 
I promise it will help you tackle that mound of dishes you just created. (Says the baker without a dishwasher.)

2. Embrace the power of your freezer.  
It's no secret that I love my freezer, but this time of year it really earns its energy saver stars. Freezing is the best way to preserve the freshly baked taste while saving me from having to spend long hours in the kitchen the morning of that holiday shindig. It's also a lovely place to store cookie dough until your ready for your cookie decorating party.
3. Bake only what you personally want to eat.
Do not make your Great Aunt Stella a fruitcake that you yourself wouldn't want a crumb of. Odds are there might be leftovers. Bake and make only what you and your family will be happy to polish off.

4. Giving gifts from your kitchen this year? Assess your gifting supply.
Do you have enough boxes, tins, bags, ribbons, tags, etc? If not, hit the dollar store for the basics and the craft store for snazzier gifting options. And for the love, please don't forget that craft store coupon!

5. Stock up now for future baking adventures.
Technically this applies to year round baking, but I'd be forsaking my frugal self if I didn't tell you to stock your pantry now. Butter, chocolate, nuts, and flour are all on sale for about as cheap as they get. Stock up for the coming months. Don't succumb to paying a third more for a product in a month. P.S. Butter, flour, and nuts freeze well.
6. When in doubt, pull that cookie sheet out! 
Do NOT be that person that serves rock hard cookies. Just don't. Even biscotti, in my humble opinion, should have a slight chew in the middle.

So there's my two cents. Any tips you'd like to add?

If you still haven't decided what goodies your gifting this Christmas, don't fret! Here's a few suggestions from my baking list to get you started:

Chocolate Fudge Pistachio Thumbprints from How Sweet It is. Slightly warmed up with that ganache in the middle...oh so so good! I might have made mine about twice the size. I am my mom's daughter and that's just how we roll.

Triple Chocolate Espresso Cookies from Food 52. I've nicknamed these espresso crinkles and increased their size... ;) The hubster is absolutely in love with these.

Coffee Toffee from Smitten Kitchen for my coffee loving family. (She also posted a gingerbread biscotti recipe that's calling my name...maybe next year...)

Decadent Hot Chocolate Mix also from Smitten Kitchen.
We like ours with a 3/4 c. of 2% milk and 1/4 c. half and half and a few squares of homemade marshmallows on top. Rich and dreamy hot chocolate.

Nutty Millet Breakfast Cookies from the Whole Grain Mornings cookbook. Cookies for breakfast?! Don't let the whole grains deceive you, these are truly incredible moist, spiced cookies. The hubster's most requested recipe of the year. You can adapt the nuts and dried fruits in this recipe to your taste. Bonus: these are the perfect filling, yet nutritious treat for new mamas.

Want more? Check out my Christmas Goodies, Cookie! Yum Yum Yum!, and Baking Queen Pinterest boards for more inspiration!

I'll be back soon for some easy peasy last minute gift wrap ideas. 'Til then happy baking!

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