Organizing Your Way to a Simple Christmas: Baking

source: soaerang
source: soaerang

Today is day nine in our two-week Christmas series: Organizing Your Way to a Simple Christmas.

Holiday baking is yet another aspect of Christmas that I love. I’m not a great cook, but I make some pretty yummy baked goods, and I love to make cookies, chocolate-dipped pretzels and other treats for friends, families, neighbors, etc. The cookies above are just one of the amazing creations of a good friend of mine, and not something I could ever pull off. However, what my baking lacks in creativity and adorableness, it usually makes up for in taste (I say usually because there is the fact that I ruined all three pies I contributed to last year’s Thanksgiving dinner…).

One of the great things about holiday baking is how much of it can be done ahead of time. Most cookies freeze well, meaning you can start now — before holiday plans begin to fill up your days and weekends — and have yummy, homemade cookies throughout the season.

Planning Your Holiday Baking

Now is a great time to begin planning all of your holiday baking because manufacturers are putting out more coupons on baking ingredients and stores are putting these same items on sale. You could stock up on common ingredients without planning ahead, of course, but you can make the most of sales without overbuying by taking a few minutes to plan first.

To start, look at your Gift List. Who are you planning to bake for? Do you have an idea of what you plan to bake or do you need to start looking for recipes and ideas? Have you decided how you will package any cookies/candy you make (which will help you estimate the quantity for each as well)?

Begin filling out your Christmas Baking Planner, noting any ingredients or other supplies you’ll need to get. Once you have a basic plan in place, add your baking to your Christmas Calendar. You may decide to set aside a whole weekend to do all of your baking or to spread it out over several weeks. Either way, make sure it’s all on the calendar.

Tips for Holiday Baking

Here are a few more tips to help you simplify your holiday baking:

  • Check your supplies. Double check that you have all of the ingredients for each recipe — and in the quantities you need — before you start. Surely I’m not the only one who has gotten halfway through a recipe only to realize someone has used up half of the eggs and now I don’t have enough!
  • Use parchment paper. If you’re making a lot of cookies at once, line your cookie sheets with parchment paper so you can quickly slide the cookies off and put a new batch in the oven.
  • Make a game plan for your baking days. Look at prep times, bake times, etc. For example, Shaina from Food for My Family suggests making dough that needs to chill first so that you can work on other cookies while it chills. She also suggests starting with the cookies that bake at the lowest ingredient so that you can increase the temperature in your oven as you go rather than having to wait on it to cool down.
  • Clean up as you go. As Shaina says, it’s much easier to clean up gooey messes than to wait until they’re hard and crusty! Aimee from Under the High Chair recently shared her “clean as you go” method on The Art of Simple¬†as well.
  • Prepare your packaging ahead of time. Shaina also suggests packing your cookies for delivery right away rather than storing them in larger containers and having to divide them up later.

Today’s task: Begin filling out your Christmas Baking Planner. Print out or gather any recipes you need and store them in a sheet protector in your home management notebook. Make a shopping list of the ingredients you need to buy.

Do you do a lot of holiday baking? Do you make the same favorites every year or prefer to try new recipes?