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Holiday Baking Tips and Tricks to Keep Your Spirits Bright!

Are you freaking out with all the holiday craziness? Wondering how you’re going to do ALL THE THINGS? Drowning under an ocean of lists?

I’m here to help baking-wise, that is.

Whether you’re an experienced baker, just starting out, or just “seasonal,” it can be challenging to churn out all of those homemade treats amid the holiday busy-ness.

As a serious home baker for over 25 years, and one who gives her baked goods as holiday gifts, I’ve amassed a number of tips and tricks to keep me calm and organized in the kitchen. With a little bit of planning and a pantry that’s strategically stocked you can be “at the ready” for unexpected guests, a gift for teacher or hostess, or even (wait for it) a cookie exchange!

As for wrapping all of those gifts? Well, you’re on your own…

  • Holiday Baking? A Piece of Cake! 1 of 12
    holiday baking tips

    A well-stocked kitchen, a dash of planning, and a sprinkling of do-ahead tips are your recipe for keeping those holiday treats coming (and your sanity intact)!

    I'm sharing all of my tried and true tips right here, along with some fun and festive "must-make" holiday recipes! 

  • Double Up! 2 of 12
    eggnog-cookies-with-eggnog-icing

    Probably the biggest gift the baker can give herself. Whatever the recipe is a tea bread, slice and bake cookies, or a batch of brittle double it up.  Most baked goods freeze beautifully, so for only a tiny bit more effort you can have twice the "goods" for your hard work. You'll be so glad you did, as there's always that last minute "oops" moment where you need to have something great to give right now.

    You'll surely want to make a double batch of these eggnog cookies! Get the recipe at Babble

  • Go Mini! 3 of 12
    marbled pound cakes

    One of the best purchases I ever made was a mini loaf rack. I figured out long ago that a 9 x 5 loaf recipe could make three "mini" breads, and an 8 x 4 loaf makes two. The smaller size makes a perfect gift, especially when accompanied by another item (a tin of tea leaves, for example). Petite loaves are easier to wrap too!

    Get the recipe for these adorable marbled pound cakes at Babble

  • Combine Dry Ingredients Ahead of Time 4 of 12
    White-Chocolate-Kissed-Gingerbread-Cookies-434x289

    Leavening ingredients like baking soda and baking powder are activated when wet. So feel free to combine your dry ingredients early in the day - or even the night before - to get one big step out of the way well in advance.

    Get a head start on these divine gingerbread cookies! Recipe for this and other gingerbread treats at Babble

  • Warm Things Up! 5 of 12
    GlutenFree6SM-624x416

    Or at least get them to room temperature. Working with ingredients at the proper temperature not only makes the process go more smoothly and quickly, it greatly improves your results too. Eggs should always be at room temperature, as well as butter (for most recipes). Take these items out at least an hour in advance so that they're ready to go when you are!

    The recipe for these charming rainbow meringue "kisses" can be found at Babble

  • Ice Ice Baby 6 of 12
    salt-and-pepper-gingerbread

    Second to my stand mixer, my freezer is my most important piece of equipment when baking for the holidays. Most cookies, cakes, and bars have a high butter content, which means that they will freeze beautifully. Take advantage of this by churning out several batches of treats on a weekend afternoon and get them in the freezer.

    To freeze cookies, arrange in single layers - separated by wax paper - in an airtight container. For loaves, wrap in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil. 

    Make (and freeze!) spicy gingerbread cookies and more at Babble

  • Slice ‘Em Up! 7 of 12
    donuts dresses and dirt Chocolate Espresso Cookies

    I always keep a few "logs" of unbaked cookie dough in the freezer. The cookies can go directly into the oven, and I love being able to slice off just what I need. So if a friend stops by for tea, or I have to quickly bake up some cookies to bring to a party, I'm totally prepared!

    Make these espresso cookies and more mouthwatering slice and bake cookies at Babble

  • Prep Pans In Advance 8 of 12
    liqueur-soaked-orange-almond-pound-cake-2

    Properly prepped pans are critical for cakes and loaves that release cleanly and easily after baking. I get this tedious task out of the way well in advance - either the night before or early in the day. If your kitchen is warm, keep the pan(s) in the fridge till ready to use.

    Prep your pan and make this stunning orange liqueur pound cake! Recipe at Babble

  • Keep Notes! 9 of 12
    chocolate-peppermint-chip-cookies-434x651

    I know - booooring! But for years I've kept notes (first in a notebook, now on my computer) documenting what I make, how much, and who I've baked for. This is essential for planning how much I need to bake for the season along with people's likes (and dislikes). Having this document in-hand keeps me on track, so that I'm not caught with less than I need at the last minute.

    Make these chocolate peppermint chip cookies and 24 other amazing chocolate holiday desserts at Babble

  • Stock Up! 10 of 12
    orange cranberry biscotti

    A well-stocked pantry and freezer is a must for the holiday baker. I always have on-hand plenty of flour, sugar, butter, chocolate chips, confectioner's sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, nuts, and bags of cranberries (both fresh and dried). Also nice to have at the ready are various kinds of sprinkles and sanding sugars, instant espresso powder, and chopped toffee bits.

    These orange cranberry biscotti are all yours - to eat, serve, or send! Get the recipe at Babble

  • One Recipe, Many Ways! 11 of 12
    donuts-dresses-and-dirt-Toasted-Coconut-and-Lime-Shortbread-434x347

    Another time-saving trick is to find a "base" cookie dough that you love and make several batches. You can then customize the cookie with add-ins and flavorings to create a variety of treats from one recipe. Sugar cookies and shortbread are great examples of versatile base recipes that can adapt easily.

    Find the recipe for these toasted coconut and lime shortbread cookies (and more!) at Babble

  • Take it Easy! 12 of 12
    babble nutella swirl brownies

    We all like to step up our game around the holidays - and what better way to show off than with a batch of beautifully decorated sugar cookies, or a tin of hand rolled and dipped truffles? 

    But give yourself a break at some point and whip up a tray or two of bar cookies. These "one bowl" wonders yield many cookies for minimal effort and are just as delicious as their fancier cousins.

    Make Brownies and Bars at Babble

Read more from Sheri on Donuts, Dresses and Dirt
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