Five Technique Tips for Holiday Baking

Beloveds…IT’S GO TIME. Fall has officially entered the chat, which means one thing:

The. Holidays. Starting with Halloween and going through New Year’s Day, we will be in a consistent baking bonanza.

Cookies. Cakes. Breads. All the cinnamon rolls.

With so much available yumminess, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by it all. Fear not, Friends. Today, I have simple simple tips to help you be a calm, cool baking boss during the holidays.

Ready? Me too! Let’s Go.

In this Post:

Start Practicing Early

The Holidays are a baker’s Game 7, so I’m going to give it to you straight: the day of your holiday meal is not the time to “try” that Outrageous Coconut-Creme Meringue Cake from Fine Cooking for the first time.

Friends, even for experienced bakers, the day of the holiday isn’t the day to make that dessert. Because that baby…is a handful. A stunning centerpiece, for sure, but most definitely not something to make the same day that you’re serving it.

In general, it’s best to practice your holiday baking dishes at least once or twice before serving them on the big day. I typically start holiday baking practice early in the fall (around early October…but I’m weird) so that I can plan for each holiday, test my recipes, and tinker if necessary.

My recipe book. ❤️ Quick tip: I write all of my recipes in pencil.

Holiday baking will still be plenty stressful, but I can use the lessons learned from those practice runs in October to benefit the cookies, pastries, cakes and bread that I make in November, December and January.

Avoid Improvising During the Final Bake!

I know that I literally just said that I tinker with baking recipes. However, what you won’t catch me doing during the final bake is improvising. Friends, by the final bake, the time for playing around has come and gone. That’s when my recipe is locked into that blue recipe book, I’m double-checking ingredient amounts, and I’m baking to the letter of that tested recipe.

The end goal is to make something that tastes utterly delicious. And, by the time it’s time to bake the holiday goodies, I’ve tinkered and tested and come up with something you truly believe in. At that point, it’s just time to execute what you know and make that utterly delicious thing.

Don’t Overcommit Yourself

Once you get the reputation as the “best baker in the family”, you’ll start getting requests during the holidays for your Greatest Hits. Literally all of them. Literally for every holiday. I say this from experience, Friends: if you don’t plan your holiday menu, you will quickly get overwhelmed by your baking responsibilities.

That defies the spirit of the holidays and that is not fun.

To avoid overwhelm as I’m practicing recipes for the holidays, I typically match a recipe with a specific holiday. To stay more focused and efficient, during my October planning phase I might even create a table that looks something like this:

RecipeHolidayBake DateNotes
Carrot CakeChristmas12/23/21Needs refrigeration. Make sure there’s space!
Apple PieThanksgiving11/25/21Make dough and filling on 11/24/21 so I just have to build and bake the pie on Thanksgiving Day.
Easy peasy.

You don’t have to create this chart, but it can help you visualize how much work you’re committing yourself to for specific holidays. And, it can help you tell Aunt Janice that no, you won’t be making her favorite carrot cake for Thanksgiving, but she will see it on Christmas Day. She’ll have apple pie on Thanksgiving though!

Aunt Janice doesn’t want you to overextend yourself either.

Get Ingredients and Equipment Early

Certain ingredients become a whole nightmare to find around the holidays. Red food coloring? Vanilla? BUTTER? Asking your local grocer for these ingredients in the days before a major holiday can get you this response:

Please, Family, avoid real tears in the grocery store and stock your ingredients early. Even if you start stockpiling gathering your ingredients in September and October, most baking staples can be stored safely until you need them in November, December and January.

And, PSA, you can freeze butter to help it last longer. (Thanks Spruce Eats!)

This same philosophy works for new equipment. Fall is the time of year that many new bakers like to get started on their new baking journeys. It melts my heart to think of all of the people who are joining this wonderfully warm baking community this fall. It’s highly recommended to get all of the baking equipment that you need early in the fall, so that you’re not fighting with latecomers on. The only one that wins in that scenario is Amazon Prime.

Not sure what you need to get started? I’ve got your back! Click here for a FREE copy of my Buying Guide for Beginning Bakers!

Work in Your Wheelhouse

The holidays are the best time to showcase your Greatest Hits. While it can be really fun and extremely rewarding to present your family and friends with something spectacular that you improvised the day before the major event, it can also backfire spectacularly. It’s also super stressful to pull off something like that!

And aren’t the holidays stressful enough?

Most. Definitely. Stressful.

While it is true that with great risk can come great reward, great risk carries great risk too.

If you’ve spent the entire year perfecting layer cakes, it’s probably best to let the resident sourdough queen bring the bread to the holiday event. If everyone works in their gift, then everyone wins.

Conclusion

Holiday baking can be some of the most fun and rewarding baking that you do for the entire year. I hope these quick tips help you as you prepare for your holiday gatherings, big and small, this season!

See you next time!


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