Monday, January 7, 2013

Holiday Baking Streamlined

When you put away your Christmas decorations, odds are that you try to organize them in a way that will make sense when you unpack them next year. I have finally made the same effort to reduce the chaos of holiday baking.

yule log and meringue mushrooms
I am not usually a fancy baker, but I made this on Christmas Day. That's a Yule Log with meringue mushrooms.

I'm one of those crazy holiday bakers. I typically start December 1 and make at least a double batch of 10-12 different cookies and confections. I began this chaos--which often gets done post-midnight--in December 2000. For our June wedding that year, we (who am I kidding, I) received a new Cuisinart hand mixer that I loved. Armed with my Cooking Light magazine, I baked and baked. Not knowing what to do with the results, I took platters of cookies into work that year.

Over time, more recipes have been added to the typical holiday baking list, and a couple have fallen off. I now have a stand mixer, which is even more exciting than the Cuisinart hand mixer (which regrettably went kaput this fall, RIP). I serve my results at our annual book club party, at the school holiday show, and to the grandparents when they visit over Christmas. I also try to distribute as many as I can to friends because no one should have that much readily available butter and sugar in the house.

With kids, the Christmas chaos has magnified greatly, and I was way behind schedule this December. I couldn't even remember what I usually baked and failed to make my mother-in-law's favorite, which I only realized when she asked me where to find the biscotti (nowhere in 2012). I also have recipes in cookbooks, printed from the Internet and stored in a binder, on recipe cards in a dessert binder from my mom, on recipe cards in a recipe card box--they are everywhere.

To streamline this process in the future, I have created a single document that contains all the recipes for the holiday treats I usually make. I typed all the recipes into a Word document, which allowed me to include my own previously handwritten notes and to edit the recipe in a way that made the most sense to me.

For example, I make my mom's buckeye recipe with dark chocolate rather than the recommended semisweet. I prefer creamy Peter Pan peanut butter to the chunky stuff Mom uses. I've learned that 1 lb. of powdered sugar equals 3 3/4 cups, and that 18 oz. of peanut butter equals 2 cups. My typed recipes now note that a single batch of the chocolate portion is sufficient for a double batch of the peanut butter portion.

I made similar change in the ingredients, abbreviating items in a way that makes sense to me, a regular baker. All-purpose flour became flour. Granulated white sugar became just sugar. A large egg is an egg. I don't need to tell myself to grease the pan or cool cookies on wire racks, because I use a silicon mat and always cool cookies on wire racks. You get the idea.

Next year, all I will need to do is pull up a single document (which I also will print, just in case), and I will have all the ingredients and recipes for:

Gingerbread People
Sugar Cookies
Irish Shortbread Toffee
Lemon-Honey Drop Cookies
Cranberry-Chocolate Chip Biscotti
Chewy Chocolate-Cherry Cookies
Peppermint Bon-Bon Cookies
Spicy Oatmeal Cookies
Pretzel Rods
Peanut Brittle
Yule Log

I take that back. While the words "Sugar Cookies" appear in the file to remind me, the recipe does not. I'm willing to share any and all recipes except that one. That bit of deliciousness (my weakness) came from a childhood friend whose mother always made that recipe when we were kids. I only received that recipe after much cajoling and as a wedding gift from my friend, who served as my maid of honor.

I can't tell you how happy this little bit of organization has made me. Perhaps next year, I won't be such a complete nut job come December.

If you'd like me to share any of the above recipes--other than the sugar cookies, of course--let me know in the comments and I can post them separately. Happy baking!

1 comment:

  1. You amaze me.

    p.s. I made a family cookbook with photos a decade or so ago - sounds like you should too.