Bake ahead for unexpected guests
As a chef, I know that being prepared and mixing ingredients correctly helps reduce stress in the kitchen. That’s why I always suggest planning ahead and improving your recipes and methods.
These tips and guidelines have helped me make holiday baking less stressful, especially when unexpected guests drop by with a craving for sweets.
Cookies in a pinch
- Make an extra batch of dough, roll it into a log, wrap it in plastic and pop it in the freezer. Then, when guests come over, you’re prepared! All you have to do is quickly slice the log and bake the cookies.
- Or, bake extra cookies and freeze them. Then use your microwave or warming drawer to reheat the cookies as needed.
- Use rimmed baking sheets to prevent cookies from sliding off the tray when you pull them out of the oven.
- Always rely on your senses to tell when baked goods are done. The recipe might call for a 350-degree oven, but yours may actually register 400 degrees, cutting baking time. When you smell the cookies and see them turning golden brown, you know they’re done.
Prep your oven
- Shift oven racks to their necessary positions before you preheat the oven.
- Convection ovens are perfect for baking. They circulate air throughout the baking process, ensuring even oven temperatures and times. The Kenmore Elite Dual Fan Convection Range uses two fans to bake foods faster, so you can make more cookies in less time.
- I highly recommend cooling racks to cool cookies properly; if you don’t have them, let air circulate under cookies by propping and leaning them at an angle around the edge of the cookie sheet.
It’s all how you mix it
- After you add baking powder, quickly finish the rest of the recipe. Baking powder is activated by liquid and heat, so work quickly to utilize its full power.
- Cream butter and sugar together for at least two minutes (most people stop at 30-45 seconds). A little extra time makes a world of difference.
- Never over-mix; once the ingredients are combined, stop stirring. You’ll get a more tender cookie.
- Use an ice cream scoop for easy measuring of cookie dough.
What are your secrets for making the holidays less stressful?