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10 Tips for Doing Your Holiday Baking Like a Pro

Erin P
Posted by Erin P on Nov 12, 2015


It's holiday baking time, the season where it's perfectly acceptable to fill our kitchens with cookies, cupcakes, candy and pies. Whether you are baking for a crowd or just a very special someone, here are 10 tips to ensure your baked goods are as good as the pros:

1. Stock Up

Clip those coupons and shop the sales. Pantry basics like flour and sugar go on sale throughout the year and will keep for months as long as they're stored in a dry environment. The freezer, however, is every baker's best friend. The dry, arctic chill of your side-by-side or chest freezer will keep extra butter, shortening, dried fruit, nuts and yeast in tip-top shape so that they're ready when you are. Planning on making massive amounts of single item like pumpkin bread or truffles? Consider using an online paper goods supplier like Papermart.com or Bagsandbowsonline.com for better prices on gift-worthy paper bakeware and cute little foil cups. Presentation counts!

2. Work Ahead

Did I mention how awesome freezers are yet? Not only do they keep raw ingredients in great shape, they're also the perfect preservers of works-in-progress and final products. Depending on how much freezer space you have, you can store anything from a few rounds of Perfect Pie Dough to a stack of fully baked cheesecakes. I have a modest-sized freezer, so I use my space for relatively compact baking components like pie dough, logs of slice and bake cookies, frozen summer fruit, and even bags of frostings!

Freezer3. Practice

Martha Stewart didn't just wake up one day and make a perfect profiterole. Well, maybe she did, but for the rest of us, it takes practice. Don't be lulled into a sense of false security by the "Super Easy Tutorial!" on your Pinterest board. If you're trying out something new, try it out on yourself first. If it doesn't work, well, what happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen.  

4. Sweat the Details

Making a beautiful cake? Make sure you have the right size pan(s) and plate big enough to display it (remember they get bigger with frosting!). Taking baked goods on the road? Think about how you'll protect them in the car. Contributing to a potluck? Consider investing in some disposable/recyclable bakeware to save your host the trouble of cleaning or finding storage for leftovers at the end of the night. If you're not a fan of disposables, buy something pretty to bake in and present both the treat and the vessel as a gift to the host.

Bakeware5. Multitask

Make your recipes and ingredients do double duty. For example, I like to make a double batch of cranberry preserves at Thanksgiving and freeze the extra for use in jam-filled cookies and swirled into cheesecakes. Use one larger batch of cream cheese frosting to fill red velvet whoopie pies for Christmas and save the extra to ice fresh cinnamon rolls for New Year's Day brunch. Cut extra bread cubes when you make Thanksgiving stuffing and freeze them for use in decadent bread pudding. Bottom line, find ways to work as little as possible for the most reward.

6. Know Your Audience

Who are you baking for? Baking for family can be either permission to relax and make something simple, or go all out on something crazy adventurous with guaranteed forgiveness of the Three Ingredient Microwave Cake! turned out to need a few more ingredients and a little less microwave. Also, consider food allergies and special dietary needs. Keeping things nut-free for children's events has become pretty standard, and your vegan friend(s) will love you forever if you make them carob and coconut oil brownies.

7. Be Seasonal

This works on two levels. One, seasonal produce will taste better. Two, seasonal produce will be cheaper. Forget the summer berries and break out the citrus, apples, pears and squash. Your guests and your wallet will thank you.

Seasonal Produce

8. Be Creative

No matter how organized you are, you will forget something at the grocery store. Faced with making another trip out in the cold, I usually choose to make it work instead. One of the most complete resources out there for baking substitutions is Joy of Baking Baking Ingredient Substitution Table.  The end product may vary a bit, but it will do in a true kitchen emergency.

9. Make It Social

If all of this kitchen fun sounds a bit time consuming, then you just need more hands! Invite a few friends over to drink wine and make cookie dough. Reconnect with a family member by asking them to teach you how to make their holiday specialty. Get your kids involved! Baking is a really wonderful activity for children. Not only is it a great sensory experience for little ones but it also teaches following directions and math skills to older kids.

Teddy Cooks
10. Write it Down

If you've gotten through tips 1-9, I guarantee you're going to be making something new and awesome this year.  You're going to want to make it again. Heck, other people are going to be asking you for the recipe after the first bite. So find a way to document your success. Write down any changes you made to an old favorite, and save copies of new favorites. Not good at keeping track of paperwork? Take a picture of the recipe and save it in an online album.  If you're giving away simple baked goods as gifts, consider attaching a handwritten recipe card.

Feeling inspired but not sure where to start? Check out one of The Chopping Block's upcoming baking classes like Holiday Pies and Tarts, Home-Style Fall Baking, or Fun 'n' Fancy Cookies!

View our calendars

Topics: bake, holiday, baked goods, baking

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