A Holiday Baker's Pantry

With the holidays just around the corner, baking is on our mind.

By FamilyTime


For many of us, the winter holidays mean it’s time to pull out cookie sheets, cake pans, and pie plates, fire up the oven and get busy. We look forward to filling the house with gorgeous scents emanating from our kitchens — and then to sharing our delicious handiwork with family and friends.

Whether you plan to do a lot of holiday baking or will simply turn out one or two batches of cookies, being prepared will make the task not only easier, but a lot more enjoyable.

The Right Recipes

Leaf through your favorite cookbooks, dig out your mom’s hand-written notes, and surf the Internet to find the cookies, cakes, pies, and other goodies you want to make. Challenge yourself with one or two ideas, but for the most part, stick with recipes you are pretty sure meet your skill level. Remember, you want success!

Once you have settled on the recipes, inspect your kitchen to see what items you have on hand and what you will have to buy. Make comprehensive shopping lists before you head out the door. Think beyond the ingredients for a particular recipe and make sure you have enough plastic wrap, parchment, and foil.

If a recipe requires a certain tool you do not own, plan to buy it when you are shopping. On the other hand, if a recipe calls for something you might never use again, skip the recipe (unless your heart is set on it!)

It’s best not to shop on the same day you will bake.

Sugar and Spice

Make sure you have enough flour, granulated sugar, confectioners’ sugar and brown sugar. If your baking powder and baking soda are on the ancient side (more than three or four months old), add them to the list. Don’t forget to buy fresh eggs and unsalted butter. Flavorless vegetable oil spray is handy for greasing pans.

Treat yourself to high-end vanilla extract (it really does make a difference). It might be sold at a shop that stocks its own line of or other brands of upmarket spices. Splurge on new spices, either these or those at the supermarket. Fresh nutmeg, ground ginger, and cinnamon will make your creations taste oh-so-good.

When it comes to chocolate, indulge in the best your budget allows. This applies to cocoa powder as well as bar chocolate, particularly bittersweet or semisweet. Same advice pertains to chocolate as to wine: cook with what you would eat or drink. Happily.

Finally, make sure you have decorating supplies — from sprinkles and food coloring to cookie cutters and pastry bags and tips. Don’t forget about ribbon and colorful tissue paper or cellophane, as well as tins or suitable gift boxes.

All You Need Is Time!

When it’s time to bake, make a day of it (if you can). Pull out the bowls, rubber spatulas, measuring cups and spoons, sieves, and pans you will need. Hoist the electric mixer onto the counter. Find your rolling pin and oven mitts.

Put some holiday music on your iPhone or stereo, turned to a cheerful volume. Be sure you are wearing comfortable shoes and get to work. Forget about emails and texts, if you can.

Measure, sift, grate, chop, and stir the ingredients you need for a particular recipe. If you are baking several things at once, assemble the prepped ingredients for each recipe and have them handy for easy assembly.

Have a lovely time in the kitchen. This is truly a joyous and creative way to celebrate the season.