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Discussion Forum

Topic: Holiday Baking...How do you DO it??
deejay_cakes 12/23/2011 11:59 AM
I decided to bake cookies this year instead of making my usual peppermint bark and fudge to give to my co-workers. I wanted to do little goodie boxes with different treats like I see other people do you get organized?

I'm a mother of two under 5 years old and I work full time...maybe the fancy baking for the holidays isn't realistic for my schedule, but I'd love to hear any tips and tricks you may use to get organized early in the season to get everything done. I want to be ready for next year, LOL.

Merry Christmas everyone!
sweetgrandma 12/23/2011 1:04 PM
Merry Christmas to you too deejay!

I do my cookie baking early and freeze! I pick a day when I don't have much else going on because I make a huge mess. I also like to use the same recipe for more than one kind of cookie. For instance, I add cocoa powder to sugar cookies for nice chocolate snaps. The kids would probably get a kick out of helping put sprinkles on them or something easy like that.

With two little ones though I wouldn't worry about doing all the fancy stuff. Spend your time enjoying those babies! They'll be grown before you know it and then you'll have all the time you need to decorate!

whoknew? 12/23/2011 3:05 PM
I'm with Grandma on this one, the bark is perfect for gifts. Last year I did TONS of bark; it's quick, easy, and people LOVE it! If you try and change to cookies, I'll bet that everyone will be disappointed!
CollectorEJ 12/23/2011 3:10 PM
To make things go faster I use scoops -- the cookies are all the same size. I have three different sizes from Pampered Chef.

I had a friend who made cookies to give to her friends and her husband's coworkers. She would make and freeze them ahead of time. She would use large coffee cans as the package, after wrapping the outside in gift paper.

Make a list of all the cookies that you want to make and then make sure that you have all the ingredients on hand. When making the cookies, measure out all the ingredients before starting -- so if you get interrupted you won't be lost on what you've done and what needs to be added.
lilsista 12/23/2011 7:34 PM
D'Ann, it is by the hardest that I got a couple of cakes and some cupcakes done this year.....different reasons. And I don't have little ones. Funny, I think I got more done when I did have little ones than now. Could I have slowed down that much? But I do bake ahead and freeze like others have said (It just isn't any fun when you try to do it all at once and you're exhausted!) I also have sort of dedicated bowls, shot glasses (for extracts), etc, and pre-measure everything. I clean as I go and that helps me alot. Hope this helps! Merry Christmas!
Grammyto5 12/26/2011 11:52 PM
I do alot of cut out cookies to be used in baskets and tins for the teachers in my grandkids schools.
I bake and freeze as much as my freezer will hold. then, I defrost and ice and decorate them, as it gets closer to the holiday. For my assorted cookies, I try to bake them close to the holiday, so they are nice and fresh. I don't freeze these at all. A trick that I have been using for these cookies, is to buy alot of baggies and measure out all my dry ingredients for each cookie. I put the recipe with the baggies. It seems so much easier to get a batch or 2 done when I get home from work. I hate the mess of measuring. It also saves me on overbuying alot of ingredients.
cakedujour 12/27/2011 7:37 AM
I do the baggie thing when I'm making several batches of gingerbread. All of the spices, salt, and baking powder get measured into a baggie. As I am making a batch all I have to do is grab a bag and dump it in. Having all that measured in advance saves me a lot of time.
dottiepark 12/27/2011 8:03 AM
deejay, I made 37 varieties of cookies and candies this year and I baked 28 types on two days (biscotti and candy can be done earlier). The most important tool is my spreadsheet: I list out all my cookies and in columns add the baking temps and time, if the dough can be made ahead, and what type of cookie it is (dropped, rolled, bar, etc.). (I start out with lots of other columns indicating flavor, nuts, special ingredients needed, etc., but they are not needed for baking days.) Trust me, the invasion at Normandy beach wasn't planned as well as my baking days. Other essential tools are parchment sheets and several cookie sheets, though I could manage with just four, cookie scoops, and a SCALE. Weighing is so much simpler than measuring.

I organize my baking days by starting with a bar cookie that takes 90 minutes in a slow oven...while that bakes, I lay out parchment sheets and load them up with the next batch (another cookie that bakes a while in a slow oven). I just keep rotating them in and out of the oven and loading up sheets. Some doughs can be made in advance and kept in the fridge...I cut and froze my rolled sugar and gingerbread cookies in advance so I could just position the frozen cookies on parchment and keep going. If I have to mix dough on baking days, I start with the blandest butter cookie and work my way to the darkest spiciest cookie to avoid washing to bowl between batches. The baking days end with meringues. I take a Friday off from work, bake Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday I dip and drizzle chocolate and ice cookies. Everything I give away is extremely fresh!

When my kid was small, I'd farm her out to relatives on baking that I am remarried, I farm my husband out, too (the casino is glad to have him!). But really, the spreadsheet (or very detailed list organized by bake temp and time) is the way to go. No thinking involved, just follow the order, keep whipping stuff in and out of the oven.

Hope you consider the spreadsheet for next year!
whoknew? 12/27/2011 10:46 AM
Dottie, I love you darlin', and really....... I do understand the mania that can take over when we get in the decorating/baking/candy making mode, but Dottie, that explanation about the planning and baking and spreadsheeting made me feel faint.

I have to go lie down and recover now.
dottiepark 12/27/2011 12:48 PM
I have been doing the spreadsheet for years and I start each year with the LAST year's spreadsheet, adding new cookies and deleting ones that no longer interest me. It would be really tedious to start a NEW one each year! And I understand the feeling faint and needing to lie down...happens to me each month when I write the college tuition check!
cakedujour 12/27/2011 1:04 PM
I'm afraid that I'd spend so much time trying to figure out the spread sheet - both the creating of it and the following it - that I wouldn't get any baking done! On the other hand, if I even bothered to write things down I'd be better organized for sure.
ginnyl 12/28/2011 9:17 AM
So happy to see that I am not the only one who organizes her baking schedule with a timeline...I have always done this and I add one or two columns to include ingredients that I have on hand or need to be purchased..
dottiepark 12/28/2011 11:13 AM
Thanks for chiming in, ginny...I feel slightly less crazy with company!
cakedujour 12/28/2011 11:31 AM
Oh, dottie, you and ginny are not the crazy ones. Crazy is me running around trying to do all this baking without a plan!
bunnywoman 12/28/2011 7:26 PM
Heck I am still sitting here fathoming the 37 different varieties of cookies!!!!!!!!!

Holy Smokes girl!!! I am exhausted just thinking about all of that! I need a NAP!

Does each gift basket get 1 cookie of each different variety?

dottiepark 12/28/2011 9:44 PM
Only family members and my best friend get the Noah's Ark (two of everything)...everybody else gets one of each, and even then, only a few get a chocolate covered marshmallow.
lilsista 12/29/2011 8:33 AM
Deejay_cakes, don't know if you have time to read with the little ones, but I remembered a book I borrowed from the library titled COOKIE CRAFT by Valerie Peterson and Janice Fryer. There is a section in there on organizing. Maybe your library would have it, too. Hope this helps.
FRIBWL 12/29/2011 10:07 AM
Wowwwwww. Dottie I thought I was organized. I say everyone should do what works for them. If our way doesn't work than find a way to organize your baking so it's fun and not stressful. I am an early morning person. I make sure the week before I have all of my ingredients, pick my days to bake and start at 6AM. I start early with so many things. But that's what works for me.
Grammyto5 12/29/2011 10:47 AM
I thought I did alot with 15 different plus cut outs. I try a new recipe every now and then but still go back to my original 15.
sweetgrandma 12/29/2011 3:20 PM
dottie and ginny............I'm with whoknew..........I had to lie down with a wet towel on my head and take two aspirins when I read your replies! If I thought I had to make a spreadsheet before I made cookies I'm sure I'd have to give up baking!!

But hey, if it works for you that's wonderful! When I worked I had a secretary like you and it was fabulous! I didn't have to worry about all that computer stuff and she loved doing it!! We were a great pair!!