favor- “ette” friday (holiday edition, part three): staying organized

December 9th, 2011

As I’ve written before, I do a LOT of baking to give as gifts for the holiday. And, needless to say, with a toddler in tow there is rarely the luxury of  uninterrupted hours of baking happening around here. I get a few hours here and there, at best. So it is imperative that I stay organized and efficient, to make the most of the dribs and drabs of time I get throughout the day.

Over the years I’ve gathered a handful of tricks and tips to not only save time, but make the most of the time that I do have – and I’d like to share those with you today!

1. Pre-measure: I get as much measuring done in advance as possible. Leavening agents (in baking powder, for example) are not activated till you add your liquids, so you can combine all the dry ingredients, as per your recipe, ahead of time. I put them in a zip loc bag (up to a day in advance), and they are ready to go when I start baking. When I take butter out to soften I cut each stick into small pieces, which speeds up the process. I crack my eggs and keep them in a bowl in the fridge. Each of these steps, taken separately, doesn’t save a ton of time. But if you do them all you’ll see how much more smoothly your baking goes (which lessens the stress and “ups” the fun – plus you can then pretend you’re the host of your own cooking show – I mean, don’t you just wish you could have all your ingredients measured and poured in cute little bowls before you start?).

2. Double up: Pretty much without exception, I double the recipe every time I bake. Whether it’s a quick bread, cookie or pound cake, I make twice what the recipe calls for. Think about it – it’s literally no additional work to double your ingredients (save prepping an extra pan or washing a few more cookie sheets), yet you will have a bounty of baked goods, safe and sound in your freezer – for whatever and whenever you need. This is a no-brainer for me during the holiday season, but frankly one I use all year long.

3. Prep your pans: Greasing, flouring and lining your pans is an annoying but essential step in baking (assuming you don’t want half your cake clinging to the pan as you release it). Get this step done in advance, either early in the day or the night before (you can keep them in the fridge till you’re ready to use them). Again, not a huge time saver but every little bit counts. For proper prepping click here.

4. Freeze unbaked cookies: Did you know that you can slice/drop/shape your cookies on a baking sheet and stick them in the freezer till you’re ready to bake? Or, after they are frozen, place in an airtight container or zip loc bag for a future date? Because I like to double up (see tip #2) I wind up making large-ish batches of cookies – often more than I need at one time. By freezing the unbaked cookies I can take advantage of doubling my ingredients but only baking what I need. Increase the baking time by a few minutes and you can have freshly baked cookies year round.

5. Keep good notes: I know, BOOORRRRING! But honestly, if I didn’t keep good notes I’d be totally lost. So each year I sit down and figure out who I’m baking for, what I’m baking and then tally it all up. And I’ll admit, it’s kind of rewarding to check things off the list as I finish a batch of this or that. I make notes on who has a milk allergy in the family, who went crazy for those raspberry ribbons I gave last year and who detests mint/white chocolate/coffee.

So there you have it – my “top five” favorite tips – I hope that you find them useful, and that they free up some time for the really important stuff – like this.

Oh – and the cookies shown here? They’re coming soon; promise. Here they are!

Happy Friday!

Wondering what favor-”ette” means? Click here!

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