Planning Your Holiday Bake-a-Thon

Christmas is next week, which means many bakers will be pulling out their pans and getting to work this weekend. If you’re a holiday baker/candy maker, here are a few tips to help make your holiday bake-a-thon go a little smoother.

Gather Your Recipes Now
If you have them online, consider printing them. If you have them in a binder, pull them all out. If you have them in various cookbooks, put Post-Its on the pages. If you have them in your head, I envy you.

Pull Out All Your Ingredients Now
The last thing you want to do is get everything laid out, reach into the cupboard for that one last thing, and realize you’ve run out. For example, I just pulled my last two pounds of butter out of the freezer. I don’t know how I managed to use four pounds of butter in two weeks, but clearly I need to restock. (No, I take that back. I realize now that Thanksgiving ate all my butter.)

Organize your ingredients, then compare them to the recipes. Make sure you have enough for everything you need to bake. If you don’t, make a quick run to the store. Even if you go couponless and don’t visit the cheapest store, do it now. This is about convenience!

Pull Out the Pots and Pans
If you need several containers for storing, mixing, or baking, pull everything out and put it in one place.

Make a Schedule
Now go through your recipes. Figure out which need to be refrigerated overnight, which have a long resting period, which require precise timing, etc. Now decide which pans you’ll need for each. If you need the same pan for two different dishes, you’ll need to space them out. List everything you need to bake in the order you need to prepare it. If you’ve got a dish with a long resting period, slot another item (or lunch) into that space.

Choose a Start Time
Unless you want to be baking until midnight, choose a start time for this endeavor. Since everything will take longer than you expect, you’ll have a nice pad to still get done relatively on time.

Bake the Easiest Things Last
Put the simplest or quickest item last on your list. That way you’ll be able to whip it up in no time at the very end, or pull it together after dinner one night next week if you run out of time this weekend.

Forget Perfection
No one cares if your cookies are a bit dented or your truffles are oddly-shaped. They still taste good and they’ll still be impressed that you made them yourself. In fact, you might like the “homemade” look a little better. For example, the first time I made sea salt truffles, I didn’t temper the milk chocolate coating. The truffles started to melt and became Frankentruffles. They tasted amazing. This time I tempered the coating and perfectly applied it. They looked great, but I preferred the taste of the Frankentruffles. The flavors were better balanced, despite their ugliness (although, let’s be honest, chocolate can never truly be ugly.)

What’s the best part about making a plan? Getting everything done without collapsing into a pile of goo afterwards. That’s what Christmas is all about.

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