The holidays can be an incredibly enjoyable time of the year, but they can also be a stressful time for many of us. Entertaining family and friends, baking holiday goodies and even wrapping up gifts take time and organization, and when you have to budget time (and finances), it is helpful to have a few handy how-tos to guide you through the season. These are five of my must-read Holiday Baking How-Tos to get you through the season stress-free and with plenty of goodies to share with friends and family:
- Nothing makes a better present than a box of homemade goodies, so knowing How to Pack and Ship Holiday Baked Goods is key this season. Homemade gifts are always well received and are budget-friendly, too! Wrap things well, use express or priority mail and choose goodies that keep well for several days, rather than ultra-fragile treats. Sturdy cookies like gingerbread and butter cookies are better choices than cakes and cupcakes.
- How Do You Use Paper Baking Molds and How to Bake in a Specialty Pan can also come in handy over the holidays. Paper molds, available at most baking supply stores and specialty food stores, are perfect for baking your edible treats in before shipping. And a loaf of gingerbread or other seasonal treat in a seasonal shape is an extra-nice addition to a dessert tray (and lets you use that fun pan you got as a present last year!).
There are just a few days left to submit your holiday cupcake photos to the Holiday Cupcake Contest Flickr pool and enter for a chance to win a great baking gift basket! Baking pans, chocolate and other goodies are going into two prize packages for one Grand Prize winner and one Runner-Up!
If you haven’t posted your entry for the contest, you still have time. Simply take a photo of a holiday cupcake – one you made or one that you saw/ate/bought somewhere else – and upload it to the Flickr photo pool. Entries are due by December 23rd at midnight to maximize your chances of encountering a great holiday cupcake. Check out the current entries for some baking inspiration, and try one of these cupcake recipes if you want to bake your own:
Aprons are designed to help keep flour and other foods off of your clothes when cooking, and most give you a pocket or two just in case you need to slip a spoon or some small ingredient in there when your hands are full. They’re not crucial kitchen equipment – although it is nice to be able to wipe your hands on your clothes and not worry about it – unless you’re cooking when company is around and won’t have an opportunity to change clothes between your prep work and partying. The holidays are sure to provide a few apron-wearing occasions with friends and family dropping by, and I think that the perfect way to enjoy the season is with a fun, funky holiday apron.
This Elf Apron is very cute and a really fun choice for the holidays. It provides a complete elf outfit, including striped socks and jingle bell shoes.Granted, the Elf Apron isn’t going to get you any brownie points if you’re cooking for a black tie crowd, but if there are a couple of kids around (perhaps looking for a batch of brownies while they wait for dinner), I’m sure you’ll be the hit of the party.
Any kind of cookie can be a Christmas cookie if you bake it during December, but the most Christmasy cookies are the kind that are cut out with cookie cutters and decorated by hand, whether with frosting or with sprinkles and candy. The Christmas cookie season is one time of year when the whole family can get involved in the kitchen, largely because even the littlest kids can help out with the decorating (and eating). There are lots of kid-friendly baking accessories out there, but none of them are quite as cute as this Gingerbread Kids Apron & Mitt Set.
The apron, which measures 21×25-inches, is made of 100% cotton and is shaped like a cookie gingerbread man – buttons, eyes and all. The straps that tie at the neck and around the waist have a candy cane-like stripe to them. Because of the shape of the apron, when it is tied on, it looks like the child is getting a hug from a giant cookie. The oven mitt is also cotton and follows the same styling. It will depend on the age of your child if you want to let him or her lift the cookie sheet from the oven, but this will keep their hands safe in a kitchen with potentially hot equipment.
This is one set that will make a very cute pre-Christmas gift to get everyone into the holiday/cooking-baking spirit!
Mini loaves of homemade breads and cakes make great holiday gifts. Individually wrapped, they can be a great little treat for a friend, and when packaged up together, they can be part of a lovely holiday basket to be enjoyed by a group. Little loaves of gingerbread and banana bread (or banana gingerbread, as the case may be) can be a little plain looking for a gift, even when swathed in brightly colored paper. This doesn’t bother me too much, since the flavor of the bread is the real gift, but it’s nice to fancy things up a bit for the holidays and NordicWare’s Mini Holiday Loaf Pan is a great way to do just that.
The pan bakes eight mini loaves and has holiday designs cast into each one. When you pop your loaves out of the nonstick pan, you’ll see a holiday candle, snowman, Santa Claus or other fun design. You can decorate them, if you wish, but the designs are clear enough that they need no icing to make an impact.