Have you ever wondered how your mom or grandma could do their holiday baking with no recipe book and just a pinch of this and a pinch of that? I have absolutely no idea either. I watched my grandma make the same chocolate cake recipe over and over again, and she never used a recipe book or index card, she never used measuring spoons, or really anything other than a mixing bowl and spoon. Although my grandma has been gone for quite a few years now, and I’ve tried to replicate her recipes, I’ve never been successful. She still made the best chocolate cake I ever had.
I may not be as experienced as my grandma was, but I do know a thing or two about what you need to have stocked in your kitchen for a stress-free baking session. Because the season for baking is upon us, here are a few must-haves for holiday baking.
1. To stick or not to stick
When you put all of that effort into baking something yummy, you don’t want to worry about it sticking to the cookie sheet or pan. That’s where silicone baking mats come in handy. With one of these placed on your cookie sheet, you won’t need to grease the pan or worry about sticking. You’ll also never have to worry about scraping cookie residue off the pan because cleanup is a breeze.
2. Don’t skimp on cookie sheets
I used to bring home any old cookie sheet, and I was always surprised when a brand new sheet would warp, the edges would lift when it was in the oven, or it would scratch almost instantly. I started to do a little research on cookie sheets, and I realized there’s a reason why you invest in quality bakeware – they distribute heat evenly, they won’t buckle in the oven, and they’re non-stick and scratch resistant. I also like how some pro cookie sheets have lips to make them easy to pick up and handle.
3. Cooling racks for perfect cookies
You can follow the recipe perfectly and pull the cookie off the sheet intact, but if you put the cookie on a plate or counter to cool, that cookie could crumble. That’s why one of my baking must-haves is cooling racks. It makes cooling a huge batch of cookies, muffins, or even scrumptious homemade banana bread, easy.
4. Precise measurements make for stress-free holiday baking
Unless you’re like my grandma and you can eyeball a teaspoon of baking soda or a cup of flour, you’re going to need a good set of measuring cups and spoons. I think it’s useful to have a measuring cup set you can use for liquids and measuring cups and spoons that let you reach into a flour bag or canister and scoop out flour or sugar.
5. Sifters and spatulas, bowls and bags
There are certain things I only bring out when I’m baking, but when I do use them, I find them invaluable. I know my grandma used them too. A flour sifter is a must-have for fluffy cakes and cookies. A great silicone spatula will scrape the sides of your bowl easily and not require a lot of elbow grease, and a set of glass mixing bowls will come in handy when you’re adding dry ingredients to one and wet to another.
6. Add sparkles and sprinkles to holiday baking
I know people who decorate cake and cookies on a semi-professional level. These people select their own icing colours and know by item code which tips they need to use to create a design. I’ll admit to being sort of jealous of that skill level, but I’ve found when you want a plate of holiday cookies and a stress-free decorating experience, all you need is a cake decorating kit. It contains all of the bags, tips, and a caddy to hold everything. When I want to decorate a cake or a cookie, I just pull it out and everything is ready to go.
7. My number one pick for stress-free holiday baking
My grandma baked for 13 kids, one husband, and whoever stopped by for dinner that night. I can’t imagine how she didn’t get carpal tunnel when all she used was a bowl and mixing spoon, and I’m so thankful when I fire up my KitchenAid stand mixer and let it do all the heavy lifting for me.
Sticky bread? No problem. A double recipe of my favourite sugar cookies? It’s so easy with a stand mixer. When I bake with my KitchenAid mixer, I basically throw everything in the bowl and walk away. It even has attachments that take on the flour grinding and chopping grandma did by hand.
If you don’t have a KitchenAid mixer and you’ve been especially good this year, you might want to put one on your Christmas list. I’ve asked Santa for one to upgrade my current mixer, and I know it will make my baking sessions even easier.
Prepare your kitchen for holiday baking
You might not be as skilled as your grandma at making magic with a bowl and spoon, but wonderful things can happen when you’ve prepared your kitchen for holiday baking. Take a look at everything you’ll need for stress free baking on Best Buy and load up your kitchen with helpful tools before you bake.