I love to bake. And for the past few years, it has become tradition to bake up a storm during Christmastime, boxing up homemade cookies to give as gifts to everyone from my son’s schoolteachers, to neighbours, and extended family and friends.
Needless to say, over the years, I’ve learned plenty of tips and tricks to make holiday baking run smoothly, especially if you’re baking lots, and multiple types of cookies.
Plan ahead for Christmas baking
Even the easiest-to-make cookies take time. Sugar cookies are very simple to whip up. I use the best Christmas cookie recipes, but once the dough is mixed, it needs to firm up in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Once it’s firmed up, you can roll it out, cut with cookies cutters, and bake in batches. Once baked, you need to let them cool before icing, then wait for the icing to dry and harden before packing them up or putting them away in the freezer.
Freeze your Christmas cookies
Don’t worry about baking so far in advance – there are many types of cookies that freeze great, sugar cookies being one of them. Gingerbread cookies and generally any firmer-type cookies hold up well in the freezer for a few weeks, potentially even longer, as well. Layer them in food storage containers with parchment paper between each layer. And, if you can wait, do the icing and chocolate dipping after freezing to avoid any discoloration or moisture once they defrost on the counter for serving/packaging up.
Use multiple cookie sheets
I have my own mini assembly line going when baking, using 2-3 baking sheets that I rotate. While one set of cookies is baking in the oven, another is cooling atop a wire rack, and I’m preparing the third.
Once they’re slightly cooled, I transfer a batch to parchment paper laid across the counter (tape it to the sides of the counter to keep it from shifting around if necessary) to await being iced.
This keeps a steady flow going. Don’t forget to put parchment paper on the baking sheets as well to help ensure that your cookies slide right off. Even if the sheets are anti-stick, this prevents you from having to clean them after each different batch to prevent the transfer of nut products.
Get creative with your baking
Christmas baking isn’t just about cookies. Don’t be afraid to get creative and playful. A cute design I’ve seen includes chocolate cupcakes with miniature candy canes added to the side to look like a piping hot mug of cocoa. Add white icing and red and green sprinkles to the top, and you have an adorable Christmas treat.
Another worthwhile option: cake pops are all the rage these days, and there are great opportunities for making festive ones. With a cake pop mold, you can whip up 18 of them at a time. Decorate them with Christmas-themed sprinkles, or turn them into little Santa hats or snowmen by scouring the pantry for ideally-shaped edible decorations like chocolate beads, marshmallows, and icing.
Sometimes the fanciest-looking baked treats aren’t all that difficult to make. With a good piping tip or silicone mold, you can make just about anything.
The bottom line on Christmas baking
Crank up those Christmas tunes, pour yourself a hot cocoa or glass of wine, and have some fun with your Christmas baking.
Challenge yourself, get creative, and organize your time, ingredients, and equipment so you have everything you need at your fingertips. You can get it all done, you’ll have fun, and you’ll still have time to spare.