Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Countdown to an Organized Christmas - Day 27 - Plan Holiday Baking

Article and Photo Courtesy of Organized Christmas

Dreaming of holiday baking? For many of us, kitchen creations are integral to the holiday spirit.

We love the feeling of family connection as we tuck pie crust into grandmother's pie dish, or when we follow a candy recipe written in a great-grandmother's spidery hand.

But when is enough enough? It's too easy to take on more baking than we can handle!

Under the influence of Christmas magazines and over-the-top television cooking shows, grandmother's simple plate of pralines has exploded into six kinds of cookies, four kinds of candies and some powdered cocoa mix for good measure.

Holiday baking should be a pleasure, not a chore. Time to plan holiday baking with an eye to holiday simplicity! Can you shorten, simplify and de-stress the baking list without losing the joy?

You'll spare your teeth. You'll spare your waistline. Most of all, you'll give yourself the truest of all Christmas gifts: time and energy to experience the season without stress. Dare to downsize!

To Do Today

Plan holiday baking ... then get realistic

We'll organize holiday baking with a printable baking planner. On it, list all holiday baking you'll do, from Thanksgiving's pies to Santa's plate of cookies.

Made your list? Now think hard about how to cut it down to manageable size!

Double up on drop cookies, and forget the tedious rolled-and-cut out creations. Opt for melt-and-pour candies instead of arm-busting fudge.

Replace elaborate cookie trays with mini-loaves of tea bread, or go whole hog and buy your Christmas goodies from your local baker.

Working from your new, realistic list, locate and check recipes. (And list them, if need be, on yesterday's holiday recipe tracker. No more mad searches for the "rolled and cut sugar cookie recipe that was so good last year" recipe!)

Finally, review each recipe and add needed ingredients to the shopping list.

In the coming days, be alert for supermarket specials on specialty ingredients. Try to buy nonperishable holiday foods this week and next week for all upcoming holiday meals and baking projects.

To Read Today

As you put the finishing touches on the Thanksgiving shopping list, check this short list of most-forgotten items. This holiday survival kit will keep you out of the stores during next week's rush!

Holiday Survival Kit: Six Last-Minute Additions to Your Shopping List

The holidays are here, with wall-to-wall shoppers at the supermarket. Who wants to have to join them?

Instead, assemble a holiday survival kit. Before you shop for the holiday meal, check supplies of these often-forgotten items for your holiday gathering.

Pencil these items into your regular shopping list--and save a last-minute trip. They'll keep the fun in the festivities!

  • Automatic Dishwasher Detergent. Hosting a holiday gathering means lots (and lots and LOTS) of dirty dishes. If you use an automatic dishwasher, be sure it's stocked and ready to roll!
  • Club Soda. It's the non-caloric drink of choice with a squeeze of lime ... but an extra bottle can be a cleaning lifesaver when applied to the inevitable spilled food. Use it to blot fresh wine, gravy or pie stains for tablecloth or carpet first aid.
  • Paper Towels. Unfamiliar cooking routines, helpers washing their hands and little-kid clean-ups can burn through a roll of paper towels in record time. Keep a backup waiting!
  • Toilet Paper. If it's "just us chickens", a missing roll is no big problem. Not so when you've got a house full. Avoid red faces with a fresh supply!
  • Camera Batteries. Don't make the family wait to dive into the feast (while the cameraman raids the childrens' toys for fresh batteries). Stock up or charge rechargeables now.
  • Sandwich Bread. What's the number-one reason for a Black Friday trip to the supermarket? "We're out of bread!" Grab a loaf today, and be ready for turkey sandwiches (and no cooking!) on Friday.

Today's Recipe

sugar cookie recipe

Rolled sugar cookies are a holiday staple--but often, they're not the tastiest cookie on the tray. Creating a dough that is strong enough for rolling yet delicate and flavorful can be hit-and-miss...but this family-tested Lemon Sugar Cookie recipe passes the test!

Baked in our household for over 30 years, this lemon-flavored sugar cookie is sturdy enough for child decorators, tasty enough for cookie purists.

While these cookies can be frozen, do so before decorating. Frosted cookies tend to bleed and crumble when frozen.

A time-saving tip: if you'll make special Thanksgiving cookies this week, double the batch and cut and bake Christmas shapes in the same baking session. Tucked away in the freezer, the Christmas cookies will be ready to thaw and decorate next month!

Lemon Sugar Cookies

A tasty basic sugar cookie dough, this recipe has been kid-tested by three generations of the Ewer family.

Sturdy enough for decorating, these lemon-flavored cookies have a crisp, light taste.

Try Lemon Sugar Cookies rolled and cut into frosted Christmas shapes, or just flattened with a glass and sprinkled with sugar.

To freeze, stack baked--but undecorated--cookies in single layers, separating each layer with sheets of waxed paper. Freeze for up to four weeks. Thaw and decorate as desired.

3 cups flour, all-purpose
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, unsalted
1 1⁄2 cup sugar, granulated
2 eggs
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Mix flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt butter and margarine over moderate heat. Stir in granulated sugar; remove from heat and let cool 15 minutes. Beat in eggs and lemon extract.

Add flour mixture, one-fourth at a time, mixing well after each addition. Wrap dough and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours, or overnight.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Divide dough in half. On a floured board or pastry cloth or between two layers of waxed paper roll one piece of dough 1/8" thick. Cut with assorted cookie cutters. Place cookies two inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Decorate with icing or colored sugar if desired. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

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