Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Countdown to an Organized Christmas - Day 28 - Create a Baking Specialty

Article and Photo Courtesy of Organized Christmas


As Get Cooking Week comes to a close, we look ahead to next week's Thanksgiving feast--and the kick-off to the holiday season.

Today's assignments wrap up final Get Cooking chores, preparing for busy December evenings, gathering hospitality supplies, and contemplating ways to simplify baking.

With today's reading assignment, we share the secret for simplifying holiday baking chores: developing a "specialty".

A simple strategy to streamline the holiday cook-a-thon, a baking specialty saves time and stress in the holiday kitchen.

Finally, we finish the week by thinking ahead to upcoming Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales. Ready? Get organized ... for a great holiday season!

To Do Today


Feed the freezer

Will you be ready to feed the family fast next month? Stock up on frozen entrees, visit the meal assembly franchise or do a mini-freezer cooking session to put 5 to 10 pre-made entrees into the freezer. 

Track holiday meals on a Freezer Inventory Page, and use these meals to save time on busy December evenings.

Prepare for drop-in visitors.

Collect hospitality supplies: cheeses, crackers, frozen desserts. Hide from hungry family members using creative labeling.

Begin tracking Black Friday/Cyber Monday specials

The four-day Thanksgiving weekend--and the first work day after the holiday--have become an important sales event in retail stores and online. Will you shop Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales?

If so, begin tracking prices and planning your shopping now. Organize shopping trips with a Black Friday sales planner to make it easier to score next week's bargains.

To Read Today

Beat the baking blues with our guide to easing holiday baking chores with a holiday specialty:

Save Time With Holiday Baking: Make it a Specialty!

Food and the holidays go hand-in-hand! Holiday cooking magazines are among the first signs of an approaching holiday season.

Sumptuous desserts, winsome cookies, glowing turkeys warm our images of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year.

But oh! My aching feet! Even those of us who lead a Little Debbie life from January to November succumb to holiday baking madness. Cookies. Breads. Pies. Candy. It wouldn't be the holidays without them--but isn't there any way around the baking chores?

Here's a suggestion that can simplify the holiday bake-fest: a baking specialty.

One baked good--cake or cookie or tea bread or candy--that you make each year, in bulk, and give to everyone with a flourish that proclaims it a specialty. Put this time-saving strategy to work for you with these tips.

Make it special
First rule: a specialty should be special. Choose a not-too-common recipe. Or take a perfectly common recipe and go deluxe: add extra chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and grated orange zest to plain old chocolate chip cookies.

"Shape" may make a specialty: bake zucchini bread in small ring pans instead of traditional loaves for a distinctive, simple specialty.

If you live far from family and friends, think regional: showcase pecans in the South, maple syrup in the Northeast, apples in orchard country.

Make it in bulk
Step two: perfect your recipe and make it in bulk. Make it this year. Make it next year. Get so familiar with your specialty that you can recite the ingredients in your sleep.

Become Queen of your specialty, turning out a good consistent product every time--and in large batches. Go double, triple--as large a quantity as your oven, mixer and stamina can tolerate.

Give it a name ... yours!
Third point: christen your specialty, and name it after yourself: "Cynthia Ewer's Sins of the South Cake" is the wickedly-good Southern Comfort butter cake with golden raisins and pecans that I developed while living in Georgia.

Now a resident of Washington state, my current specialty relies on local walnuts, dried cherries, and the Pacific Northwest passion for espresso drinks: Cynthia Ewer's Tangy Tri-Cities Biscotti. Dipped in melted white chocolate and stood on end in a coffee mug, it's a perfect, easy gift!

Make it pretty
Fourth rule: presentation is everything. Use a computer or copy machine to make gift tags or labels. Use colorful graphics, an interesting font, or pre-printed label forms to make your specialty gift tags.

Whether or not to divulge one's recipe is a matter of personal choice. I've gone both ways, hugging my Sins of the South recipe tightly to my chest against the pleading of the Southern belles, while freely distributing the Tangy Tri-Cities Biscotti recipe. Take your pick: mystique, or generosity!

Wrap your specialty nicely. Hint: Stretch-tite Plastic Food Wrapgives a near-professional smooth finish when wrapped tightly around baked goods--and for a fraction of a penny. Apply a pretty label or gift tag.

Admire your finished product!

Give it (and give it and give it and give it!)
You've baked in bulk, selected an extravagant name and mass-produced your beautifully-wrapped specialty. You are ready!

A caller for the church bake sale? "Oh, of course, I'll be sure to donate some of my specialty!"

A pick-up party on Saturday night? "Thank you for inviting us; I hope your family will like my specialty!"

New neighbors down the street? You've got it: "Welcome! I've brought you my specialty!"

By baking in bulk, you've saved time. By being creative, you've invested your specialty with impressive holiday flair. By producing it at every occasion, you've simplified baking and gift-giving. By repeating your specialty, year after year, you've created a holiday tradition.

It's a win-win-win strategy!

Today's Recipe

biscotti recipe

Today's reading assignment covers an old baker's secret: developing a "specialty" to streamline holiday baking chores.

So it's only fair that I share my own specialty: Cynthia Ewer's Tangy Tri-Cities Biscotti!

Seventeen years ago, we were newcomers to Washington State. With so many friends in other parts of the USA, I wanted to share some of the tastes of our new home.

These biscotti feature dried Washington cherries (you can substitute dried cranberries, too!) and local walnuts. Dipped in white chocolate, they're a tasty and elegant accompaniment to that other Washington State tradition, gourmet coffee.

Best, they're easy to make and easy to pack. Stand a few on end in a latte mug, add a small bag of gourmet coffee beans, and you've scored a quick Christmas cheat!

Cynthia Ewer's Tangy Tri-Cities Biscotti

Seventeen years ago, my husband and I were newcomers to Washington State. With so many friends in other parts of the USA, I wanted to share some of the tastes of our new home. Result: this original recipe, now my holiday specialty.

These biscotti feature dried Washington cherries (you can substitute dried cranberries, too!) and local walnuts. Dipped in white chocolate, they're a tasty and elegant accompaniment to that other Washington State tradition, gourmet coffee.

Best, biscotti are easy to make and easy to pack. Stand a few on end in a latte mug, add a small bag of gourmet coffee beans, and you've scored a quick Christmas cheat!

Ingredients
2 1⁄2 cupsflour
1 cupsugar
1 teaspoonbaking powder
1 teaspoonbaking soda
1 teaspooncinnamon, ground
1 teaspoonnutmeg, ground
2 eggs
2 egg whites
1 tablespoonalmond extract
3 cupsdried cherries, chopped
3 cupswalnuts, chopped
1 grated rind of one orange
1 cupwhite chocolate chips
1 teaspoonshortening

Instructions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Whisk together eggs, egg whites and almond extract in a separate mixing bowl. Ad to dry ingredients, mixing just until moist, using an electric mixer on medium speed. Add dried cherries, walnuts and orange peel; mix thoroughly.

On a floured surface, divide batter in half and pat each half into a log about 14 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place logs on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until firm. Cool on a wire rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Cut biscotti into 1/2 inch slices. Stand upright on a cookie sheet and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Let cool.


Place white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl with a flat bottom. Add salad oil or shortening. Melt on high until chips just begin to soften. Stir until melted. Dip bottom of each cookie in chocolate and place on waxed paper to cool. Store in a loosely-covered container. Makes about 30.

No comments: