Between now and Christmas, most households will bake more than they do at any other point in the year. I'm sure none of this comes as a surprise as images of fudge, cookies, candy and family favorites dance in your heads!
Baking really can be a lot of work: mixing, baking, clean-up, repeat. If you bake smart and store safely, you can take a lot of the chore out of baking, and just enjoy the results. Here are a few tips to take the stress out of baking this Christmas.
The best way to keep your goodies fresh is to bake them as freshly as possible. Air and moisture are the enemy of most baked goods. Air tight containers, plastic wrap and zip-top bags are your best defense against stale goodies. In some cases, you may want to double your defenses.
Cookies can be a real pain in the neck and keep you tied to the oven for hours on end. However, if you scoop and freeze your favorite cookie dough, you can have fresh cookies on hand in about five minutes longer than your baking time, whenever you need them. Sugar cookies can be made, rolled and frozen on a quiet evening, and then baked and decorated with half the mess later. Slice-type cookies, like my Coconut Fudge Cookies, can also be a wonderful time saver as the "logs" of cookie dough can be frozen ahead of time. Thaw, slice, bake and you're ready to go. Just remember to wrap cookie dough logs in plastic wrap tightly and then store in a freezer zip-top bag to keep them fresh. Cookie dough balls can be frozen on a cookie sheet and then placed in an airtight container or zip-top bag once they're hard. I layer my cut-out sugar cookies between wax paper in an air-tight container. Your darling child forgot to tell you that they need a dozen cookies for a party on Saturday, no problem. An impromptu gathering and you need to bring something to share, no problem. Sugar craving after a day of shopping, no problem!
Fudge is also a great prep-ahead goody. Prepare it as you normally would, but do not cut it. Remove it from the pan in as large of pieces as you can and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and then in a freezer zip top bag. Fudge can be refrigerated happily for about three weeks. For longer storage, put it in the freezer but allow it to thaw as slowly as possible before cutting.
Many candies can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator or in air tight containers. Brittles and Peanut Butter Balls are two that come to mind that our family loves. Most can be made weeks in advance, and stay very fresh with the proper protection.
With a little planning, you can bake in peace and fully enjoy your Christmas!