6 Handy Holiday Batch Cooking Tips That Will Free You Up for More Family Time
November 09, 2016
One way to handle your holiday baking is to bake in batches, then freeze and store for the big day. You can do this successfully over a couple of weeks with batch baking and batch preparing.
The biggest thing to remember is to only try a few different types of things in one day, or focus on just one type of baked good in one day. For example, you might want to bake all your quick breads in one day. Another day you can prepare all your cookie dough. Yet another time, you can bake all your fruit pies and so forth. This process makes the most of the time you have, the space you have, and your skill level.
1. Find a Basic Starter Recipe
Every type of baked good has a basic starter ingredient mix. You could start with one basic cookie dough, or a basic quick bread recipe. These are mixes that you can add a few extra ingredients to in order to make them into new recipes. For example, a basic bread mix can become several different types of bread and a basic cookie recipe can become several types of cookies. For pies, you can make one type of pie crust, and freeze them as they are, or you can fill with different fruit mixtures for fruit pies. It’s up to you how to do this.
2. Get Prepared
Don’t try batch baking without a plan of action. Be sure to write down your plans in advance so that you are sure you have enough time to do everything that you’ve planned. To figure out a basic timeline, add up the prep time, the baking time for each oven full, and then multiply that by 1.5 to account for a little extra issues happening. Then you should be sure that you have enough time.
3. Get Everything Ready to Go
Your kitchen should be spotless when you start, and ensure that you have all the ingredients and appliances necessary to make each item ready to go. If you know, for example, that today you’ll be using about 10 pounds of flour, consider using a large bowl to hold the flour so you can easily spoon the flour into the measuring cup, flatten off over the bowl, without having to get into the bag over and over which usually means spillage.
4. Clean as You Go
Fill your sink immediately with hot soapy water so you can clean as you go. You will want to wash your mixing dishes and other utensils during the baking process so that you can use them again. There’s no point in totally destroying your kitchen as you batch bake, and you don’t have to. Set out a draining board, fill the sink with hot soapy water, and wash as you go. There are many opportunities during baking to wash a couple of dishes, and this will make the clean-up faster, and the process more organized.
5. All Day Batch Baking
You can set aside a day for batch baking such as a Saturday. Plan for all day baking, which usually entails 8 to 10 hours of work. Ensure that any other chores are done, including the shopping, and the kitchen is clean and ready prior to baking day. It’s important to organize your recipes with some logic behind them. For example, if you need dough to rise, start that first, so that it can be rising as you are preparing other things such as cookie dough or pie crusts. Both can be put in the refrigerator or freezer after preparation while you bake the bread, then baked after you bake the bread while the oven is still hot and ready.
Read each recipe that you plan to use and pay close attention to certain clues. For example, if an ingredient requires a cold kitchen, you’ll want to start that first. If something takes an hour to bake like banana bread, you can use that hour to mix other batter, dough, crust, filling and so forth that you can store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake them.
Organize the kitchen in stations. You will want a station for each type of baked good that you want to create. It’s a lot easier to lay out four pie crusts in pie tins, ready for fillings, than to do one at a time. As much as you can do for one type of thing in one run, do so. A bread making station is also essential. It needs to be a place you can freely flour the counter space, and easily clean up.
Be careful about combining batches in one recipe. If you have a cookie recipe that uses measures instead of weights, it’s better not to do them in more than one batch at a time, but you don’t need to clean the bowl between each batch that you make. Make the lightest type of batch first; for example, make sugar cookie dough before you make chocolate chip cookies, before you make peanut butter cookies. Consider the flavor, the ingredients, and everything before making the batches so that you can wash as little as possible.
The important thing about all day batch cooking is that you can choose to make only one type of baked good or you can make a number of different baked goods depending on how many people you need to feed.
Don’t try to stuff your oven too full. At most, you’ll want to cook two pies, four loaves of bread, and one large sheet of cookies at a time in one oven. Putting too many things in one oven can drastically change the temperature settings. Also, putting a dry item with a moist item in the oven at the same time can change the temperature needs. Read directions, plan ahead, and you’ll be fine.
6. After Dinner Small Batch Cooking
Another great way to do batch cooking is each evening after dinner or even while you are preparing dinner. Anytime you make something in your oven is a good time to throw in a few loaves of bread. For example, if you wanted to make one loaf of bread for dinner tonight, why not make four and save three.
Feed the freezer – In some circles, this type of baking is called feeding the freezer. It can be done with any type of baking, not just desserts and bread. If you’re having lasagna tonight, why not prepare two pans of lasagna and freeze the second. You can do this with many things. You can also take one night to prepare a lot of cookie dough, bread dough, and pie crusts for freezing, then the next night bake all the cookies, freeze, and the following night bake the bread and freeze and so forth until you are done.
Use the time available – What’s important is that you use the time you have available the best that you can. It’s important to be honest with yourself about the time you have to get things done. If you only have evenings after work, and don’t get a lot of time off, then you’re going to need to bake a little each evening for a couple of weeks to be ready for the holidays. Thankfully nothing smells better or more relaxing than freshly baked bread, cookies and pies.
Downsize – Small batch baking isn’t about trying to do a marathon on a night you have to work; instead it’s about just adding in a batch of cookie making, dough making, or something that takes an hour or two at the most after dinner or in conjunction with cooking dinner. Remember that you’ll be adding to these items later, so even if it seems like a small amount over the course of time it will be plenty.
Baking in batches is a great way to increase your production amount, as well as to save time. After all, the holidays are so that you can enjoy your family and guests. There is no reason to get stressed out about the baking part. Instead, craft a plan, stick to the plan, and hey, why not ask for help from family and friends.
You could have a cookie party where you don’t eat the cookies, but instead, you meet together and each of you then trade a few dozen of a different type of cookies. So one family would make sugar cookies, another chocolate chip, and another peanut butter and so forth. Trade, and then you each have some of all of them.
Let's celebrate teachers this Teacher Appreciation week, May 8-12. This celebration may even be an understatement because teachers completely blew us away with their creativity, generosity, and passion for the job. It's just so right to give them the appreciation they deserve.
This Easter, our message is simple. Be kind. We mean it. It's so simple and yet we often choose the other route, which uses and taxes more of our energy. Again, it's much more easier and simple to just be kind.
Fill your Easter baskets with non-candy treats and be the most thoughtful Easter bunny of the year! Yes, you can avoid sugar overload and still get creative by switching this year's bag of goodies with treats that will last a lot longer than chocolates and cupcakes!