Life and Religion
|Ready, set, bake!|
|What is a holiday season without baked goodies? Expert tips on baking cakes and cookies your guests will love.|
|Published Thursday, December 20, 2012 12:15 am|
A holiday season without baked goodies would be like a movie without popcorn, burgers without fries or a sundae sans the cherry: all good but not quite perfect.
The Post's 2012 holiday primer has all the expert advice you to make sure your pantry is stocked, your kitchen is prepped and your holiday cookies have the right consistency. We have also included a few new recipes for you try out this year.
Start with a well-stocked pantry:
If you enjoy baking traditional holiday favorites, you may also like trying new recipes. Experimenting with new recipes is easier if you start out with a well-stocked pantry.
The baking gurus at Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, offer this checklist of must-have items to help ensure your pantry is well-stocked for holiday baking:
Flour - Your pantry should always have a supply of all-purpose white baking flour, but don't forget to add some other common, useful varieties like whole wheat, unbleached or semolina.
Sweeteners - Refined white sugar, of course, is a reliable stand-by for sweetening any recipe. But many holiday recipes may call for alternative sweeteners like confectioner's sugar, maple syrup, brown sugar or honey. And, if you're baking for folks with dietary restrictions, you'll need artificial sweeteners. Many brands of artificial sweeteners now offer varieties specifically designed for use in baking.
Extracts - Holiday baking cries out for certain flavors, like peppermint, almond, chocolate and vanilla. You can find an extract for virtually every flavor under the sun, but keeping an ample supply of the staples, like lemon and vanilla, will ensure you have the perfect flavoring on hand for a variety of dishes - from holiday baked goods to main courses and side dishes.
Spices - Stock your pantry with holiday-appropriate spices like cinnamon, allspice, ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
Fruits and nuts - Walnuts, almonds, pecans, raisins, candied ginger and even dried apricots and cranberries are all good starting points for a well-stocked holiday pantry.
Grains - What would oatmeal raisin cookies be without the oatmeal? Holiday recipes often call for grains and cereals, including oatmeal, cornmeal and bran.
Leavening - Many cookies don't require a leavening agent or stabilizer, but cakes and breads may, so include yeast, baking soda and baking powder in your pantry.
Shortening - Vegetable oil, shortening and lard are staples of baking. To lighten a recipe without sacrificing taste, try naturally lighter oils like canola.
Milk - You may not use it at any other time of year, but holiday baking often calls for evaporated milk. Sweetened condensed milk is also good to have on had.
Prepare to bake:
Now that you have stocked your kitchen, renowned baker Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of "The Cake Bible" and "Rose's Christmas Cookies," offers these timely tips for holiday baking:
Prep the kitchen. Put away unnecessary items, clean off the counter or table top and make sure that all of the tools and ingredients are available to make for a smoother baking process.
Measurement is key. Unlike cooking, baking requires exact measurement. One important technique is the spoon-and-sweep method for measuring flour, which can settle. Scoop the flour into the measuring cup, ensure it is full and sweep off the excess with a knife.
Think through baking times. Looking for a slightly softer, chewier cookie? Roll the dough to 1/4-inch thickness and reduce the baking time slightly.
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