Holiday Baking Tips

12/5/2016
holiday baked goodsNothing makes your apartment feel warm and cozy faster than the aroma of fresh holiday baking. Even if you don't normally spend much time in your kitchen, December is the perfect time to try a new recipe. If you've never baked before, relax! Try these tips to create delicious holiday treats – even if you're a newbie.

Cookies

  • Start slow: Easy does it if you're new to baking! Spoon-drop cookies are the most forgiving, since their shape will even out in the oven. Toll House chocolate chip cookies are an ideal choice for beginners.
  • Check the timing: The first time you make a cookie recipe, keep an eye for doneness a minute or two early – especially if you're using a black, nonstick cookie sheet. This will help you know how long they take to cook in your oven, as temperatures can fluctuate.
  • Freeze your dough: For classic cut-out cookies you can decorate, add a shot of cold right before baking. After rolling the dough and cutting the shapes, pop the cookies on the cookie sheet into the freezer for 10 minutes before baking. This helps the cookies hold their shape.

Cakes

  • Use warm eggs: Whether you're making a holiday fruit cake or red velvet cupcakes, bring your eggs to room temperature before you begin. This will help them bind properly to the other ingredients. You can speed the process by soaking them in a dish of warm water for 10 minutes.
  • Don't overmix: Resist the temptation to whip the batter into a frenzy with your electric mixture – you only need to get the ingredients combined and smooth. Overworking the batter can make your cake tough and chewy.
  • Don't overbake: Leave the cake in the oven when testing for doneness. The cake is done when a skewer is inserted in the center of it, and it comes out clean. Remove from the oven immediately to ensure a moist cake.

Pies

  • Keep it cold: Pastry dough will be at its flaky best when you use butter straight from the fridge. Use ice water or vodka straight from the freezer to make a great pie dough.
  • Thicken your filling: To avoid a runny pie, add an extra tablespoon of cornstarch to your filling before baking to help it thicken and gel. Fresh apple pies won't release as much juice as a frozen berry pie, so feel free to add more cornstarch when using frozen fruit.
It's a good idea to do a test run of any new recipe before serving it to guests to make sure it turns out well. The bonus? You get delicious samples to savor before giving anything away!