Stress-free Holiday Baking

Are you ready for the busiest time of the year?

While many of us get stressed with just the thought of baking for the holiday season, simple ways are available to bring back the joy.

"There are enough stresses at this time of the year and baking needn't be one of them," says Anna Olson, Home Hardware's Kitchen Expert and the star of Bake with Anna Olsen on Food Network Canada. "You too can join those who get excited about baking and have a memorable and delicious holiday season by following a few simple guidelines."

Olson offers these preparation tips for stress-free baking:

  • Freeze Your Cookie Dough - most of the work in making cookies is in the mixing and shaping of the dough, but many cookie varieties, once bakes, don't thaw as nicely as those freshly baked - and they take up lots of freezer room. To save time and space, make your dough in advance - wrapping it well and freezing it along with the baking instructions, so you don't have to look it up later. For even more efficiency, take a look at the Vac n Store system from Home Hardware. It makes freezing your baking items (like cookie dough) safe and a breeze with vacuum canisters that allow food to remain fresher for longer. For the super-organized person, pack a variety of wrapped cookie dough into separate vacuum canisters to thaw later, one for each week of the busy holiday season.
  • Customize Your Cakes - For your next holiday party, create a customized cake for your guests by changing-up your traditional cake shape and size. Did you know that a standard recipe for a 9-x-5-inch loaf cake will also fit into a 9-inch round or square cake pan, or fill 12 standard muffin cups? The only thing that changes is the bake time (less time for the square and round pans, and even less for muffin cups). You'll also have an easier time making custom shapes by choosing non-stick bakeware such as the Kuraidori line, which features a special coating reinforced with a blend of ceramic materials to make it abraison, wear and stain resistant.
  • Easy Square Slicing - To slice perfect squares, begin by lining your baking pan with parchment paper so that it comes up the sides. This makes it easy to lift out the finished squares onto a cutting board. To prevent sticking, use the Kuraidori chef's knife. It has a blade that features special granton depressions preventing particles from sticking to the edge of the knife potentially disrupting clean, even cuts. Immerse it in hot water then dry to slice the squares cleanly without sticking or pulling. This technique also works wonderfully for cheesecake.
  • Bake With Others - Lessen the load (and share the delicious end results) by baking with those close to you. Whether it's simply a friend helping with dishes, showing your child or grandchild how to break an egg, or guiding a teenager through a cake they can be proud of, you'll treasure those memories even more than Christmas morning itself.

"My fondest Christmas memories are of spending time with my grandmother baking before the holidays," Olson adds. "My mother and I now honour her memory with a whole baking day devoted to making her recipes."

Anna's holiday baking recipes (and all her fabulous Winter recipes) can be found on the Home Hardware website.

 (source: Home Hardware/Anna Olsen)