Good Food with Evan Kleinman: Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Baking

As much as we love baking fresh goodies for all holiday gatherings starting to happen this time of year, the task can often become time-consuming and stressful. No more! This week on Good Food, Cindy Mushet, author of The Art and Soul of Baking, shares her secret weapon for stress-free holiday baking...As Mushet says, "While we all like to bake things fresh, we can't start from scratch every single day on every single item." This is where the freezer, her favorite "cook's tool," comes into action.

Pastries freeze incredibly well. Very often, freshly-baked items or their dough can be prepared several days to several weeks ahead and then frozen until we're ready to use them. Baking on the day of the party then becomes as simple as taking it from the freezer and letting it thaw.

Here is Mushet's advice:

Cakes: Surprisingly, baked cakes freeze and then thaw perfectly - especially sponge cakes and pound cakes. Wait until the cake is completely cooled, then wrap it in several layers of plastic wrap. Cakes can take a while to thaw, so be sure to take them out of the freezer several hours before you need to frost or decorate them.

Pies: Mushet says she always makes a double batch of dough whenever she makes a pie so she can freeze the extra to have ready when she needs it. Roll out the pie dough, slip it between two sheets of wax paper, and freeze it on a cookie sheet. Once it's frozen, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it on the floor of your freezer.

Cookies: Cookie doughs of all kinds also freeze very well. Mushet likes to scoop the dough onto a cookie sheet and freeze them like that. Once they're frozen solid, transfer them to a plastic freezer bag for storage. Let the frozen cookies thaw for about ten minutes before baking them as usual.

Scones and Biscuits: Like cookies, you can make the raw biscuit dough and then actually cut it into shapes before freezing. A lazy holiday breakfast is a simple matter of heating up the oven and setting the pastry out to thaw for a few minutes!

With all these, it's very important to make sure the frozen item is well-wrapped and sealed to prevent freezer burn. Also, don't forget to label everything so you remember what everything is!

What are your tips for stress-free holiday baking?

• Hear the full interview and the rest of this week's episode on the Good Food website.
• Buy a copy of Cindy Mushet's book, The Art and Soul of Baking, for $31.36 on Amazon.

Related: Holiday Entertaining: Top 5 Cookie Decorating Ideas

(Image: Flickr member JPDaigle licensed under Creative Commons)

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