Getting a head start on holiday shopping is one way to ease December stress. Another way is to check your pantry now for holiday baking essentials so you can avoid beginning a recipe and realizing you're out of sprinkles, parchment paper, or your cookie cutters are sub-par. We have a few great tips to get ready for holiday cookies, quick breads, cakes and pies.
1. Stock up on Parchment: This is something I forget to do pretty much every year and, without fail, I find myself in my slippers at the grocery store late at night hunting down a roll. Grab more than you think you need—you'll likely use it up.
2. Check Your Spices: I don't want to publicly embarrass anyone here, but my sisters and I may have found ground cloves in my mom's spice cupboard over Thanksgiving that expired in 1993. True story. Because so many holiday recipes rely on warm spices, the freshness matters more than ever. You want fragrant cinnamon and cardamom, fresh nutmeg and allspice. Your gingerbread men and molasses cake will thank you.
3. Do-Ahead Cookie Dough: I find that the real joy in making Christmas cookies is in decorating them. The dough is simple to put together, so why not just make a few batches ahead and freeze them now? That way, the night before you can take out your dough and you'll be ready to go the next morning. We love this recipe for classic sugar cookies.
4. Take Stock of Decorations: Another baking bummer comes about when your cookies are baked, royal icing made, and you're excited to get going on decorations. You pull out your sprinkles and discover some pretty lackluster choices. Why not pick up a few extra special holiday sprinkles to use this year and to take a peek at what you've got on stock to make sure the basics are there (red and green sugars, and little silver balls).
5. Equipment at the Ready? Most of us bake more during the holidays, and bake things that may be unusual for us on a normal day. For this reason, double check your cupboards to make sure you've got the basics. I'd suggest a 9x5 loaf pan for quick breads, a good glass pie pan, cookie cutters you like, a few rimmed baking sheets, and a reliable rolling pin.