Sunday, December 8

Holiday Baking Essentials

The biggest baking season of the year is upon us and to help make it a more joyous time, I've created this easy-to-follow list of pantry items to keep on hand to curtail the stress that often accompanies my favorite time of year. Be prepared for every cookie exchange, open house and holiday gift by keeping these cookie-baking kitchen staples stocked in your fridge and holiday pantry.

It will make your life so much easier if you know what you already have and what you need ahead of time for holiday baking. I begin by grabbing my trash can. I open my pantry and fridge door, and start throwing-away. If it's outdated, out it goes. After I've tossed-out the old items, I straighten-up by putting things back where they belong. Then, taking out a notepad, I make a list of what is left in the pantry. I compare my list to the list below, make my shopping list and it's off to the store I go. Normally this is something I do during the month of November, but if you haven't checked your pantry it's never too late!

Dry Goods
• Gold Medal Flours (all-purpose, whole wheat, unbleached, pastry)
• Sugar (brown, granulated, confectioners)
• Unsweetened cocoa powder (natural and Dutch-processed)
• Cookie Mixes (Sugar, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip, and Oatmeal)
• Store-bought Frosting
• Crackers/Cookies (graham, round buttery, chocolate cream sandwich cookies, pretzels)
• Breakfast Cereals (Cheerios, Chex, crispy rice cereal, old-fashioned oats, quick oats)
• Leaveners - baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, meringue powder, dried egg whites
• Nuts - pecans, walnuts, almonds, macadamia
• Sweetened flaked coconut
• Instant coffee and espresso
• Shortening Sweet Additions
• Chocolate baking chips - dark, milk, semi-sweet
• Other baking chips - peanut butter, mint, cinnamon, butterscotch, and toffee bits
• Almond bark
• Candy-coated peanut butter and chocolate pieces
• Peppermints/candy canes
• Marshmallows - large, miniature, Jarred crème
• Vanilla caramels
• Decorating Décor Icings, Sprinkles, Sugars and Nonpareils

• Eggs
• Butter; Salted and Unsalted
• Whipping cream
• Refrigerated cookie dough - peanut butter, sugar, and chocolate chip

• Raisins
• Currants
• Candied pineapple
• Candied citrus peel
• Dried apricots
• Dried chopped dates
• Dried cherries
• Dried cranberries
• Dried figs
• Maraschino cherries
• Pumpkin puree

• Vanilla extract, paste, and/or beans
• Almond extract
• Peppermint extract

Alcohols and Liqueurs
• Brandy
• Rum
• Bourbon
• Coffee-flavor liqueur
• Almond-flavor liqueur

Paper Goods
• Parchment paper
• Aluminum foil
• Plastic wrap
• Waxed paper
• Disposable pastry bags

• Fresh cranberries
• Pomegranates
• Apples
• Oranges
• Lemons

• Phyllo dough

The Boy Scouts got it right: Always be prepared. We've all got our ideas of the "perfect" holiday season. Some of us daydream Norman Rockwell-ish scenes of baking with our children, covered in a perfectly flour-dusted apron {BTW: I've done this and it's GREAT!}. Or, we fantasize about being able to have friends over for a stress-free spontaneous gathering, pulling together last-minute treats. Though holiday celebrations will never be perfect and they may not look like we dreamed, we can make them as stress-free and fun as possible by making preparations in advance. Whatever you do or don't do in your kitchen, I truly hope this Christmas Season is everything you wish it to be - along with a little holly jolly baking magic thrown in for good measure!


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