Baking Day Best Practices

About once a quarter, I do a big baking day where I make 3-5 recipes in a day either for an event or a holiday. After doing this several times, it can be a very long afternoon, but I’ve gleaned a few best practices to make the day as efficient and manageable as possible. And believe me, when you’re baking for a crowd this holiday season, any time saved is a win!

Game plan. With several recipes on the to-do list, I take a look at baking times, temperatures, and any tricky details in the recipes. If I’m making a cake or quick bread, I usually throw that in the oven first because it takes longer, and then prepare the rest of the batters while it’s baking. I also check the baking temperatures to see what I can bake at the same time, and think about what needs a special pan or utensil (so I don’t use it for another recipe by accident).

Recipes

Check your recipes. I always check the recipes the day before for two reasons: 1. to make sure I have all the ingredients or to write my grocery list, and 2. many cookie recipes require chilling the dough for 30 minutes up to overnight, so I better make the dough early if it needs to be chilled! Also, if you need anything like butter to be at room temperature, you know you’ll need to set it out early! Forgetting to read the recipes early has definitely screwed me over in the past.

Wash dishes as you go, but clean the kitchen after. The thing about baking is that there is always downtime when things are in the oven. My advice is to get started on the dishes as soon as you put the first batch in the oven. I find it a lot more manageable if you just keep doing dishes throughout. I’m sorry if I sound like your mother. There’s no point in trying to wipe down the counters and clean the floor, however, until everything is out of the oven and stored away. If you’re a Virgo like me, definitely summon the energy to clean up as soon as you’re done. I hate waking up the next morning to a kitchen full of crumbs!

dishes!

Set up an extra garbage bag. Similar to how Rachel Ray keeps a garbage bowl on the counter to toss waste in while she’s prepping and cooking, I usually set up an extra plastic or paper bag for all of the empty ingredient wrappers and boxes. I don’t want to fill up my regular trash with all the packaging, so I just toss that down the trash chute when I’m done (perks of living in a high rise apartment!).

garbage

 

Got any good tips for me?

Trashed Up Treats

What is better than a good old fashioned Rice Krispie treat?

A trashed up Rice Krispie treat!

I wanted to bake for a friends birthday recently, and when I think birthday, I tend to lean toward flavors from childhood. My first thought is: sprinkles. Which is my first thought everyday really. I decided to go with Rice Krispie treats to switch it up from some of my latest baking endeavors. I knew I would have to add more than just sprinkles, so the next thought was white chocolate chips. And then I realized only I can handle that level of sugar, so I decided to add pretzels to the mix to cut the sweetness. And thus, these were born:

White chocolate pretzel Rice Krispie treats

Yields approximately 24 cupcake sized portions

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (one stick)
  • 2 10 oz bags of mini marshmallows
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 cups of Rice Krispie cereal
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped pretzels (I used mini pretzel sticks)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 of a 10 oz bag of white chocolate chips (more or less to taste)
  • Rainbow Sprinkles!

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a pot over low to medium heat on the stove.
  2. In a separate large bowl combine the pretzels, half a bag of marshmallows, and half of the Rice Krispies. Putting some of the marshmallows in this mixture will vary the marshmallow texture, which I enjoy.
  3. Add the remaining one and a half bags of marshmallows to the butter, and stir so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.
  4. Once the marshmallows are melted and the mixture is homogeneous (probably 3-5 minutes), add the vanilla extract, and the other half of the Rice Krispies to the marshmallow and butter mixture and stir until they are well incorperated.
  5. Add the warm marshmallow mixture to the large bowl of other ingredients and mix so the mixture is uniform.
  6. Stir in the white chocolate chips and rainbow sprinkles last so they do not melt completely.
  7. Portion into muffin tins with liners (I find this the easiest way to manage Rice Krispie treat presentation) and allow to cool at room temperature or in the fridge.

Before:

Ingredients

After:

White Chocolate Pretzel Rice Krispie Treats!

Pumpkin Recipe Round Up!

It’s officially pumpkin season, and we need to observe it accordingly. I’ve tried enough pumpkin recipes over the past few years, that I’m not really looking to reinvent the wheel this year. I’ve honed the options down to three main standbys.

First, we have pumpkin spice bread. It’s a classic.

Pumpkin Spice Bread

Makes 2 9 x 5 loaves (or about 5 mini loaves), recipe from Epicurious

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare two 9 x 5 loaf pans with parchment and nonstick spray.
  2. Combine flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. (you can substitute the multiple spices for pumpkin pie spice if you have it.)
  3. Wisk together oil and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, then the pumpkin.
  4. Add dry ingredients in slowly.  Add in chopped walnuts if you want.
  5. Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the tester comes out clean. (about 45 min for mini loaves)

done

Next, oatmeal pumpkin cookies. I have a lot of different cookies in my repertoire that are just different combinations of oatmeal cookies with various “mix-ins.” These would be the pumpkin version of that. They have great flavor and great texture!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

Yeilds about 40 depending on size, adapted from My Baking Addiction

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter; softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside: flour, spices, oats, salt, and baking soda.
  3. Cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add pumpkin puree, egg, and vanilla.  Mix until well combined.
  4. Gradually encorporate dry mixture into wet being careful not to over mix.  Fold in chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
  5. Drop cookies onto parchment lined cookie sheet in generous teaspoon size. Bake 12-14 minutes.

oven time

Best for last: pumpkin chocolate chip bars. Every time I make them, they get raves! They are great out of the oven, or even better cold out of the freezer. You need to make them asap!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

Make one 9 x 13 pan, about 20 bars depending on size, from Martha

Ingredients

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 Tbs pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a 9 x 13 brownie pan with parchment (it will make it much easier to get them out).
  2. Combine the flour, spice, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. Cream butter, then add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla.
  4. Alternate adding batches of the pumkin and dry ingredients.  Mix to combine, but try not to overmix the dough.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Pour batter into parchment lined pan.  Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes.  Allow to cool completely, then cut and serve!

yum!

Lastly, if you don’t want to actually make something, may I just say that the pumpkin munchkins (cake donut style) from Dunkin are to die for. It’s making me want to find a pumpkin donut recipe…