I love the holidays, and I love baking. No lie, I just might have a problem. As much as I love to bake, it can be such a time-suck. Along the way, I’ve found great tricks to tackle holiday baking, without much effort. Intrigued? You should be!
Boxed is OK!
Boxed cookie or cake mixes are just fine if that’s what you’re good at making. When I first started baking, that’s what I used and I was still proud of what I made. Every year, I use boxed mixes but add my own twists to make it taste more homemade. During this time of year, your effort is appreciated most of all, so if you can only muster up a few brownies made from a box, then do so.
Add sour cream or cream cheese to box mixes. The sour cream is a great addition to all cakes and brownies. It causes a “melt in your mouth” effect when you bite into them. Cream cheese works well in store bought cookie mixes. Use 1/2 cup sour cream for recipes, and 1 cup of cream cheese for cookie recipes.
A Pinch of Nutmeg
When nutmeg is placed in a baked good, people go crazy trying to figure out what the “extra” taste is. They know they’ve had it before, but can’t figure out what it is. Also, nutmeg (in high amounts) is addictive, so they’ll keep eating your cookies and won’t know why. Hahahahhaha!
Chill that Dough
I always chill my dough before I bake it. Whether it’s 15 minutes in the fridge, or scooped out on a cookie sheet and frozen for later use, the dough always get chilled. The butter gets to relax and harden again and your cookies are less likely to burn in the oven. If you scoop out the dough onto a cookie sheet covered in wax paper, you can make your own “grab and bake” cookies to bake when you don’t want a whole dozen.
Place that cookie dough in a freezer bag that is equipped with a piping tip, and make the cookie into one you would only see in the bakery. A big star tip is my favorite to use because the ridges makes them look as professional-like. It also makes the cookies a bit smaller than usual, thus creating “cookie bites” for those that have this illusion that a smaller cookie is healthier than eating one of the big ones.
The Secret’s In The Extract
The addition of vanilla flavoring to any cookie mix is wonderful for the taste. Just think, they can’t put vanilla extract in the powdered mixes, now can they? So add some in there! My favorite is rum extract. I love to put it in pound cakes and sugar cookie bites. Other great ones are almond extract (which tastes oddly enough like cherries), orange extract and coconut extract. Peppermint extract also works well in chocolate treats.