Sunday, November 22, 2009

Let's get ready to RUMBLE!

This week marks the start of the official holiday baking season! I must say, I am rather excited.

As you can see on the left, I've been stocking up. That's because my in-laws are coming to the desert for Thanksgiving! The last time I shoveled down a meal of turkey, stuffing and potatoes with family was 2003. That's SIX YEARS.

The past several Thanksgivings have been spent with good friends. The kind of friends who are practically family anyway. But even so. There's something about having family coming into town for the holiday that has Mike and I bouncing off the walls with excitement.

Our menu is planned. I, of course, am in charge of all things sweet. I'm going to make my Grandma's applesauce for a side dish, and a pumpkin roll for the big dessert. And then I'll whip up some candied pecans, mini chocolate-covered pretzel sticks and maybe even some fudge. That way we'll have sweets to snack on for the several days they're in town.

For those of you who don't have it all planned out yet, here are a few holiday baking tips, courtesy of

1. Start Early. You never know what's going to come up, and sometimes sugar, chocolate and other common ingredients can be fickle. You want to make sure you are prepared for mistakes.

2. Check Equipment. If you are making candy or working with sugar, it's imperative that the thermometer is exact. If not, you risk ruining the entire batch. Check it before you get started.

3. Use High Quality Ingredients When Necessary. While you can (and should!) get away with store brands for sugar and flour, things like chocolate need to be of a higher quality. They are easier to work with, and your recipes will turn out better.

4. Don't Mix Water With Chocolate. When melting chocolate, DO NOT allow it to come into contact with water. This will cause the chocolate to seize, or become a hard, gritty, unappealing mass of chocolate. So try to avoid even a drop of water. If it does happen, add about a teaspoon of vegetable oil and try to melt the chocolate again. This might save it, if it hasn't had a lot of time to seize.

5. Avoid The Flour Cloud. If you are mixing a lot of dry ingredients, stir by hand before turning on the mixer. This will avoid a loss of ingredients and that "flour cloud" which manages to get all over your kitchen.

6. Avoid Grease With Butter Recipes. If a cookie recipe calls for butter, you don't need to grease the pan. The butter will act as its own grease, and will allow you to easily pull the cookies off of the tray.

7. Corn Syrup For Softness. If you want softer cookies, add corn syrup to the mix. This will keep the cookies softer for longer. I usually add a tablespoon or two, depending on which recipe I'm making.

8. Cake Is Done When It Pulls Away. In addition to the toothpick test, a cake is done when the sides start to pull away from the pan.

9. Hold Cake Tips At An Angle. If you are writing on a cake, hold the tip at an angle, which will smooth out your writing and prevent your hand from dragging on the cake.

10. Use Cursive On Cakes
. When writing on a cake, use cursive. It flows better, and decreases the amount of breakages in the writing.


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