Planning Ahead and the 12 Weeks of Christmas
As Fall is now in full swing with all the vibrant colours of autumn my thoughts turn to cozy fires, scrumptious muffins, delectable cookies and succulent squares. Believe it or not, my thoughts also turn to Christmas baking. Why? When I was a child I remember seeing a magazine article about the twelve weeks and days of Christmas. This article specifically addressed the countdown to Christmas in terms of your baking to avoid “baking burnout”. This way of doing Christmas baking also makes it easier to spread the cost of baking out over three months.
You may be wondering what the twelve weeks of Christmas actually means. The premise is that if you make 12 different types of cookies, cakes or squares for your family and friends at Christmas, you can make one type a week. If you make more than 12 or if you start your baking less than 12 weeks before Christmas, you can adjust the quantity you make per week. If you make less than 12 kinds you can adjust the weeks down or start baking 12 weeks before but finish before December so there is even less stress for your month.
Next step is to decide what you want to bake for Christmas. This is a fun time to look for new recipes you would like to add to your baking repertoire. Next step is organize your list into an order of which ones can be frozen and which ones should be baked at the last moment. A lot of recipes that can be frozen can last at least three months in the freezer without getting freezer burned. Freezer burned means that air has gotten to the item and dried the product out. This can cause a loss of flavour and the appearance may have brown spots on the surface.
The best cookies to make the dough and freeze before baking are drop cookies. Drop cookies are simply cookies where you drop or scoop the dough onto the cookie sheet in order to bake them. You can always make the cookie dough, drop or scoop the cookies onto a cookie sheet and then freeze the cookies for about an hour. If you do this you can put the cookies close together since you aren’t actually baking them. Once the cookies are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or container and put back into the freezer. One of things I like to do before freezing is write the name of the cookie and brief baking instructions on a piece of masking tape. That way you don’t have to find the recipe when you want to bake the cookies. When it is time to bake the cookies, you can take the cookies out about 30 minutes before baking and put them on the cookie sheet. Bake them at the regular temperature until the edges are golden brown. You may need to add a couple minutes of baking time due to the dough still being frozen. You can also take the dough out of the freezer the night before and thaw them overnight in the fridge so they don’t get watery. Then bake like normal.
Some other things that you can make and freeze ahead are pie doughs, yule logs, squares, fruit cake and un-frosted cakes. If you aren’t sure if the item can be frozen check the internet or ask a Grandma who likes to bake.
With your list organized and your shopping list created for any missing ingredients you can go get the items you need for the items you want to make in the next week or two. This is also a good time to watch for sales on your ingredients. For example, if one of your ingredients comes on sale next week but you don’t need it for another month, will that ingredient keep in the cupboard, fridge or freezer? If yes and your budget allows, buy it so you can save money.
Now all you have to do is get baking! One of my favourite cookbooks is this one by Anna Olson. I love this book as it has beginner, intermediate and expert recipes in it.