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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

4 Easy Ways to Organize for Holiday Baking

John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist
Hobby Farms Contributors

Before diving into holiday baking, take 5 minutes to reasses your pantry needs. Photo courtesy Katie Molin/iStock/Thinkstock (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Katie Molin/iStock/Thinkstock

Today gifts us with a great reason to talk pantry: It's National Cookie Day! As we head into the season of holiday cooking, take some time to prepare your pantry before igniting those baking engines. A dash of planning and organization in the kitchen will go a long way to increase holiday fun and decrease stress. Here are four pantry-organization tips we implement before every baking season here at on our Wisconsin farm, Inn Serendipity, to help get you started.

1. Gather Recipes
A first, often overlooked, step in getting organized for holiday cooking is to get all your recipes together in one place and assess ingredients. This is the perfect time to step back to both brainstorm some new ideas and question some baking traditions. We have some staple holiday favorites in our household, like our Peppermint Biscotti cookies, and Lisa always makes some caramel corn that ships well for holiday gifts, but we like to add new items to the baking line-up. (Lisa recently found her mom’s vintage 1960s cookie press—stay tuned!)

2. Take Inventory and Stock Up
After you know what you want to make, take a quick inventory of what you need on hand. Our full pantry checklist is available for download, and below is a quick synopsis of the baking staples we stock up on for the holidays:

  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • cocoa powder
  • chocolate chips
  • extracts: vanilla, almond, peppermint, lemon
  • instant espresso powder (We love mocha recipes!)
  • nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, pine)
  • flour (unbleached)
  • brown sugar
  • powdered sugar
  • unbleached sugar
  • sea salt
  • bulk yeast
  • powdered milk (We use this for baking, as we’re not big milk drinkers and don’t typically have milk in the fridge.)

In the refrigerator, we keep these items on hand that typically have a long expiration date, so we can readily have them on hand throughout the season:

  • butter
  • cream cheese
  • heavy whipping cream
  • sour cream

3. Clear Out and Inspire
While you’re digging around in the pantry, you may be surprised at what’s lurking in the corners. As we’ve shared before, our post-holiday tradition is to go cold turkey on buying anything edible and to use up all those items in the pantry, including all those impulse purchases, that have accumulated over the year.

This year, we’re still finding an abundance of Halloween candy. In years past, we’ve used this for dressing up caramel apple dip and infusing vodka, but this year for some unexplained reason we have an abundance of chocolate. Liam and his buddies apparently did really well trick-or-treating, as there must have been a lot of chocolate for it to last this long in our household. Lisa is plotting to melt these candy bars and use them for variations on chocolate fondue, using other pantry finds, like graham crackers and marshmallows left over from summer campfires, for dipping. It will be the perfect snack for our family’s annual watching of A Charlie Brown Christmas later this week.

4. Keep Notes
As you organize, stock and then work through your pantry supplies, keep notes for next year. Some simple reflections on how to do things differently next year will make a huge difference in future planning. Because we often make big batches of treats around the holidays, our notes often relate to how much of something we made and what ingredients were needed. For example, Lisa wrote down last year that "about 24 regular-sized candy canes” break down to the 1½ cup of crushed peppermint candy she needs for one batch of Peppermint Biscotti. Most candy canes come in packs of 18, so Lisa knows she needs six packs of candy canes to make four batches of cookies. She admits it’s a little detail geeky, but it helps tremendously, as we don’t want to be stuck with bags of candy canes come January.

Happy, organized holiday baking wishes from our farmstead to yours! Please share your tips and ideas for what you do in your home pantry.

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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