The holidays are a hectic time for many, what with the shopping, the parties, the decorations to hang, the cards to mail.
But of course, this time of year is also about the wonderful aroma of holiday treats coming to life in the oven. And this year it seems many home bakers are striving to improve their oven skills with newfangled equipment, cooking classes, and apps.
The French Pastry School in Chicago, for example, is offering such classes just in time for Christmas. Neophyte home pastry chefs could choose from two classes taught by National Pastry Champion Della Gosset: “All Things Chocolate for Holiday Gifts,” or one called “Simple Desserts for the Home.”
In another French Pastry School class, “Candies, Cookies and Cakes for the Holidays,” home baking enthusiasts can learn how to make sweet home-made holiday presents from Certified Master Sugar Artist, Mark Seaman.
Then there are the new holiday baking apps that are popping up in time for Christmas. There’s one from Epicurious and one from Martha Stewart called Martha Stewart Makes Cookies. Both are free. Another app, Festive Holiday Baking ($2.99) features a variety of simple holiday baking recipes, each with eight ingredients or less.
If you’re simply looking for some savvy tips for baking this holiday season, here are some from Rose Levy Beranbaum, renowned baker and author of The Cake Bible and Rose’s Christmas Cookies. For starters, Beranbaum uses pasteurized eggs instead of worrying about the risk of salmonella when baking her holiday treats.
Other simple tips:
- Prep the kitchen. Put away unnecessary items, clean off the counter or table top and make sure that all of the tools and ingredients are available to make for a smoother baking process.
- Measurement is key. Unlike cooking, baking requires exact measurement. One important technique is the spoon-and-sweep method for measuring flour, which can settle. Scoop the flour into the measuring cup, ensure it is full and sweep off the excess with a knife.
- Be patient. Allow the cookie sheets to cool completely before using for the next batch to avoid flat cookies.
- Think through baking times. Looking for a slightly softer, chewier cookie? Roll the dough to 1/4-inch thickness and reduce the baking time slightly
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