How to make holiday baking simple and quick

Would you love to be able to make holiday baking simple and quick?   Leaving you more time to spend with family or do the other things you need or want to do?

Some people love holiday baking.  It’s something they look forward to all year.  They have special cookbooks for it and make lists and calendars in July in anticipation of what they’ll create.  Things they’ll create not even for special events and parties, but just to have on hand, at home for family and friends.  I’ll admit, I’m one of “those people.”  

If you’re the family baker for holiday events, you begin to have a set pattern of things everyone assumes you’ll be making.  For American’s the requests for, “You’re going to make that sweet potato pie, right,” will start in the beginning of November.  Most of the usual guests will have their favorite they come to anticipate.

By September/October the ideas of holiday baking begin to arise with the advent of Pumpkin-Spiced everything suddenly appearing on grocery-store shelves, coffee shops and candy displays.  For me, it’s the mark of the beginning of all things good.  The now popular phrase, “Winter is coming…” that’s meant to cast fear into followers of Game of Thrones, makes me say, “…. and is that supposed to be a bad thing?”  

Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Pie Time-Saver

Here’s my trick since I don’t do canned pumpkin or sweet potato.  If you’re a person who prefers to make your pies from scratch – a quick time-saver is to prep these two particular items ahead of time.  As in – a month or more ahead of time.  Not kidding.

I already have my sweet potato ready to go in September for my pies and muffins that most people anticipate seeing served at our holiday fare.  Why?  Because it all takes time and by the time the holiday comes, I want to be with my family and friends, not locked in the kitchen peeling sweet potatoes by the ton.

On a temperate day in September when sweet potatoes are on sale, I peel, quarter, boil and puree several pounds.  Sweet potatoes oxidize quickly so be sure to strain the boiled quarters for a brief period of time to maintain that lovely bright orange color.  

Quite often I hear people complain about making sweet potato and pumpkin pies from scratch, saying that the set time takes too long during baking or the end-product doesn’t seem solid enough.  This is often due to inadequate draining of the cooked vegetable before puree or mashing.

To achieve the smoothest consistency, place the cooked vegetable into a food processor or blender to puree.  If it still seems to have too much water content, turn out into a fine mesh strainer and allow it to strain out a bit more, watching carefully for oxidizing discoloring.

sweet_potato2Using my Food Saver sealer, I portion out the amounts necessary per recipe and label to match.  My personal recipe for sweet potato pie calls for a cup and half of mashed sweet potatoes.  Sweet potato muffins call for three cups.  By pre-portioning and labeling, when it’s time to bake, it’s extremely simple to just pull out the correct bags needed for your recipes.   Once portioned out, seal and then place in the freezer till needed.

Quite often due to the number of pies or muffins I may need to make at one time, I will double the portions in the bags to be able to make double counts.

If you do not have a Food Saver system or something similar, it’s just as easy to use single-use freezer bags.  Simply portion out your cooked vegetable filling, seal half way, then press the air out with your hands, or submerge in a pitcher or large mixing bowl filled with water. Only fill to the below the seal, do not allow the water to enter the bag.  When the water has pushed the air out, press closed.  Let’s not forget part of the goal of the Food Vixen site is working with a budget.  Not everyone has or can afford a vacuum seal system. There are always alternatives to most any situation that work just as well.  You just need to use a little ingenuity.  

I pull the bag from the freezer several hours before I need to mix the batter and allow it to thaw. When it’s time to mix the pies, it saves a great deal of time and still allows to have from-scratch, quality ingredients without missing out on time with family and friends.

Pre-mixing batters, fillings and doughs

Another handy time-saver is mixing pie fillings, batters and doughs several hours before baking time in the quantities necessary and storing in a pitcher or mixing bowl in the refrigerator till baking time.  Some batters and doughs need to be at room temperature while others are better chilled.  Be mindful of these settings and remove the mixtures from the refrigerator appropriately.

Recently I saw a commercial for a local supermarket suggesting that people use their deli for all their holiday or special event needs so you could avoid the kitchen and not miss out on the memories with everyone.

Truth?

I don’t want to avoid my kitchen.  All of the memories of holidays, special events and get togethers all seem to be tied to the aromas, flavors and memories of the love and effort my family members put into recipes and the foods we made.  Those people (okay so its mostly my mom), inspire me to want to create that same love, passion and memories for my family today.  I choose to do things old-school, because that’s what’s right for my family.  By using these time saving tips it’s  allowed me to be able to spend time on both sides of the kitchen door without feeling like I’m missing out on anything. I hope they do the same for you.