Monday, August 24, 2015

Tips For Streamlining Baking

I mentioned the other day that we've been enjoying some chilly weather and that seems to put me, and I know many others, in the mood to bake.  Mmmm.  There's something about cinnamon, brown sugar, molasses, ginger......all those great smells filling my home.  It makes everyone want to turn on the accent lighting and curl up under a blanket with a good book and a fresh baked treat.

But, oh the work of homemade goodies.  Sometimes it just seems like too much work to find just the right recipe, get out the ingredients and mix it all up and then wait for it to bake and then cool.  After years and years of baking I've found a few ways to streamline the process and I'd like to share those with you today.

Tips For Streamlining Baking

1.  Wear an apron.  The reason for this is in order to move quickly you cannot be worried about soiling your clothes.  The apron also provides a place to quickly wipe your hands if need be.

2.  Memorize a few recipes.  I find that when I'm in a hurry for a home baked treat, searching out the recipe wastes precious minutes.  Chocolate Chip cookies, Chocolate Chip Blondie bars, Ginger bars.  These are all recipes I can make from memory.  They are family favorites and I know I can never go wrong if these are in the oven.

3.  Double the recipe.  This almost seems counter intuitive, but by doubling the recipe you get twice as much output for the same time input.  It doesn't take long to scoop everything twice.  Most muffin recipes make 12.  Might as well double it and throw a batch in the freezer or in our case eat them all in one day.

4.  Learn to eyeball measurements.  This is a real time saver and creates less dishes as well.  I never measure salt or vanilla with a teaspoon.  For salt I pour it in my palm easily measuring 1, 1/2, or 1/4 teaspoon.  Vanilla is a quick splash for 1 teaspoon or 3 quick splashes for 1 tablespoon.  For other dry spices it's easy enough to eyeball the amounts using just the 1 teaspoon measuring spoon.  If you're worried about cross contamination of spices in the jars, just give the teaspoon a quick wipe on your apron (see tip #1).

5.  Learn to eyeball peanut butter and shortening measurements.  Similar to #4, but this is such a time saver that I wanted it to have it's own spot on the list.  Next time you use a measuring cup to measure out 1 cup of either PB or shortening pay attention to what it looks like on the spatula when you scoop it back out of the measuring cup or count how many spatula scoops it took to fill the cup in the first place.  Remember this number or what the dollop looks like and start adding PB and shortening using only a spoon or spatula.

6.  Keep a mental list of recipes for special circumstances.  Tip #2 was all about memorizing recipes, but what if your memorized chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for both brown sugar and white sugar and you're out of one or the other, then what?  I like to have a mental list of go to recipes for times like this.  Because at some point during every grocery shopping cycle I am out of white sugar or brown sugar, baking powder or baking soda, eggs.  It just happens, so be ready.

7.  Make notes on your recipes.  Did you use almond extract instead of vanilla and everybody loved it?  Write that on the recipe.  Does the recipe call for a baking time of 25 minutes, but yours was done at 20 minutes?  Write that on the recipe.  Notes on my recipes have really helped me streamline my baking and makes it easier for another family member to replicate the recipe.


8.  Every family member (of age) should have a recipe they can make.  Sometimes streamlining means delegating the duty of baking to someone else.  Kids as young as 8 can make rice krispie treats using the microwave.  Even husbands can be included in this.  Warren's had his chocolate chip cookie recipe memorized since he was a kid and fills the cookie jar with them about 1/month.

If turning your kitchen over to your kids (or husband) sounds scary, I just started a series Kids in the Kitchen and you might find a little inspiration and a few tips in those posts.


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