Spend a few minutes this week planning out your holiday baking needs. Find the right flours, get baking, and fill the freezer with baked goods to last you all season long.
This post is sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill:
As the busy holiday season approaches, I start thinking about all the yummy foods that our family enjoys in November and December.
There are some goodies I make only at the holidays like biscotti or Chocolate Minty Melts or tamales. Special dinners necessitate pulling out all the stops, passing a bread basket, and “doing it up big”. Our family has several birthdays during this season in addition to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
The fun never ends! Neither does the good eating. Or the cooking and baking.
When I was a kid, I thought it was really cool to buy grocery store baked goods. Over time, I’ve learned that home baking is so much tastier than store-bought! Oh my! It’s healthier, too. By a long shot.
And cheaper, too, I might add. You can make all your favorite baked items at home for a fraction of the cost of their commercial counterparts.
Clearly, it’s in the best interests of our taste buds, bodies, and wallets, that we bake things ourselves. Baking our favorite foods at home is a great way to improve your family’s diet and enjoy great meals together.
The rub, however, comes with the time crunch. Where oh where do we find the time to do all this baking? It’s so tempting to just pick something up at the store or the local bakery, right?
It was once common place for our grandmothers and great-grandmothers to whip something up on the fly. And yet, we fret over it — and quite honestly, make it too complicated.
Baking isn’t rocket science, thank goodness. It just takes a little planning and knowledge and maybe some practice. A little space in the freezer helps, too. One of the strategies I use to keep a steady supply of yummy baked goods on hand is to make ahead and freeze my favorite recipes.
Don’t turn up your nose at frozen foods! If you cool and package your baked goods properly, they will be just as good two weeks or a month from now as they will be tomorrow. This week I did a little baking for the freezer and it feels so good to have a little stash in the freezer for the coming weeks. I’ll add to it over the next month, building our stockpile of goodies and freeing myself up for special occasions this holiday season.
So, let’s look over what you can do to build a successful little stockpile of your favorite baked goods:
1. Take inventory and shop.
What baking supplies do you need? Now is a great time to stock up on baking supplies. Even if you’re not quite ready to bake, I recommend taking inventory and grabbing the items you don’t already have. That way they’ll be ready when you’ve got a midnight craving for the best chocolate chip cookies in the world.
You can download this baking ingredient checklist to help you fill in the gaps.
Be sure that you have a decent supply of plastic wrap, ziptop freezer bags, and plastic or glass containers with lids so that you can easily store your goodies in the freezer. Here are some of my favorite freezer wrappings.
2. Choose your recipes.
It’s amazing the vast array of recipes that are freezer-friendly. They might not be marked with freezing instructions, but chances are they’ll survive a deep freeze. Grab this cheat sheet for freezing baked goods.
3. Use the right flour and wrap your items well.
I’m not a flour expert, but, I think I’ve worked with the ingredient often enough to know what works for my favorite recipes. And yes, there’s more than one kind of flour to use!
One of the things that I’ve worked on in the last few years is improving the quality of the flour I use. Over time, I’ve noticed a difference in the finished product as well as in our family’s health. My kids rarely have anything worse than a cold (knock on wood), and I think that nutrition, and specifically using whole grains has played a big part in that.
Here are some of my favorite flours and how you can best use them in your holiday baking:
Artisan Bread Flour
We recently had a chance to test out Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour. I used it in pizza last week and I loved the texture of the dough when it was time to form the pieces. This week, I made a double batch of breadsticks to freeze. They turned out great.
These recipes work really well with this flour and freeze wonderfully:
Freezer tip: To bake and freeze rolls, pretzels, and breadsticks, cool them on a rack and place in a ziptop freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible before sealing. Store in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw, wrapped, at room temperature.
Ivory (or White) Whole Wheat Flour
A few years ago when my husband got a bad report on his cholesterol and blood pressure, I switched us “cold turkey” to whole wheat flours. Wow! That was a transition. His numbers made a wonderful comeback in just a few months. We still use whole wheat flour, but I lean on lighter whole wheat flours for baking yeast breads. The flavor is not so “wheaty” but we get all the whole grain goodness.
These are some of the recipes that I’ve developed with lighter whole wheat. It’s become more readily available and I’m thrilled that Bob’s Red Mill now carries an Ivory Wheat variety.
- Honey Whole Wheat English Muffin Bread
- Honey-Sweetened Raisin Bread for the Bread Machine
- Whole Wheat Cranberry Rolls
Freezer tip: Cool the breads and rolls on a rack. Wrap the breads in plastic wrap. Place wrapped breads and rolls in a ziptop freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible before sealing. Store in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw, wrapped, at room temperature.
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
One of my very favorite flours EVER is Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. I’ve been stocking up every holiday season for the last six years. It is a softer wheat that makes pastries and quick breads delicious! It’s the whole grain, but it has the texture more of all-purpose flour.
I’ve used it in much of my baking, including my Slab Apple Pie. No one in my family knew that I was feeding them “healthy” pie. Love that!
It goes really well in these recipes:
Freezer tip: Cool the bread on a rack. Wrap in plastic wrap. Place wrapped breads in a ziptop freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible before sealing. Store in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw, wrapped, at room temperature.
Freezer tip: To freeze a pie, wrap the unbaked pie well for freezing. Heavy duty aluminum foil is good. Be sure to store it on a flat surface in the freezer. Bake it from frozen at 425 for the first 15 minutes and then reducing to 375 for the remainder of the baking time.
Freezer tip: Scones can be frozen baked or unbaked. If unbaked, freeze them uncovered on a tray until firm. once firm, transfer them to a ziptop freezer bag. Bake them from frozen, adding 10 to 15 minutes to the baking time. If baked, simply cool them completely and store in a ziptop freezer bag in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw, wrapped, at room temperature.
*If the scone recipe calls for a glaze (like my Lemon Drop Scones), freeze the scones without the glaze and add it after thawing.
All-Purpose, Unbleached Flour
You’re probably familiar with all-purpose flour. It comes in bleached and unbleached varieties. I prefer unbleached. Look for unbromated as well. I don’t need any more chemicals in my life, thank you very much. The flour is obviously less white, but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
Bob’s Red Mill carries an Organic All-Purpose Unbleached Flour that totally fits the bill for making these beauties:
Freezer tip: To bake and freeze cookies, cool them on a rack and place in a ziptop freezer bag or an airtight container. Remove as much air as possible before sealing. Store in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw, wrapped, at room temperature.
One of my newest discoveries this year was corn flour. Not to be confused with masa harina which is treated with lime water, corn flour is a great addition to baked goods. I’ve been using it for some of the wheat flour in my cornbready recipes and loving the rich flavor it brings to them.
Both of these recipes work well as homemade mixes, making them great holiday gifts too. Fill a basket with a cornbread or waffle mix along with some other breakfast fixings. Yum!
Freezer tip: I like to store cornbread mixes instead of baked cornbread. The texture is better when freshly baked and it only takes minutes to mix and bake right before serving. To make a mix, combine all the dry ingredients in a ziptop freezer bag and mark the bag with wet ingredients and baking instructions. Store mixes in the freezer for longest shelf life.
Freezer tip: Waffles can be stored as a mix or baked. If storing as a mix, combine all the dry ingredients in a ziptop freezer bag and mark the bag with wet ingredients and baking instructions. Store mixes in the freezer for longest shelf life. If baked, cool them on a rack and place in a ziptop freezer bag or an airtight container. Remove as much air as possible before sealing. Store in the freezer for up to 2 months. Reheat waffles in the toaster oven.
Make-ahead and freeze your holiday baked goods
If you spend a time baking in the next couple weeks, be sure to stash a good portion of it in your freezer. It will come in so handy when you’re late for the potluck, have drop-in guests, or just want to cozy up with your peeps and a plate of cookies.
Freezer baking is honestly my favorite mode of holiday prep. It saves so much time and it brings such happiness to the people around me — and their tummies.