It's baking season! Once the holidays hit, it's time to get the apron on. But baking can be a lot of work, especially if you're trying to one-up yourself from last year. To ensure that you aren't just drowning in a cluttered, messy kitchen at the end of it, get organized in advance. Here are a few fool-proof steps to help you through the holidays.
Plan Your Baking Schedule Early
Which parties will you be baking for? Will you strictly be baking for events—or will you be making gifts? It's time to get a supply list together... and probably a budget. It's easy to go a little overboard when you're doing the holiday planning. Don't forget that you may also need some extras, such as packaging for any gifts and things like cupcake tins. Disposables, such as loaf pans and pie tins, can make your job a lot easier; it also means you won't need to pester the hosts for your items back later on.
Deep Clean Your Kitchen
Don't let your guests find a hair in your exquisitely baked pumpkin pie! Before you start cooking, do a deep cleaning. It's easy to assume you should do this later, because it'll just get messy again, but the truth is that it's much easier to work in a clean kitchen. And when deep cleaning you may find a tool or two that you forgot you had.
Organize Your Pantry, Fridge, and Cabinets
After you make your supply list, but before you actually go shopping, take some time to organize your pantry, fridge, and cabinets. There could be many things on your lists that you already have, and you don't want to end up with ten bags of flour just because you kept thinking you were out of it.
At the same time, throw out anything that's too old to use—there's no use keeping it. This should give you a good idea of which spices and baking staples you still need to purchase. Don't forget that things like baking soda, baking powder, and yeast do have an expiration date. It's an important expiration: they won't work at all if they are too old.
Check Your Appliances
Some recipes require special appliances. Do you have everything you need and does everything work? It may be a while since you used your stand mixer—are you sure it's still functioning like it should? Do you have all the parts to your hand mixer? And does your food processor need to be assembled? A baker is sometimes only as good as their tools, and there are a lot of tools in baking that are really necessary for the right result.
Clear Off Your Counter Space
As you organize, make sure there's a clear counter space where you can prepare things. Counter space is incredibly important when baking; otherwise you'll find yourself struggling to constantly put things back, pull things out, and organize your ingredients. You don't need room for 12 glass bowls of different ingredients, like they have in the cooking shows, but you do need a comfortable place to roll out dough, at minimum.
Get Your Shopping Done Early
For ingredients that don't need to be fresh, it's a bad idea to try to shop the day before you start baking. Instead, purchase everything a week in advance and make sure you've got everything before you start. You can then purchase the fresh ingredients when you're ready. During the holidays in particular, it can be difficult to find certain popular items... and, often, the grocery stores can be a nightmare.
Block Off Your Schedule
Finally, don't try to bake and do multiple things at once. Block off your schedule so you know exactly when you'll be baking—and make sure there won't be any distractions. The last thing you want is to be called upon in the middle of baking the perfect cookies, only to end up with tiny piles of ash.
Remember: above all else, baking should be a soothing activity! Baking is a way that we show our appreciation and love for our friends and family, so if it's getting too stressful, it may be time to take a break. There's a lot to do during the holidays, from decorating to fixing up the house for guests, and you can take your mind off of one activity with another that you truly enjoy.