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Food

Take the Pressure off This Holiday Season

December 5, 2023

The holidays are approaching and nearly 90% of millennials and Gen Xers will soon head to the kitchen to participate in one of America’s most popular traditions: baking. However, although one of the most popular traditions, it is also one of the most stress and anxiety-producing.

Motivated to Bake This Holiday Season

According to a 2019 survey by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, 87% of millennials and Gen Xers will likely bake during the holidays. From preparing holiday meals to preparing delicious dessert platters to finish the meal, they feel that baking is one of the top ways to connect with themselves while spending quality time with loved ones.

The problem with all the prep is that it sparks stress. A 2021 Kerrygold study reported 89% of consumers find the work involved with preparing holiday meals and desserts to be stressful and anxiety-producing. Survey respondents noted that sources of stress come from choosing the right recipes to please various tastes and dietary needs, ensuring the recipe turns out as intended and tastes good, ensuring there’s enough to go around, and getting the timing correct.

Despite the drawbacks of holiday baking, there are some ways to help alleviate the stress and make the prep a more enjoyable experience. Having the right tools, appropriate recipes, a strong game plan, and a positive mindset can take a load off and turn the baking frenzy into feel-good fun.

Have the Right Kitchen Essentials

While it isn’t necessary to have every piece of equipment a professional baker would have, there are several must-have essentials that one should always have stocked in their kitchen cabinets, according to Spatula Desserts.

Baking Trays. High-quality baking trays and cookie sheets are a must for baking during the holidays and are certainly worth the investment. The best brands are non-stick, evenly distribute the heat, and will not scratch or buckle in the oven.

Silicone Baking Mat. There’s nothing worse than spending time preparing and baking the perfect dessert, only to have it stick to the pan and fall apart. A silicone baking mat helps prevent this problem without the use of fat. Not only do they help distribute the heat evenly, but they also make cleanup a breeze.

Wire Cooling Rack. A cooling rack is vital for cooling baked goods such as muffins, cakes, and large batches of cookies. It will help prevent baked goods from crumbling, as can happen when they’re placed on a plate or countertop.

Measuring Cups and Spoons. To make the most accurate measurements when baking, it is always necessary to have a set of measuring cups for liquids and a separate set for dry ingredients such as flour or sugar. Measuring spoons can be used for wet or dry ingredients, so a complete set should be in every kitchen.

Mixing Bowls. Every kitchen also needs a set of large and small mixing bowls. Large bowls are convenient for one-bowl recipes, such as these delicious pecan snowball cookies by Spatula Desserts. Mixing bowls can be plastic, stainless steel, stoneware or glass, all of which have pros and cons. Deciding which kind to use is a personal preference.

Sifters and Spatulas. When baking, the texture of the dough can make or break the results. A sifter helps create the perfect consistency by removing any unnecessary lumps from the dry ingredients. A spatula helps gently fold ingredients together without overmixing the dough. It’s a necessity for recipes using add-ins like chocolate chips or fruit.

Electric Mixer. An electric mixer, whether a hand or a stand mixer, can take a lot of work out of mixing or kneading together dough ingredients. Stand mixers are beneficial for multi-tasking in the kitchen, since they can do their jobs while the baker does something else.

Digital Scale and Oven Thermometer. Baking is a science requiring accuracy and precision. To ensure both, it’s crucial to have a digital scale and digital oven thermometer. A digital scale provides more accurate measurements than eyeing the amounts in a measuring cup. Likewise, a digital oven thermometer helps the baker compensate for variances between oven models and lets them know the exact oven temperature, which impacts baked goods, especially.

Stick With Stress-Free Desserts

The holidays involve many stressful activities, including hosting large groups of people, cooking, shopping, and changing daily routines to accommodate vacation schedules. As mentioned earlier, baking tends to be among those activities. However, numerous easy baking recipes are known to help calm the mood and can make it a little less stressful.

Christmas Cookies. Cookies are easy desserts that do not require much effort and can often be prepared in just one bowl. The dough can also be prepared days or weeks in advance, then frozen, helping eliminate some of the stress on baking day. Chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles, and peanut butter cookies are classic, easy crowd-pleasers.

Cakes and Cupcakes. Cakes and cupcakes typically do not require many ingredients and only use one bowl, making cleanup easy. Decorating the finished products can be calming, helping reduce stress. A beautiful Christmas cake at the center of the dessert table is an eye-catching sight for guests, triggering positive feelings for the holiday season.

Brownies. Whether baked from scratch or a boxed mix, brownie s are simple, delicious, and require minimal effort and only one bowl. Brownies also don’t require decorating once baked, making them easy and stress-free when you’re short on time.

Eliminate the Stress and Add the Fun

With half of Americans involved in a baking disaster at some point, trial and error is most definitely the name of the game. However, bakers don’t have to fall victim to the stress. There are ways to make the holiday baking process more enjoyable.

Plan ahead when possible. Select recipes you can prepare in advance, such as cookies. Cookie dough and pie crust dough can usually be made and frozen weeks in advance, saving time on baking day.

Quality over quantity. Although trying every fun holiday recipe online may be tempting, it’s best to stick to a few main desserts. A cake as a centerpiece surrounded by three or cookie varieties and a Christmas-themed dessert or two should suffice.

Avoid the fancy stuff. While impressing guests with fancy dessert spreads and decorations is tempting, it only lengthens the to-do list and adds more stress to the baking process. When choosing the desserts, shapes, decorations, and fillings, keep it simple. Guests will appreciate a well-planned dessert spread, especially if it’s delicious.

Decorate store-baked cookies. Instead of baking cookies from scratch, consider buying cookies from the grocery store bakery and giving them a makeover at home. Decorating is also a fun and feel-good way to include family and friends in the preparation process.

Host a holiday cookie exchange. Another fun way to involve family and friends in baking while taking some pressure off the host is to have guests bring holiday cookies to exchange with others or add to the dessert table.

Practice makes perfect. If the plan is to bake a brand-new dessert, give the recipe a test run beforehand. Doing so gives the baker time to make mistakes when it doesn’t matter. The baker can make the necessary tweaks before the guests see the finished dish.

Baking allows people to fully express their creativity and connect with themselves. It should be enjoyed. Refusing to dread or stress about the holidays makes a busy time a joyful time, too.

Katalin Nagy | Wealth of Geeks

This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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