MS Life: Hack Your Holiday Baking Here!
If you’re like me, you love the sweets and treats the holidays inspire, but you’re not always energetic enough to pull off making them yourself. Or you might be just a little too ambitious for your own good (guilty as charged).
Living with MS means you’re aware of limitations (like fatigue, tremors, heat sensitivity, lack of focus, visual problems), but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy holiday baking. Don’t be a bah humbug! Find inspiration below from these tips and hacks for holiday baking. You might just make your visions of sugarplums come (mostly) true.
How to hack holiday baking with MS
Here are a few tips:
Make your baking wish list early of all the items you’d like to bake, keeping it short. Determine which items will be gifts (for friends, neighbors, coworkers, service providers, and family across the miles) versus those enjoyed by you and your family, and estimate how much you’ll make.
Once you’ve figured this out, make a single shopping list that includes both ingredients and the holiday wrappings and containers you’ll need. Then, shop for everything on one day. If you dread long trips to the grocery store, order online for delivery or ask someone else to do the shopping.
Plan a baking party with friends or family. Sharing the tasks takes away the burden, plus you’ll have fun! Is a party too much? Consider asking for help with wrapping and delivering baked gifts.
Another way to collaborate — participate in a neighborhood or workplace cookie exchange. Then you only need to make one doubled or tripled the recipe to share with several others. In return, you get a cornucopia of different treats, enough to make your holiday quite festive!
Make it easy on yourself
Who isn’t inspired by baking competition shows where contestants create amazing sculptures that take hours to accomplish? That doesn’t mean I’m going to attempt these dazzling recipes!
Some things are easier to bake than others. Drop, bar, no-bake and refrigerator slice-and-bake cookies don’t require a lot of work. Bundt and sheet cakes are simpler to make than layer cakes. Quickbreads and fruitcakes baked into gift tins are super easy. Single crust pies take far less time than lattice-topped pies. For cutout cookies, try baking the dough as a single layer first, then cut them out after they’re baked. To avoid wasting baked dough, use triangle, square, or circle cutouts.
Keep decorating foolproof. If you have a tremor in your hands, this can frustrate efforts to pipe designs. Instead, sprinkle colorful holiday-themed decors over simple frosted or dipped cookies. If you still like to pipe and flood using royal icing on cutout cookies, try food-safe decorating pens: they’re as easy to use as pencils. Skip the messy gel pens and piping bags!
Also, pretty holiday wrap can be just as nice as complicated decorations. One of my favorite bar cookies is rather brown and unlovely, but when I layer its squares or diamonds in a pretty Christmas box, they take on new life!
Make, bake, freeze
The earlier you can bake, then freeze your goodies, the more you’ll thank yourself later. Most items freeze well. Mark freezer containers to identify their contents, separating layers of candies and cookies with parchment or waxed paper so they’re easy to remove later.
Another option: Just make and freeze your cookie dough around Thanksgiving, then thaw and bake in December.
Several pre-made items can simplify your plans:
- pre-baked gingerbread house kits
- chocolate bark
- ready-made fondant
- sugar cookie dough
- packaged ladyfingers
- pre-formed pie crusts
- ready-made frosting
- instant royal icing (just add water)
- canned pie fillings
- canned pumpkin, lemon curd, cookie butter, poppy seed paste, fruit jams
- powdered egg whites
- powdered buttermilk
- pre-shaped holiday decors
Ditch the DIY
Sometimes just buying treats can be enough. One season, I was e-x-h-a-u-s-t-e-d and opted to visit a local chain specializing in reasonably priced imported treats. I purchased a small sampling of favorite sweets from around the world. Another year, I bought our goodies at a hyperlocal arts and crafts fair.
Let me tell you, nobody complained!
Be aware of overheating
Kitchens can get overwarm! When this happens, my focus scatters, I sweat through my clothes, and I suddenly need a nap. To avoid this, I crack open the window over my sink, drink plenty of ice water, and wear lightweight clothing (even going barefoot).
A little goes a long way
One season, I only made these two easy treats, and it was enough. Candied popcorn requires microwaving a bunch of popcorn, then drizzling the cooled popcorn with melted chocolate, caramel, or toffee and tossing it with sprinkles or nuts. White chocolate-dipped pretzels, rolled in crushed peppermint, doesn’t need a recipe.
Give yourself the gift of ease this holiday. Happy baking!
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