You can get baking tips from many different sources – including us. Sears wants you to enjoy your holidays so we’re providing these expert baking tips to help you manage one of the most important tasks of the season.
Holiday baking doesn’t have to be hectic. Plan your baking schedule well in advance of the holidays so you have plenty of time to gather ingredients and baking supplies.
Read through your recipes to ensure you understand the steps and know all the necessary ingredients, tools and bakeware that you’ll need. Check your pantry for ingredients and make a shopping list.
Replace Old Baking Soda and Baking Powder
Check the expiration dates. Using old baking soda and baking powder will prevent cookies and cakes from rising properly. Unless you just bought these items recently, it’s best to buy new baking soda and baking powder for best baking results during the holidays.
Buy Quality Bakeware
Good quality bakeware can make a significant difference in the outcome of your baked goods. Invest in sturdy baking pans and sheets if you don’t already have quality bakeware. Buy bakeware that is thick and sturdy because it’s more durable than flimsy options. Thicker metal bakeware won’t warp in the oven with temperature changes.
If you’re baking more than just cookies, check the recipes for the sizes of bakeware that you’ll need. Buy any missing bakeware that you need and replace any worn out pieces with high-quality new ones.
Clean and Maintain Your Oven
It’s not a good idea to run the self-cleaning cycle on your oven just before you’re going to use it for holiday baking. Self-clean cycles use extremely high temperatures to burn off residue inside your oven cavity. Safety devices such as thermal fuses or high-temperature limit switches can trip during the self-cleaning cycle. Run that mode to clean your oven at least a month in advance of the holidays so you’ll have time to schedule a service call if something goes wrong during that cycle.
If you didn’t read this article before you ran the self-clean cycle and the high-temperature limit switch tripped in your oven, you can try to reset that switch yourself by following the procedure shown in this popular Sears YouTube video:
To give your holiday guests the confidence you eat your food, your oven needs to be sparkling clean – including the oven door that often gets streaks inside the oven glass. Instead of being tempted to hand a kitchen towel over the oven door handle to hide the stained glass, clean it using this procedure:
Note: If you’re not confident that you can clean inside the oven door yourself, schedule a Sears Technician to visit your home and clean the oven door.
Don’t forget to clean the inside (and outside) of your microwave to solidify the confidence of your family and guests to eat in your abode.
For the best preparation of your oven, have Sears perform Clean & Maintain service on your range or oven. During that service, the Sears Technician will:
- Check control operation. Range controls are checked for accurate temperature control of the oven and stove top burners. Faulty controls can cause the range to waste energy when overheating occurs.
- Examine oven door sealing and clean the oven door gasket. A loose door gasket or bent door hinges can prevent the oven door from sealing shut — allowing heat to escape during baking. You’ll wind up paying higher energy bills if heat constantly escapes the oven during baking because the burner will need to ignite more often and stay burning longer to heat the oven. The technician adjusts and cleans the oven door gasket to make sure it seals the oven door properly.
- Test oven self-cleaning operation. Some ranges have self-cleaning ovens. During the self-cleaning operation, the oven burners heat the oven to extremely high temperatures to burn spills and residue inside the oven to ash. To prevent fires, the oven door must remain shut and locked during self-cleaning. If you were to open the door during self-cleaning, a sudden rush of air into the extremely hot oven can cause a serious fire. The service technician checks the control and oven door lock to make sure it stays shut during the self-cleaning cycle.
- Check and clean the stove top burners. The Electric ranges use strong current to activate stove top elements to heat food. The technician cleans and checks electric elements to make sure they’re operating properly and safely. A short circuit in an electric stove top burner can cause a serious electrocution risk. An element on a glass-top range that overheats can damage the glass top. If you have a gas range, the technician cleans, checks and adjusts the gas surface burners. A dirty gas surface burner can fail to ignite – posing a serious safety risk. Gas surface burners need to be professionally checked and cleaned regularly.
- Check oven burners or elements. The tech examines and adjusts oven burners in a gas range or electric elements in an electric range. Gas oven burners that aren’t adjusted properly can fail to heat the oven properly and may emit excessive carbon monoxide. Electric elements that aren’t heating properly will fail to heat the oven properly. A shorted electric element can pose a serious electrocution risk.
- Inspect readily accessible electrical wiring. Whether you have a gas or an electric range, wiring needs to be periodically checked for insulation damage, proper grounding and secure connections. Damaged wiring can short to the metal in the range – causing an electrocution risk. Risk of electrocution is elevated if the ground connection of the range isn’t secure. The ground connection dissipates an electrical short to prevent you from getting an electric shock if a loose wire touches metal in the range. Having your range wiring checked by a technician helps ensure your safety.
- Level the range and check the anti-tip device. Leveling the range helps reduce the risk that a pot or pan will accidentally slide off a gas surface burner. Leveling also helps items bake properly in the oven. The anti-tip device is an essential bracket that prevents the range from tipping forward when you open the oven door and extend an oven rack out of the range with bakeware on the rack.
Having your range professionally serviced every year will help prevent unexpected breakdowns during the holidays.
The time and effort that you spend maintaining stove will pay off. You’ll enjoy using your range during the holidays when it’s clean and in top shape.
Prepare the Ingredients
When you’re ready to begin baking, read through the entire recipe one more time so you understand all of the steps.
Many recipes, especially those for cookies and cakes, call for ingredients like butter and eggs to be at room temperature. Take them out of the refrigerator in advance.
Measure out all your ingredients before you start. This helps you work efficiently and ensures you don’t forget anything.
Preheat the Oven and Prepare Bakeware
Before you preheat the oven, set the oven racks in the proper position according to recipe guidelines or by following the advice in this helpful video:
Many ovens will require at least 20 minutes to preheat. If you need to preheat the oven faster, use the broil mode to heat the oven and then switch to the bake mode.
Prepare bakeware according to the recipe. Grease or line the bakeware with wax paper or parchment paper if needed so it’s ready when you finish mixing ingredients.
Mix the Ingredients
Once you have everything prepared, mix the ingredients according to the recipe. Don’t overmix because that can lead to tough cookies or cakes. Mix until ingredients are just combined to achieve a tender texture.
Use the tips in the above video to position bakeware on oven racks for best baking results. If you’re baking multiple sheets of cookies or other items, rotate the sheets halfway through baking to ensure even cooking.
Use the oven timer to bake items according to the recipe. Adjust time and temperature when using dark bakeware or glass baking dishes.
Check for doneness according to the recipe. For cakes, you’ll typically need to insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake to check for uncooked batter. If you pull the toothpick out and you see uncooked batter coating the toothpick, you’ll need to bake the cake longer. The cake is done when you can insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake and see no uncooked batter when pulling it out.
Cool Baked Goods Properly
Allow your baked goods to cool completely on a wire rack before storing or decorating. This prevents sogginess.
Have Fun Decorating
Have fun with decorations, especially if you’re making holiday-themed treats. Sprinkles, colored icing, and edible glitter can add a festive touch.
Baking during the holidays is not just about the end result; it’s also about enjoying the process. Put on some festive music, involve family and friends, and savor the joy of baking.