As I type, I am but 4 recipes away from completing my holiday baking, two of those being pies. With a wrecked kitchen, a fine layer of flour dusting the apartment, and a full freezer, here are my lessons learned from baking so far.
Complacency is a Killer
I'll be chronicling this in a separate blog entry, but one of my candies completely bit the dust. I missed a seemingly harmless step in the instructions and also made an ingredient swap. The combination turned into 4 hours down the drain. Just because something worked previously does not mean you shouldn't carefully reread all directions or make alterations on something you intend to give as a gift.
Line Up Backup Recipes
Not only did one of my recipes bomb, but a new one I tried grossly misstated the serving count. Instead of 240 bit-sized nibblets as promised, I ended up with a disappointing 80 (I even followed the instructions to a T). I had to replace BOTH of these recipes unexpectedly, which led to some unneeded stress and additional trips to the grocery store. Next year I'll definitely have some backup dishes in mind.
Inventory is Key
Speaking of which, we all know that multiple trips to the grocery store can be killer on the wallet, particularly during the holidays when there are so many enticing goodies stocked on the end aisles. Due to recipe snafus, I had to go back and purchase additional supplies several times. These didn't cost me too much (probably an extra $10) but it was a hassle to have to fight through holiday shoppers.
At the start of this whole process, I should have gone through and made a complete inventory of the cupboards so if I had to switch gears, all of my basics were on hand. For example, I volunteered last minute to bake a cake for some coworkers' birthdays. Halfway through the recipe I realized I didn't have any canola oil on hand. Mike graciously went to the store, but it could have been prevented with just a little more planning.
Laugh and Regroup
I wasn't saying this last week, but baking shouldn't make you grumpy. Gift giving is supposed to be an enjoyable process, something that can get lost whether you're hustling around the mall or kneading bread dough.
Baking definitely hasn't gone as smoothly this year as it did last year. I point a partial finger at my still-extended workload and teaching, but part of the blame rests with me and my misplaced ambitions. I chronically bite off more than I can chew (haha, baking pun) and I need to set better limits so I can enjoy myself in the process of creating carb and sugar bombs.
Lastly, I need to leave the perfectionist in me at work because I'm no Martha Stewart. I'm a working woman with 2 jobs and it is unreasonable for me to think that I'm going to churn out picture-perfect edibles with scalloped frosting and pretty ribbons (aka - any of the pictures in this post).
People are impressed with homemade goods no matter how they look. Besides, they simply appreciate that you spent time making something especially for them that you could have just thoughtlessly bought at the store.
To all the holiday DYI-ers out there, I salute you! Only a few more days left! :)