Here is a photo that may first appear rather enigmatic.
Wait, there is a story behind it.
We are just a few days from the beginning of December and it’s time to gear up for cookie baking. This is mostly about cookies (or “biscuits” for our UK members). But the procedure also works with fruit cakes or other cakes, etc.
If you are used to using a scale it isn’t that difficult to convert these recipes to weight instead of volume. There is an excellent free conversion website that is easy to use: Convert Me.
Up until year before last, when my cardiac condition became critical, I baked at least half a dozen different types of cookies every year, sometimes more. In 2006 I baked 21 different cookie recipes to give them as holiday gifts.
Since my aortic valve replacement in March 2015, I feel so much better that I will resume my multi-recipe baking this year. And this routine makes it less of a chore.
The thing that puts so many people off baking at home is the time-consuming tasks of MEASURING out DRY ingredients and my method works sort of like a factory type process where each person does one task on an assembly line.
In this case, I do all the tasks, only my “assembly line” is on different days.
First I make the decision of what cookies I will be baking and get all the recipes in order (I sometimes do a dozen different ones)
I either copy recipes from one of my cookbooks, PRINT them out from my files or download and PRINT from the internet.
YOU MUST HAVE A COPY OF THE RECIPE PRINTED OUT TO PLACE WITH THE INGREDIENTS.
I highlight all the DRY INGREDIENTS because that is what I deal with first. THIS ALSO HAS THE ADVANTAGE OF LEARNING IF YOU ARE OUT OR LOW ON SOME INGREDIENTS AND NEED TO SHOP FOR THIS PRELIMINARY SET UP.
SPEND A DAY MEASURING ONLY THE DRY INGREDIENTS FOR EVERYTHING YOU PLAN ON BAKING DURING THE NEXT FEW WEEKS AND YOU WILL SAVE A LOT OF TIME AND BE ABLE TO ENJOY YOUR BAKING MORE.
I have this large tray (pictured above) onto which I have affixed labels (waterproof) of the various ingredients that are required in most recipes. EXCEPT FOR THE WET INGREDIENTS but there are some flavors listed – more about that later.
I get all my little bowls ready and the BIG BOWLS that will eventually be used for mixing (or just for holding the ingredients together if a mixer will be used).
(For some batches of baked goods that require a lot of ingredients in large amounts I use plastic bags and a bus tub or jumbo bowl or even a box to keep everything together.)
THE JUMBO PLASTIC BAGS WILL HOLD SEVERAL SMALLER BAGS AND AS LONG AS THERE IS NOTHING WET OR STICKY IN THEM, THEY CAN BE WIPED OUT WITH A DRY CLOTH AND REUSED.
I choose the size containers I will need for the listed ingredients on my “measuring” tray and begin measuring out each dry ingredient into the appropriate container. Flours, sugars, salt, baking powder, soda, spices & etc.
When every single dry ingredient has been checked off the recipe, (easy to see because the little dishes contain the ingredients and if one is empty, is is very obvious) they go into a plastic bag – except for the sugars, which go into a separate plastic bag because sometimes the sugars are creamed with butter or shortening.
I sometimes put the spices in with the sugars but also in with the flour and oatmeal or other dry ingredients. They don’t lose their oomph if the dough is mixed within two or three weeks.
Dried fruits, raisins, cranberries, etc can also go in with the flour if you are going to do the baking within a couple of weeks.
At this point I check the amount of flavorings I will need – to make sure I will not be caught short when I am ready to mix and bake.
(I do have little bottles I have saved and often measure the flavoring too and put the bottles in the big bowl with the rest of the ingredients)
Now I highlight (with a different color) the “wet” ingredients that will be added when I am ready to mix and bake.
The plastic bags with the ingredients WITH THE RECIPE ON TOP and easily readable, go into one of my big bowls and are covered with plastic wrap.
The bowl goes onto a shelf in my pantry.
Then I haul out another big bowl and start the process over again. Since you already have all the dry ingredients out, this goes much faster with each repetition.
I have a lot of large bowls but if I run out, there are always JUMBO plastic ziplock bags that will hold all the ingredients and sometimes the necessary equipment.
I have a bunch of the “disher scoops” of various sizes – enough that I can tuck one each in with the ingredients. They are not expensive and it saves a lot of time washing the ones which you do not want to mix flavors.
And I also get out, check the parts of my cookie presses and for the rechargeable one, make sure it is charged up and put it with the spritz cookie setup.
So, when you are ready to do some baking, pull out the bowl or bag with the RECIPE, the assembled dry ingredients, then FIRST CHECK THAT YOU HAVE ALL THE WET INGREDIENTS – ENOUGH EGGS, ENOUGH BUTTER (AND THAT IT IS THE RIGHT KIND OF BUTTER – unsalted or salted), MILK, BUTTERMILK, MOLASSES, SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK OR WHATEVER.
Now select one batch, measure out the wet ingredients and start mixing.
With all the time-consuming dry ingredient measuring done, it is much faster and a lot more fun.
AND – THERE IS NONE OF THE STRESS WHEN YOU DISCOVER THAT YOU DON’T HAVE AN ESSENTIAL INGREDIENT, THE NUTMEG CONTAINER IS EMPTY, THERE IS NOT ENOUGH VANILLA & ETC.
The three utensils in the center are DANISH DOUGH WHISKS, WHICH ARE INCREDIBLY EFFICIENT AT MIXING HEAVY COOKIE DOUGHS BY HAND.MUCH BETTER THAN A SPOON OR FORK AND REQUIRE MUCH LESS STRENGTH IN THE HANDS AND ARMS. You can find them at some kitchen stores or order online from Amazon or another online vendor. They come in two lengths and I find the longer ones work better for me.
After you have done this a few times and are comfortable with the routine, and have the room to spread out, you can do more than one recipe at once, measuring all the flour for two, three, four or more recipes at the same time, then going on to sugars, other ingredients, etc. This is what I usually do with known recipes that I have baked many times before. But if you are just starting out, the sequential process described above works better, with less chance of a mistake.