(BPT) - 'Tis the season for cookies, cakes, candies and more! Those delectable treats are an iconic part of celebrations big and small. Whether you want to cozy up by the fire with your favorite confection or bring a few batches to the school bake sale, you're bound to be baking like crazy this time of year.
With visions of holiday cookies dancing in your head, you know that means you'll have to carve out time to make all those goodies. Don't stress at the thought of a packed schedule and the temptation of too many unhealthy treats. Registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner shares some smart tips to save time while also creating better baking that provides rich flavors and higher quality nutrients.
Streamline by planning ahead
First, consider designating a part of your cabinet or pantry to your holiday baking supplies and let family members know it's off limits. There's nothing worse than starting a recipe only to realize an ingredient you need became a snack two days prior. Those nuts, dried fruit and chocolate can be tempting! So, stock up on high-quality ingredients and add a note to deter tempted snackers if necessary.
Another tip: Bake what you can ahead of time. "There are many holiday cookies that freeze beautifully," says Blatner. "That means you can start your baking weeks ahead of time and be ready for celebrations of all kinds. Just remember to thaw the day prior so that your baked goods are ready to go."
"Fresh ingredients are the key to superior baking and eggs are the perfect example," says Blatner. She recommends Eggland’s Best eggs because they are the only eggs that have double the omega-3s compared to ordinary eggs. Omega-3s are classified as “essential” fatty acids because they are important for maintaining good health and the body cannot make them on its own. Omega-3s also enhance baking as they improve emulsifying qualities.
More than just Omega-3s, Eggland's Best eggs have 25 percent less saturated fat, six times more vitamin D, 10 times more vitamin E and more than double the amount of vitamin B12. That means no matter what recipe you use them in, you'll be improving the nutritional profile of your holiday treats.
Use simple swaps for healthier results
Making more nutritious cookies can be as simple as swapping out a few key ingredients. Consider chocolate, a popular ingredient in holiday desserts. Instead of buying milk or white chocolate, use dark chocolate in recipes. "Dark chocolate is lower in sugar content and contains important antioxidants that are good for your heart," Blatner says.
Another smart swap is to switch out some or all of your recipe's white all-purpose flour for whole-wheat alternatives. This pumps up the fiber content of your recipes. "Whole-wheat flour is a good option to keep on hand in the pantry," says Blatner. "For cookies with a more delicate texture, consider using a finely milled whole-wheat pastry flour."
Find recipes with low prep time or prep-ahead qualities
Holiday baking is a fun tradition whether you do it solo or plan a cookie day with the kids. To save time and reduce stress, look for simpler recipes or ones that offer you the ability to do steps ahead of time. With this Eggland’s Best recipe for classic cut-out sugar cookies, you can make the dough the day before so you're ready to dive into the fun the day of, baking and decorating the cookies.
3/4 cup butter (softened)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
2 Eggland's Best Eggs (large)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
6 cups white flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1/3 cup Eggland's Best Liquid Egg Whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
small squeeze of lemon juice
In a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until fluffy and pale in color.
Add in the eggs, vanilla and sour cream and mix until combined.
Add the baking powder, salt and flour (one cup at a time), mixing until everything is evenly incorporated.
Cover and chill the dough, preferably overnight for best results.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out to a 1/4- or 1/2-inch thickness.
Cut into holiday shapes with a cookie cutter.
Transfer cookies to a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and move cookies to a rack to cool.
In a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until fluffy.
Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, and mix until combined.
Add the salt, egg whites, vanilla and lemon juice and beat until ingredients are incorporated.
Spread over cooled cookies, sprinkle with colored sugar and serve immediately.