Today I am going to share some of my favorite kitchen items that I use around the holidays to make getting that big fancy meal on the table as perfectly as possible. I am also going to let you in on a few baking tricks! The first thing I think of about the holidays is baking! I really started enjoying baking with my mom when I was 11 years old. Thanksgiving was my favorite because we would make like six desserts just for our little family of 6. A little ridiculous you might say, but it was the memories that I love about baking.

The BIGGEST, most IMPORTANT tip when it comes to any baked good: breads, cookies, pies, etc…basically anything that uses flour, is that you NEED to stir that flour up before measuring it. Think about it! That flour has been sitting in it’s bag/bin since the last time you used it. It has settled. If you were to measure 1 cup of flour straight from your bag/bin & weigh it, then stir up that flour & weigh a new cup they would be two different weights as illustrated in the photo below. The first cup weighs more than the second cup that was stirred. I added flour to the scale of the stirred cup to equal the 5.3oz of the settled cup & it was 2 TBSP more flour! Think about that next time you bake! If every cup of un-stirred flour you measured automatically added 2 TBSP more flour to your product, a recipe with 3 cups of flour would have 6 TBSP more flour which is a little more than 1/3 of a cup! Can you see why this is so important? You can even see that the settled flour looks more packed, whereas the stirred flour is lighter. So stirring the flour incorporates air into the flour, giving you a more light, airy product, than a dense & dry roll or cookie. So think of it as THE UNWRITTEN RULE OF BAKING: Stir the flour before measuring it!

Since we are on the topic of flour, I can’t help but share my favorite yeast product. There is nothing like this yeast from SAF. It’s a premium, high power yeast that really does work faster than plain old yeast. The only place that I can find it, not directly from sellers to bakeries, is a store in Utah called Emergency Essentials. I actually didn’t know they had it. I got my first bag from a direct seller when I worked in a bakery. It lasted me 3 YEARS & was still working great through the end! I only make dough with yeast like once a week or twice a month, and a great tip for extending the life of yeast is that you can FREEZE IT! Have you seen my other posts about freezing things? I’m obsessed. Anyway, when I first open a bag like this, it fits into two, 2-cup containers. I will put the date on both of them & I will put one straight into the freezer & the other in the fridge (if I don’t have room for both in the freezer.)  You can use the yeast cold from the fridge or freezer, just use slightly warmer water to bloom your yeast with. Speaking of blooming yeast, another trick I learned in Culinary School is that if you give yeast some sugar when you stir it up in the warm water, it blooms faster. I typically do double the sugar to yeast (2:1 ratio) so if I do 1/2 TBSP of yeast I will do 1 TBSP of sugar. The sugar is kind of like food for the yeast. But this SAF yeast is seriously the best because the dough doubles in size in like 15-20 minutes for rolls/breadsticks. I am not even kidding! LOVE this yeast! And if I didn’t live in Utah, I would still pay the $6 shipping for it because it’s that good!

Another MUST HAVE when it comes to baking is a silicone baking mat. I looked long & hard before I bought mine. I just hated the thought of paying $25 for one mat, no matter how cool it was. I was looking at this 4-pack of Sil-Eco mats & the only difference that I could find was that they are made in China, compared to France where Sil-Pat’s are manufactured, & guess what? They are $29.99 for all 4! Talk about perfect Christmas gifts! I have opened two of mine & I might gift the other two to my mom & my mother-in-law, if I think I can live with only two mats. Nothing sticks to them! Not cheese, not cookies, not biscuits, not anything! And they clean so easily. Just read the instructions to care for them (no cutting on them with knives, keep them flat or rolled up) & you will be golden!

Another favorite kitchen item of mine are these magnetic measuring spoons. Like whoever invented these is a genius. I hate the ones on a ring, & I even have some that adjust from like 1/8 tsp to 1 tsp, but I can’t use one measuring spoon for everything & the ones on the ring always get in the way. These magnetic measuring spoons have two ends per spoon, & they magnetically stack & un-stack in a cinch! LOVE THESE!!! They even have pretty colored ones now too!

I hope these tips & products help make your life in the kitchen easier this holiday season! Happy Baking! ~Amber @ Dessert Now, Dinner Later!