flour

Delish Dish Editor

Make-Ahead Holidays—Now’s the Time to Start!

Seasons greetings, everyone! Jessica Christensen, senior editor with Better Homes and Gardens special interest titles here to welcome you to December—the busiest baking time of the year. I love baking during the holidays (and any time, really) but with my 9-month-old son demanding the majority of my time this year, my baking is going to be more structured and organized—as in make-ahead everything!

Which leads me to last weekend. When my son’s nap time rolled around, I set to work on a batch of rolls to freeze for Christmas dinner. My choice: Feather Rolls, a time-tested recipe from our BH&G archives. Like the name implies, these rolls are soft, tender, and light as a feather (thanks to the secret ingredient of mashed potato!).

However, since I don’t eat dairy products (long story), I had to find a substitute for the butter. My solution to that problem: Earth Balance margarine, the best non-dairy, high-fat margarine on the market for baking. It contains 100 calories per tablespoon, just like butter, so it behaves in much the same way. It’s also free of hydrogenated oils, which is not true of most margarines.The dough came together beautifully—made from flour, sugar, margarine, mashed potato, water, salt, and yeast. Once the ingredients were mixed together, it was a simple matter of kneading the dough until it formed a smooth ball.

Now here’s a big perk of the Feather Rolls recipe—the dough can rise in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours. So when I got completely distracted for the rest of the day playing an endless game of peekaboo, it was no big deal. The next day I turned the dough out, cut it into 16 pieces (the recipes says 15 pieces, but it’s much easier to get equal sizes from an even number of bread pieces), formed each piece into a rough ball, and placed the pieces in a 13×9 pan to rise for 40 minutes. The awkward 16th piece of dough had to squeeze in on one end of the pan, but I’m OK with that. Then it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to hot and yeasty baked rolls.

Once the rolls were cool, I wrapped them up in a layer each of plastic wrap and foil, and then placed them in a larger baking dish with a tight fitting lid. Then off to the freezer they went, where they will stay until the big holiday festivities later this month. I plan to pull them out of the freezer the morning of the feast to thaw and then bake them for about 10 minutes at 350°F to warm them up.

Then, because I was “on a roll” I decided to make up a double batch of Mini Focaccia.  I used half of it to make a large focaccia round, and then split the other half of the dough up to make mini focaccia. I topped it with fresh rosemary (from a summer plant I brought inside that is now struggling to survive in my window). I learned long ago that this recipe needs to either be eaten immediately or frozen to keep it from getting tough and dried out. Fresh bread doesn’t last nearly as long as store-bought. So after it was baked off to the freezer it went.

Three cheers for planning ahead! What baked goodies are you going to prep and freeze for the holidays this year?