How to Bake Like a Pro for the Holidays

OK y’all so this post is a little different from what I normally feature on my blog but I am obsessed with the holiday season and BAKING! This is going to be a special edition post! With the holiday season in full swing, I thought this post was only appropriate 🙂 I have been baking for as long as I can remember. I remember waking up early (we’re talking 6am) every Saturday morning when I was young and baking some sort of treat. My sister always got mad at me because I was noisy (oops hehe). I’ve been known to be the best baker in my family (besides my Nonna, because, really, she’s amazing). I actually went to business school with the intention of one day opening my own bakery. Fun fact for the day! I also like to think of myself as a pretty advanced baker and holiday baking is one of my favorite things in the world. I just love the flavors of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves. Not to mention how they smell all melding together. Perfection!

A lot of people get so intimidated by holiday baking because it can seem really intense and intricate with a lot of steps but it doesn’t have to be. People tend not to bake things from scratch and it honestly hurts my heart because it’s so much easier than people think! Baking for the holidays is just like baking any other time of the year! I always just break down the recipe by steps and try not to look at the entire recipe as a whole because it can get kind of overwhelming, especially if you’re a beginner.

How to bake like a pro:

To start, I always get allll my ingredients out before I even start baking. That way you can see it all and will be less likely to forget anything.

Next, I like to prep any ingredients I might need, such as the apples I need for the apple pie recipe I’m going to share with you. For that recipe, I always peel and slice my apples first before I do anything else. I also have this insane apple peeler, corer, slicer contraption that looks like a torture device but it peels, slices, and cores the apples in like 10 seconds. It’s crazy!

That brings me to my next tip, always do what takes the longest amount of time first. I slice and peel my apples and mix them together with the spices to create the filling. The reason I do this first is because it takes time for the apples to macerate. Macerate is just a fancy word to say soften and release juices. That’s why canned pie fillings have a kind of thick syrup or “goo” if you will (wow, that’s sounds appetizing). It’s because the fruit has had time to macerate.

My 4th tip is to do everything you can to make it an easy process. This is where kitchen tools come in. The food processor is the most amazing invention ever! Especially for baking pies! I make baking pies easier on myself by using a food processor to make the crust! Toss all the ingredients into the food processor and pulse it until the mix forms into a ball and voila, you have a crust in only a few seconds 🙂

The last tip I have is to decorate your sweets however you want! It doesn’t need to be a whole grand spectacle. I think the reason people get so intimidated by holiday baking and baking in general is because they think it needs to be some unattainable masterpiece when it doesn’t. I think the best way to make a baked good look the best is just doing what you’re comfortable with and good at doing! I love doing lattice crusts on my apple pies. I think it just adds a little flair and I’m comfortable doing them. You don’t have to do something super intense. Your baked good is going to look a million times better if you do something you’re good at to decorate than attempt something that’s really hard and potentially disastrous. A big family meal is not the time to try something completely different!

This recipe is actually a family friend’s recipe. Mrs. Patti Rossi is seriously one of the sweetest humans ever and her recipe is AMAZING! The very first time I ever made this pie was when Mrs. Patti had our Sunday school class make pies for Thanksgiving and she taught us all in the church kitchen. It’s one of my favorite memories and I have made this recipe every year ever since 🙂 I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Apple Pie Recipe

Ingredients:

Crust

2 1/4 sticks cold, unsalted butter (always bake with unsalted)

3 cups all purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. sugar

6-8 Tbsp. ice water

Filling:

6 granny smith apples

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

1tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. allspice

Directions:

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Dice butter and refrigerate. (You’ll want to to use unsalted butter because then you’re controlling how much salt is going into your crust. The biggest giveaway of a novice baker is using salted butter to bake. That’s a big no-no.) Peel and slice apples thinly. (Granny Smith apples are the ideal baking apple because they’re tart and the tartness will cut through all the sweetness. They’re also really firm and can stand up to being macerated and baking without falling apart.) Combine Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Allspice, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup flour and toss with apples. Set aside.

In a food processor, add the cubed butter, flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse while adding 6 Tbsp. of ice water. If mixture does not form a ball yet, add 1 Tbsp. and continue pulsing until ball forms. Repeat until ball forms. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter with the flour in a bowl. Be careful not to over mix because the gluten in the flour will start to develop too much and make your crust tough and doughy instead of flakey and light.) Take the dough out and split into 2 balls of dough. Chill dough for 30 minutes. (This will keep the butter in the dough cold which will create air pockets when baking to create a flakey crust.)

After 30 minutes, roll out both balls of dough and place one crust in buttered pie plate. (I love this crust because you don’t have to blind bake it first!) Add filling and spread evenly. Use the top crust to decorate however you’d like! I like to do a lattice crust because I think it’s so pretty 🙂 Brush top with egg wash (1 egg + 1 Tbsp. water). Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour! Let cool and serve.

My apple peeler, corer, slicer doesn’t look like it belongs in a kitchen.

How cool is it though? It’s super fun to use! Get one here!

It has never taken me such a short amount of time to make dough! The Cuisinart food processor is a kitchen essential.

This pie plate is freaking cute! You can buy it here!

My rolling pin says “Made with love by Gabby”. How cute is that? So when I roll out dough it stamps it all over!

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

XO