Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Getting Organized

When people find out I make roughly eleventy billion cookies, I usually get one of two reactions, sometimes both from the same person.

"You do what now?" and/or "How, exactly?"

As with any big project, organization is key.  And the fact that I'm a little crazy when it comes to organization definitely helps.  I'm the girl who got a label maker for Christmas and thought it was awesome.  The girl who has color-coded file folders (that match the purple and green file cabinets where they are contained).  The girl who used to rewrite her notes from classes so that they would flow better for studying than they did in the lecture.  And the girl who just recently reorganized all her printed and loose recipes to create three binders containing very specific recipe types, organized and separated by dividers (but I stopped short of actually alphabetizing the recipes, because I never remember their actual names).

So organization is the first step to preparedness.  I do this in a few ways.  First, while there's always reasons to have cookies, you don't want to start baking massive quantities of cookies without first thinking of your audience.  How many you make should be dictated by the number of people your sharing with and the process by which you will share.  Do you go to a lot of holiday parties and want to take trays of cookies to each one?  Do you want to give a bag of cookies to everyone you work with?  Do you have 3 kids at 3 different schools and 3 different bake sales?  In these times of financial uncertainty, maybe you want to scrap the purchased Christmas gifts this year and give everyone a homemade gift of yummy cookies (stay tuned for more on that).  Make a list of all the possible people you want to give cookies to/make cookies for, from family to friends to teachers to coworkers to your hair stylist and more.

Now, decide if everyone is getting the same amount of cookies.  I do tailor the size of my cookie gifts, based on several factors.  When I know the cookies will be shared at a party or holiday gathering, I make the gift a little bigger.  Or if I give to a coworker who has a family at home, there may be a few extra gingerbread men or sugar cookies for the little ones.  A friend who looks forward to my cookies but is also conscious of her weight gets a smaller tin (and is appreciative!) because she wants to indulge, but not gorge herself.  Some of these things won't be evident the first time around, and I still don't have the perfect number for my needs, since my list of recipients changes from year to year.  But cookies aren't a one size fits all gift, so try to keep that in the back of your mind.

The next step is deciding on your cookie recipes.  It's never a bad idea to start with recipes you know and are comfortable with.  It takes some of the stress out. This is not a project for people who don't love to bake, so stress isn't an option.  Make it fun.  Use the recipes your family likes or try the ones you're comfortable with.  Have I made complete failures? Yes.  Have I given them as gifts?  Most of them.  Did I stress about it? No.  I just made notes on the recipe to try again next year.  Or threw out the recipe.

This isn't even all of it.

The next part of preparation will be organizing your resources.  This means figuring out exactly how much flour, sugar, butter, etc., you're going to need.  And this is why I think starting early (I started my list in July this year) is key.  Once you know what you need, you can start keeping an eye out for sales and coupons to start stocking your pantry.  Generally speaking, baking should be inexpensive, but if you're going for large quantities, the cheap stuff adds up.  By planning early, I scored 30 pounds of flour for $6 (normally $18 at this grocery store) by purchasing it in August.  Just make sure you have a cool place to keep it.  Similarly, I scored several bags of candy (Reese cups, Hershey Kisses, M&Ms) at big discounts by getting them over the summer when chocolate doesn't move as quickly off store shelves.  And don't forget that butter freezes just fine, so pick up a few pounds when it's cheap.  And if you're not a member of a big box club store, do a little reconnaissance and if the prices are good, ask the service desk for a free one day shopping pass to take advantage and stock up on your baking needs.

I'll continue to address some of these issues as we go along. (And yes I will explain the packages of Betty Crocker Cookie Mixes, too. They are not the devil, as originally suspected.)  But let me know if you have questions on getting started.  Leave me a comment--I want to hear from you.

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess

1 comment:

  1. I came across you via a link from Betty Crocker on FB. Just wanted to share with you that last year I baked 3,430 cookies, about 286 dozen, in a weeks time. I give them to pretty much EVERYONE I know & they have come to expect them every year. I've baked for gifts probably for 10yrs now. With last year being the most I've ever baked...I was unemployed at the time...don't know what this year will bring yet! :)