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The dough's and don'ts of holiday baking

Assortment of baked goods at Vermont Public
Andrea Laurion
Vermont Public
An assortment of holiday baked goods by chef Susan Reid.

Two seasoned bakers answer your questions as we head into the holiday baking season.

A brief stroll through the grocery store's candy aisle will reveal that the holiday season is underway. Candy canes, Christmas chocolates, bags of Chanukah gelt and prebaked pies abound on store shelves. While these treats are delightful, for some, it is the ideal time to experiment with home baking.

We were joined by Martin Philip, the baking ambassador for King Arthur Baking Company. His book, "Breaking Bread: A Baker’s Journey Home in 75 Recipes," earned the 2018 Vermont Book Award. Susan Reid, a chef, baker, instructor and King Arthur alum, was also featured. Reid has been honing her culinary skills since her mother enlisted her to prepare appetizers for family dinner parties at the age of 12.

Tips on making the perfect sugar cookie

Philip says using a scale to measure ingredients accurately is necessary for the perfect sugar cookie texture and will avoid cardboard consistency. "If you've got too much flour in your cookie recipe, that's when things can become brittle," Philip explained. "Or if you have too much liquid, you can develop a little bit too much gluten, and you end up with something more akin to cardboard."

Easy holiday recipes

A listener wrote in asking for the easiest holiday recipe that is still tasty and festive. Reid suggested any sort of bar cookies. "You can make something like Linzer cookies, where you get a lot of bang for your buck as far as the amount," she said, but "if you found two sheet pan bar cookies, that would get you most of the way there."

Suggestions on show-stopping holiday desserts

"They don't have to be an all-day project," Philip suggests. "You can do a simple jelly roll and fill it with some holiday flavor. Or maybe make a chocolate mousse, a chocolate cake, and then just do a roll-up and a simple icing."

"Our family does a very old, English sort of thing," Reid said. "We make plum pudding and frankly the best thing about it is setting it on fire—so I don't know of a better showstopper than that."

Some of the recipes discussed:

Broadcast at noon Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.