Whizzing the graham crackers

Thanksgiving is less than a week away! Are you ready?

Pulling off a big feast like Thanksgiving Dinner is a lot of work, it’s true. But if you plan ahead, it doesn’t have to be a miserable day spent slaving away in the kitchen. Remember, when it comes to baked goods, a lot can be made in advance and stored in your fridge or freezer until you need them.

Pie crusts are a great example. Make pie dough a week in advance or even more, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer until you’re ready to roll it out and bake your pie. If you need a graham cracker crust, crush your graham crackers ahead of time and store them in a ziplock bag or airtight container.

Looking for a pie recipe? A local paper, The Salt Lake Tribune, featured one of my recipes in a piece this week titled “Crust to crust: Readers share favorite Thanksgiving pies”. I shared one of my new favorite holiday recipes, this Cranberry Caramel Tart. It was a fun opportunity and if you need some inspiration, look no further!

Sweet tart dough

What’s Thanksgiving without a roll to mop up all of that gravy on your plate? Rolls are another thing that can be done ahead. You have a couple of options depending on how far out you do-ahead.

Letting the dough rise

If you make your dough more than a day in advance, let it rise initially as you normally do, portion it out and form your rolls and then freeze it on a parchment lined baking sheet covered tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. A few hours before baking on Thanksgiving day, take the rolls out of the freezer and let them thaw on the sheet pan and rise again. Brush with egg wash or butter, if desired, and bake.

However, if you want to start your rolls just the day before, put the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise in the fridge. The dough will rise in the fridge, but at a much slower rate than it would in a warm place. The slow (or “retarded”) rising will actually enhance the flavor of the dough as well. Let it rise for 12 hours or more and when ready, form your rolls and proceed as normal.

Rolls, ready for their second risingIf you’re looking for a great roll recipe, some of my favorites are Challah Rolls and Parker House Rolls.

There are other baked goodies that can be made in advance and pulled out the day of Thanksgiving. Pies don’t have to be the only dessert you serve, what about cookies? Freeze balls of cookie dough days or weeks in advance and bake them straight from the freezer.

Try these Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies, or how about some Gingersnaps?

Cookie dough

I’m actually traveling to Seattle to spend Thanksgiving with my family. My husband and I aren’t arriving until Wednesday evening so preparing ahead is a must for me. I’ll be bringing a cooler filled with pie crusts and rolls, as well as the rest of the fresh herbs from my garden and a big bowl of homemade cranberry sauce.

I’m also bringing a surprise, some cinnamon rolls, all ready for the oven. I figure we could all use a treat Thursday morning while we’re bustling about getting dinner ready.

Cutting the rolls

Whatever your plans for the Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you plan to bake something completely delicious! Start planning now and reduce your stress. At the end of the meal, when you’re undoing the top button of your pants and contemplating a second piece of pie, it will have all been worth it.