baking, dessert, horrible warning, rescuing defeat from the jaws of disaster, the worthwhile aspects of making a small fuss now and again
comments 16

holiday baking: tips for success


photo by O. Holliday, with styling by R&P taster Aidan Marie

The holidays can lead people to try their hands at baking projects that may be beyond their limitations of time and ability.  Christmas is behind us, but there is plenty of entertaining yet to be done.  Straight from the R&P test kitchens, here are a few handy suggestions to help you keep your efforts in line with what is possible, reasonable and comfortable for you.

1. If the instructions are in Polish, then

Well, you see, I don’t really need to say anything else, do I? 51 weeks of the year, that there would be my tip-off.  Not the week of 12/25!  That is the week when it seems feasible and even desirable to try to construct teeny tiny gingerbread houses to perch on the edges of our cocoa mugs.  Secretly.  Commencing late in the day on the 24th.  Using a recipe written in a language I do not speak.

1. If the instructions are in Polish, then familiarize yourself with how the Polish alphabet renders the words “make sure they are damn tiny and I mean that.”

2. Try not to have the phrase “Martha Stewart you ain’t, honey” be your mantra.  It does not facilitate.  You are not aided by it.  Nothing is added to your life by its incessant repetition.

3. No, you cannot reconstruct the recipe for royal icing from memory.

4. Royal icing that seems kind of runny will not “probably be fine.”

5. Throwing the little cookies helps nothing, not-Martha.

6. If the market your daughter drives to turns out to be as out of powdered sugar as you are at home, you can make your own in the Vitamix using granulated sugar and cornstarch.  Do not ask me for the correct proportions.  Kinda eyeballed that one.

7. Low-sugar is for later.  Royal icing that could glue fur onto a hairless cat is what you are after. Confectionery DUCT TAPE, baby. Spackle-tacular.

8. Getting harder and harder to thread that damn sewing machine needle, even with the glasses–oops, sorry.  Wrong tirade.

9. Do not refer back to the picture and torment yourself with thoughts of how planning ahead, patience and hand-eye coordination are clearly bred in the Polish bone in ways people with a measly 26-letter alphabet cannot ever hope to approximate.

10. If the pastry bag says “do not fill above this line,” you can probably take it on faith the manufacturer had good reason to tell you that.  All the testing required to support the claim has been handled by others, and no further action on your part–other than obedience–is required at this time.

11. The day may close with a good number of houses that are too big to perch on anything, o ye who will not likely ever have an eponymous magazine empire.  Go to bed.

12. Once the sun rises again, thank yourself for neglecting to notice that a full recipe of gingerbread dough will make a lot of houses, and again for the stubborn desire to get it right and use the spare dough to try again, because when you get it (in your own way) right, you will feel very, very pleased with yourself.


13. Bless the daughter who looks over the little elfin Levittown you have constructed out of cookie dough in the quest to make them the right size to fit the mugs and remarks, “the big ones will make nice table decorations.”


14. FYI, the first written Polish sentence was day ut ia pobrusa a ti poziwai (I’ll grind [the corn] in the quern and you’ll rest), which appeared in 1270, perhaps on a primitive post-it note right after the holidays.



  1. …….if I could post a photo of my big smile with tears on the edges I would.
    Just picture that.
    Fussy too with things like icing and gingerbread.
    Thanks for the Levitt-y.


    • janet says

      Says she of the fennel-pollen-dusted, hand-rolled lotus-petal ravioli! You are my model of persistence and excellence.

  2. Jacki Rhoton says

    As someone who makes gingerbread every year in many different shapes and sizes, I’ve never seen any gingerbread quite as cute or near as surprising and fun as these are. They will definitely be on my Decemeber 25th week of baking next year.

  3. narf7 says

    Nothing so hilarious as spending a bit of your day tossing recipes in foreign tongues into Google Translate…I love those tiny gingerbread housey cup sitters! How wonderful! I also love this blog…I love the way that you write and can’t believe that you have so few rss feed read followers! Count me in girl…I am here to stay now. “Real” blogs are few and far between and I actually found your blog through a link in another blog that I decided not to follow. I am off to let the chooks out of their pen…love the farmy ex-fairground, the ethos, the honesty and the humanity that you bring to your blog. Here in Tasmania, Australia I am about as far away from where you are over there as I can get (can anyone say “Antarctica?”…) BUT a shared ethos is an ethos halved…er…I think I just mixed my metaphores to the detriment of that statement but you KNOW what I mean 😉

  4. narf7 says

    I am SO pressing my oldest to name his firstborn “Ostatnie wpisy”!

  5. narf7 says

    Not only did you get the option to use Google Translate, but they give you a template for the tiny gingerbread houses as well! BONUS! I love this blog, 1 post in, and I am ready for Christmas 2013 😉

  6. I love these wee houses; no time this year, but I’ve bookmarked the page for another time. I admire how you kept them simple; I have a problem with not doing that . . .

    Found you through Narf7 and will definitely be back.

    I’m proudly not-Martha (although I’ve made two of her ideas and they worked out very well); my Mum’s enough Martha for me and I don’t mean that in a magazine designer sort of way, either. 🙂

    You are in my good books forever, for all these tips, but mostly for tip #6 – anyone who just kinda eyeballs a quick fix for anything is definitely my sort of not-Martha! (of course, I have lots of those ‘oh, well . . . ‘ moments, too.)

    Thanks for the laughs; we can never have too much humour, can we?

    Hope your Christmas is wonderful. ~ Linne

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