Every year, the beginning of December brings with it cooler weather, busy shopping centers and hours of holiday prep. Making homemade sweets can be fun, nostalgic and is a great way to bond with the family, but it also consumes a lot of time and uses a lot of electricity. Here are three ways to make your holiday baking more energy efficient.
Consider no bake, stovetop or store-bought options
Making homemade goodies doesn’t necessarily require the oven. If energy is a concern, consider opting for no-bake desserts. Over the past few years, the number of no-bake options has grown exponentially. For some inspiration, check out these recipes from Spoon University and Delish.com. Another way to save energy is to use the stovetop to make items like chocolate covered strawberries or fudge because using the electric stovetop costs about half as much as using the oven for the same amount of time. Typically, activities like melting chocolate or making caramel from scratch doesn’t take as long as preheating the oven and baking cookies, so the energy cost difference is actually more than 50 percent.
If you want baked goods, but the idea of making them stresses you out, opt for store-bought goods or pre-measured mixes. This is especially efficient if you don’t have any ingredients on hand to bake with. The cost of buying all the ingredients needed to make cakes, cookies and candies can really add up, and often times it is cheaper to grab something pre-made from the grocery store bakery, or snag a mix that only requires eggs, oil and water. Additionally, these options cut down on the time you spend preparing and cleaning up, and gives you some extra time back in your day.
Prepare wisely and work efficiently while baking
Whether you are baking or going the no bake route, fortune, and your wallet, favors the prepared. There are lots of ways to sneakily save energy while prepping your holiday sweets. First of all, check your cabinets to see what ingredients you have on hand, and see if you can use what you already have to make something delicious. AllRecipes.com (and their corresponding smartphone app) allows you to search for recipes by ingredient, which will eliminate trips to the store.
Another easy way to save energy is to pull all of your chilled ingredients out of the refrigerator at one time. The fewer times you open the door to the fridge, the less energy it will take to keep your fridge cold. The exception is for butter – lots of recipes require butter to be softened or to be at room temperature. Both the FDA and USDA have said that if properly covered, butter is safe to leave at room temperature for a few days, and by sitting butter out early you can eliminate the need to use the microwave to soften the butter.
Next, plan ahead to use the least amount of tools possible. See if you can get away with using one or two measuring cups or spoons instead of the whole set. For example, if you need to measure ¼ cup of sugar, ½ cup of brown sugar and 1 cup of flour, you can use the ¼ cup for all of the measurements in order to cut down on the number of dishes that need to be done. Also, consider mixing your batter by hand instead of using an electric mixer. Although handheld and stand mixers don’t use a ton of energy, every little bit of savings during the holidays can add up.
Finally, if you are baking, don’t preheat the oven too early. Often, people preheat the oven as soon as they start baking, and are not able to prep their recipes by the time the oven preheats, resulting in a loss of energy as the oven runs. Some people even argue that preheating the oven isn’t necessary in all cases. A better approach is to prep all of your batter and ingredients before preheating the oven. Once you preheat the oven, use the time it takes for the oven to heat up to scoop cookies onto a sheet, pour cake batter into the pan, or start loading the dishwasher. That way, your delicious treats are ready for the oven as soon as it finishes preheating.
Be patient during prep and baking
Your dough and batter is prepped, and all you have left to do is pop your pans in the oven and wait. However, there are ways to make baking more energy-efficient and cut electricity costs. First and foremost, once you put your treats in the oven, don’t open the oven to check on them unless you absolutely have to. Every time you open the oven, you let out heat and cause the oven to work harder to raise the temperature back to where it should be. This makes your cookies take longer to bake, and increases the amount of electricity that was used to bake them. Instead, set a timer and use the oven light to check on your delicacies.
To really stretch your electricity, consider baking all of your items on the same day, and some even at the same time. Doing all the work in one day can be exhausting and tedious, but it allows you to capitalize on an already-hot oven. If you are making batches of items, like candies or cookies, bake multiple trays at a time, if possible. If you are baking different items, look for recipes that roughly use the same oven temperature and bake them at the same time. Just be sure to watch when baking different items at the same time because sometimes both dishes will require a little bit longer to bake than if they were baked on their own.