The Secret to Holiday Bake-Ahead Success: Buttermilk Scones (Plus, 10 More Recipes!)
For the d'Arabian family, the day after Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday season. We put up holidays lights, shop for a Christmas tree, light up the fireplace (even though it's 70 degrees) and decorate the house. The girls celebrate with a teapot full of homemade hot cocoa (tip: stir in a spoonful of pumpkin puree for a little extra fiber and vitamins), and we start our holiday baking. Our annual Mother-Daughter Holiday Tea is usually the first week of December, which means we typically have one or two weeks to bake up the treats. And because the holidays are our favorite time to share homemade gifts with friends, neighbors and teachers, we have plenty of baking to do!
My girls, of course, want to be part of it all, and that’s the fun of it — it's a family activity! One of the best pieces of advice I can give parents who are looking to cook more with their kids is: Plan it for when you have plenty of time. Make it a Friday night activity after an early dinner, or spend Sunday afternoon with music on and the oven humming, keeping you cozy and warm while you bake away lazily. To get the baking done in time, then, we have to start early and freeze just about everything. So whether we are cooking for neighbors' gifts or getting a jump-start on party food, I embrace make-ahead options that can be frozen (which in baking, is just about everything).
And that leads me to my No. 1 holiday baking secret weapon: my Simple Buttermilk Scones (pictured above) from Food Network Magazine. They are quick to make, they are scalable, and they are a versatile canvas for almost any flavor profile you can imagine — add tiny chocolate chips and fresh rosemary, or orange zest and dried basil, or dried edible lavender and chopped white chocolate.
Scones make an annual appearance at our Mother-Daughter Tea, but they are also perfect for pulling out of the freezer for a busy holiday morning, serving to houseguests or taking as a last-minute hostess gift. And they can be frozen either baked or unbaked. For baked scones (such as our party leftovers), I place them in a resealable freezer bag, squeeze out the excess air, and freeze. To serve, bake at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes. For unbaked scones, I partially freeze them on a baking sheet before placing them all in a resealable freezer bag in the freezer. To serve, bake at 400 degrees F for 17 to 20 minutes. Frozen unbaked scones are an incredibly strategic gift because they can be pulled out and used whenever it is convenient for the gift recipient (haven’t we all received too many treats in one week and had to throw them out?). For gift-giving, I wrap the frozen scones in cellophane and attach a small tag with baking instructions. To make the scones extra special, you can whip up an easy flavored butter or cream cheese, such as my White Chocolate-Mascarpone Butter (pictured left) from Food Network Magazine, and send a little with your gift.
And because we are talking about holiday treats to share, here are some more of my favorites:
- Quick Cinnamon Apple Tart
- Rosemary Chocolate Chip Shortbread
- Black Bean Brownies
- Yellow Cakes in a Jar with Chocolate Ganache
- Brown Butter Madeleines
- Homemade Granola
- Chocolate Chip Biscookie
- Fruit and Nut Holiday Shortbread
- Chocolate-Yam Marble Cake
- And my signature holiday dish: Potato-Bacon Torte (which freezes great, but bake it first)
What are some of your favorite make-ahead holiday treats?