What have you been baking lately?

What have you been baking lately?

I’ve long been a fan of baking, finding it a particularly satisfying form of stress relief. As someone who works with words, it’s nice to occasionally spend an hour or two at work on a project and have something tangible—and edible—to show for my efforts.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I—along with the kids under my roof—were among those turning to baking more than usual, for comfort and distraction. In the early days we were decidedly ambitious: once we finally got our hands on some yeast, I made homemade pitas and brioche and cakes and cookies galore. My daughters baked every single day for weeks.

To routinize our baking efforts, last summer I started choosing one special item to bake each weekend to enjoy on Sunday morning. This new ritual began in an effort to increase the appeal of online church during the pandemic, but we quickly came to love it for its own sake.

We vary our menu from week to week, depending on our moods, energy levels, and what happens to be in the fridge: we’ve baked breads and muffins and cakes, though sometimes we take the week off from baking and we grab bagels or donuts at a local shop, or cook up a frittata or chilaquiles.

A few of our favorite recipes include:

Poppy seed cake. I add lemon zest plus a little juice, and bake mine in a loaf pan.

Cheddar dill scones. We’ve been baking these for YEARS and they never get old.

• Banana bread of all sorts and stripes. This brown butter banana bread with nutella was the biggest hit. (Subscription necessary: I’ve heavily relied on the NYT baking app this past year.)

Apple cider donuts (pictured above)—though we just baked them in muffin tins.

Star bread. Delicious made with cinnamon sugar, nutella, or raspberry jam.

Key lime pie. Disclaimer: we never ate for breakfast (or at least, haven’t yet) but I just made my first pie of the season last weekend and it was SO GOOD. I had to share.

We know we’re not the only ones baking for comfort and camaraderie during the pandemic. I’d love to hear about your experience: have you baked differently this past year, or established any special food-related traditions? Tell us in the comments!

P.S. Let’s talk about stress baking and our go-to chocolate cake recipe.

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54 comments | Comment

54 comments

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  1. Gina says:

    Oh how I love baking! Favorites always but more this last year are perfect chocolate chip cookies from cook’s illustrated (be sure not to overbake!) https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/cooks-illustrated-chocolate-chip-cookies-50075826
    Smitten Kitchen cinnamon scones – so easy and flaky and delicious! https://smittenkitchen.com/2019/09/cinnamon-sugar-scones/
    and Cooks Illustrated (again) crumb cake https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/new-york-style-crumb-cake-cooks-illustrated-52190451
    Other non breakfasty treats have been Naan from Half Baked Harvest https://www.halfbakedharvest.com/homemade-naan-step-step-photos/
    pasta and lots of pizza!! I ordered SAF instant yeast off Amazon and I found a 25 lb bag of King Arthur Flour at my local grocery store last May and it was like gold!

  2. Liz Snell says:

    I’ve been baking like a cray woman. First cakes (Maira Kalman’s book Cake), then cookies (I bake every week for our local community lunch, which is now take out of course), and have just made pie #6 in my attempt to finally master pie crust. The experiments have been really fun. I’m closing in on a combo butter/margarine crust that’s tasty & flakey. Recommend the gorgeous book Sister Pie, featuring a woman run bakery in Detroit. But I’m mostly using an old cookbook I found from the ’60’s that features prize winning pies from state fairs across the country! 🙂

  3. Annette Silveira says:

    Smitten Kitchen’s giant chocolate chip cookies. I don’t have a lot of patience for pan after pan of cookies so this recipe is perfect. A dozen or so giant chocolate chip cookies and I’m done.

  4. Joy Allington-Baum says:

    I’m working my way through Molly Yeh’s
    Book and blog. Have not attempted the complex decorations as I don’t have the patience at the moment, just using her core baking recipes. My biggest accomplishment were yeast donuts. All attempts were delicious.

    • Tamara says:

      I highly recommend Molly Yeh’s marzipan recipe. I never thought I could make my own. I’m with you in the taste not decorate option.

  5. Susan says:

    My Mother in Law was famous for her raisin bread all over the area of Louisville known as Okolona and beyond. So when Christmas 2020 was on the way and we were still on lockdown I started making loaves of raisin bread. I made over 30 loaves between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I gave them to neighbors and friends and shipped to family in Louisville. I am still making it occasionally for our immediate family who really enjoy it toasted in the morning.

  6. Kaylee Vida says:

    A friend shared a sour dough starter with me. I’ve made bread once – I prefer quickly throwing ingredients in my bread machine and having bread in a few hours instead of days later! BUT, I have enjoyed the discard. I’ve made pancakes and biscuits so far. Both delicious!

  7. Tory says:

    I’ve been working my way through Claire Saffitz’s wonderful book, Dessert Person. Her chocolate chip cookies are completely perfect and I’ll never go back to my old recipes! Also perfecting my weekly pizza and occasional bread making. I wanted to be able to make two pizzas at once, so in addition to my old pizza stone I now have a pizza steel as well. Worth every penny.

  8. Vanessa says:

    When I could find flour again, I’ve started my own sourdough starter and have been making bread! It’s every bit as amazing as I have imagined it would be (for the last 5 years or so of not doing it!). I also have been periodically attempting recipes from The French Chef by Julia Child. My French food fascination was definitely encouraged by book club this past winter!

  9. Deepa says:

    The flourless peanut butter sea salt cookies from Ovenly x Smitten Kitchen are our family favorite, so easy and so amazing. Last week I made them with almond butter for the first time and they were a big hit. Next I plan to try cashew butter. You cannot go wrong with these.

    Thanks for these links! I feel like my NYT subscription is worth every penny.

  10. Ellen Erhard says:

    I am a Key Lime Pie purist.
    NEVER EVER use other than key limes in a key lime pie. (Your recipe had suggested that one could substitute regular limes for key lime pies.) I repeat NEVER EVER. Check out “Nellie&Joe’s Famous Key West Lime Juice.” It’s the real thing, especially if you can’t get key limes at your grocer, (which in my opinion, can be a pain to process.)
    A cooked key lime pie should have a yellow coloring to it and I always make a graham cracker crust in which to put the filling. Nellie&Joe’s has an easy recipe on the back of the bottle. I find my bottles at Walmart Super Store, although they are available in other markets but at a higher price. The juice has a dated shelf life. All the more reason to make a key lime pie ASAP!
    Enjoy.

  11. Wendy Barker says:

    My husband has celiac disease and Type I diabetes so when I cook for him it has to be gluten free and fairly low carb. I’ve found a few recipes that work well: Gluten Free on a Budget’s Blueberry Muffins and Pumpkin Muffins that I adapted myself from Harrowsmith’s Pumpkin Bread recipe are staples. Last week I also found a recipe for Tahini Cardamom Cookies that we both like. The recipe only makes 12 cookies which probably isn’t enough for a family but is great for two seniors who have to watch what they eat. https://nadiashealthykitchen.com/tahini-cardamom-cookies-vegan-gluten-free-eid-cookies/

    • Susan says:

      My 2 daughters were diagnosed with celiac in the past 3 months. So far I’ve only baked using GF mixes. I will check these out. Thanks!

  12. Nikki Senecal says:

    My husband told me that chocolate chip cookies were his favorite so I checked my cookbook collection for recipes and have 25! I have only baked seven different ones this year (our favorite: https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2013/10/24/recipe-chocolate-chip-cookies/) but there are only two of us and seven recipes makes a lot of cookies! At the beginning of the pandemic, I couldn’t buy a hamburger bun in stores so I made my own! What a delicious surprise.

  13. Suzanne C says:

    I’ve made a lot of bread in my bread machine- so easy! We’ve really gotten into English Muffin Bread. Just the other day I made Southern Living’s snack cake version of it’s classic Hummingbird Cake and frosted it with Brown-eyed Baker’s Cream Cheese Frosting. (Although now I’m regretting that I didn’t make the whole cake, lol.)
    And I’ve been loving Erin Jeanne McDowell’s baking cookbook, The Fearless Baker. It’s a new favorite among my 100+ cookbooks.

    • Melissa Gerber says:

      English Muffin Bread really caught my eye! So, today I got out the bread machine and there is a loaf in there right now. I used the recipe from King Arthur’s. Can hardly wait to try it. Thanks!

  14. Ellen W says:

    I bake cookies and brownies fairly regularly for our family. Last year for my birthday I got Midwest Made by Shauna Sever and it is chock full of good recipes.

  15. Suzy says:

    Recently I made two pans of lemon bars from our old family recipe, plus 2 batches of Lemon Cooler cookies from a recipe online, and gave them out as treats to friends, with a whole yellow packaging theme. It was fun and I only got to eat a few!

  16. Julia Reesor says:

    I love baking and the past couple of years, I use only non wheat flours. I have lots of recipes that use almond flour & oat flour, so I’ve been baking scones, bagels and cookies and coffee cakes. I get lots of inspiration from the cookbook “Cauliflour Power” and yes, lots of these baked goods have riced cauliflour in them!

  17. Lee Bowers says:

    My best friend, Gim, started me making bread from her recipe and her instructions..We facetime and enjoy the company baking bread.
    The recipe is super simple….we each bought a cast iron dutch oven to bake
    our bread in.. It turns out great every time. I live alone so this facetime with Gim has got me through the pandemic plus baking this wonderful bread.
    I keep half of my loaf and give the other half to friends in my condo building.
    Life is good.

  18. Alison says:

    I have always enjoyed dabbling in baking for my family but the wonderful development around our house this last year is that my husband has taken up baking. He’s really enjoyed Jacquy Pfeiffer’s “The Art of French Pastry” cookbook…and so is the rest of our family. Our favorite recipes have been the beignets.

  19. Debbie says:

    My sister’s birthday was on Easter this year and she requested that I make Ina Garten’s Boston Cream Pie (it’s a cake, not a pie) for her birthday/Easter celebration. It was the most complicated cake I’ve ever made and while it wasn’t quite as pretty as the picture in Ina’s cookbook, it was incredibly delicious and everyone loved it.

  20. Tamara says:

    My 15 year old daughter has been really interested in baking lately. I got her a subscription to Tea Time magazine and she picked out lavendar scones and we need to try again!

  21. Allyson says:

    Earl Grey shortbread cookies. After watching lots of Great British Baking Show, I was eager to try a recipe using tea. I cut open a combination of caffeinated and decaf tea bags to get my loose leaves. (This way I could eat a cookie before bed and not stay awake!) You can see the specks of tea leaves in the shortbread … looks a bit like the vanilla bean flecks in Breyer’s ice cream.

  22. Heidi says:

    This was the year I have pretty much all the baking responsibilities to my 14yo. She loves all kinds of baking, and her specialties are chocolate chip cookies, herb fougasse (French focaccia) and from-scratch puff pastry. We’re got her a GBBO cookbook for Christmas a couple of years ago, and she’s learning a ton from it.

  23. Jen Calvin says:

    We have a fun new food tradition – we call it the Calvin Cafe. My sister in law (who is a chef and culinary instructor) randomly sent my boys (11 & 13) cookbooks and challenged them to cook for the family. The boys wanted to start doing it regularly, so on Saturday nights, the boys alternate choosing the menu and making dinner with me. I am loving it!

  24. Joy says:

    I’ve been baking up a storm. I’ve always loved baking but working from home so much this last year meant no commute so I had more time for cooking and baking. One of my very favorite baking sites is Sally’s Baking Addiction https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/

    In the last year, I’ve made her flat bread pizzas (a family favorite—we make these regularly), cinnamon crunch bread, soft multigrain bread, homemade Stromboli, rosemary garlic pull apart bread, fresh berry cream cake, and brownie ice cream sandwiches.

    Your key lime pie recipe looks great. I might have to try it. I’m looking for a good recipe.

  25. Virginia Westlake says:

    I found a recipe for Cranberry White Chocolate cookies on Pinterest. I didn’t have dried cranberries, so used dried cherries and they were delicious! A new favorite!

  26. Leora says:

    I have been baking bagels. I think I’ve really improved my technique but still looking for a good pumpernickel bagel recipe.
    You mentioned chilaquiles, please share how you make them.

  27. Ellen Erhard says:

    Back to the key lime pie… Most importantly, a true key lime pie will taste tart, not sweet. Nellie&Joe’s Famous Key West Lime Juice foots the bill. (My sister reminded me of that.)

  28. Carrie says:

    I’ve been exploring baking with yeast; my latest project was chocolate hot cross buns with chocolate custard cream. Decadent and so good!

  29. Erin says:

    I don’t really bake at all, ever. But in the last year, I’ve made pizza dough several times, as well as Irish soda bread for St. Paddy’s day. My partner loves the layered yogurt flatbreads from Smitten Kitchen, and so sometimes I will make those for him as a labor of love to show that I care about making food he enjoys even if it is laborious. 🙂 The little bit of extra time I eke out due to WFH is a luxury I didn’t have in the Before Times.

  30. Amy says:

    I have long wanted to have a go-to recipe for blueberry muffins. I have found it, and have to work hard to not make them every week! (I’m just now realizing that it’s possible I found the recipe here?) Anyway, Smitten Kitchen’s Perfect Blueberry Muffins are extraordinary! (I have even made them vegan using coconut yogurt and they still turn out perfect!)

  31. Stephanie says:

    I feel like Yossi Arefi’s cookbook Snacking Cakes has transformed our COVID experience! Deb mentioned the cookbook on Smitten Kitchen so I checked it out from the library, but it quickly became clear I’d need to buy my own copy. The cakes are not too sweet, there are variations/substitutions for each recipe, and the type of cakes varies widely (everything from cakes packed with apples to chocolate cakes) to suit each mood. Every recipe is designed to mix up quickly in one bowl with a minimum of mess. You probably have the ingredients for several of the recipes on hand right now! 😉

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