More of a cook than a baker? If you’re one of the folks who has said this for a while, let this be the year you give the latter a shot. With a decent kitchen scale, you’ll find that everything gets faster, more accurate, and cleaner, to boot. And although some say cooking is an art and baking is a science, we’d quibble that there’s room for creativity in the latter, too. You can dot focaccia with olives, herbs or garlic. Use whatever kind of buttercream you love the most in a layer cake. Bake your bread until it’s bien cuit (dark golden and well-done) or just enough.
Here are five delicious, tried-and-true recipes that will almost assuredly make a baker of you!
Irish (and New Zealand, for that matter) scones are a world apart from the dry, pucklike ones you might have tried at a café. Our writer had to go to the Emerald Isle itself for the recipe of her dreams, courtesy of the Ballymaloe Cookery School. She gleaned tips like grating (versus cutting) the butter, all the better for it to incorporate into the flour. Aerate the dough for a fluffier scone. Maintain a light touch so you don’t overdevelop gluten and make things tough. It’s a darn good scone. Lace it with everything from strawberry jam to chocolate-hazelnut spread.
Focaccia has seen a trendiness boom ever since Samin Nostrat profiled it in her excellent show “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.” And if you’ve only had the day-old stuff at your local Italian restaurant, and never tried the pillowy, still-warm focaccia you can make on your own, you’ve never had focaccia. Nothing except brownies or cinnamon rolls (read on!) makes your house smell so good when baking. You can start our recipe on a lazy Sunday afternoon and be elbow-deep in plush focaccia by evening.
Why go to the mall? Excellent cinnamon rolls can be as simple as rummaging through your pantry. There’s nothing fancy in these. The zest of one orange and a package of cream cheese from the deli are the only “tough to find” items. We love that you can make them in advance, rolling them gleefully and feeling like an artist, then sock them in the fridge overnight. In the morning, slide them into the oven before anyone gets up. (Pro tip: Need everyone to get up on time? The scent of these baking will do the trick nicely.)
We’re not gonna be pushy about it or anything, but Father’s Day is just around the corner, and you could make an epic cake. This towering layer cake, for example, is a snap, doesn’t even need to be frosted on the sides, and looks like you plucked it from a bakery thanks to our scalloped Celebration layer cake pans. Because here’s the thing about layer cakes: They look like hard-to-execute perfection, but they’re a snap and you can easily cover most mistakes. In short, they’re a perfect summery baking project.
All power to the sourdough obsessives, but sometimes you just want a crusty country-style loaf of bread with your salad. When we’re breaking out a charcuterie platter, big green salad or grilled meats, we want a simple bread like this one. It calls for a basic (and awesome) earthenware cloche, which duplicates the even heat of a stone-lined oven and gives the bread a distinctive shape and heft. This recipe is by our founder, Chuck Williams, who fell in love with this style of bread in France and Italy.
Bake early in the morning or late at night. Consider these recipes as your entry (or re-entry!) point to the gratifying, meditative art.