I know, this is a horse blog. But it’s -7 outside right now, people. I went to the barn yesterday to bring Tristan’s second heavy blanket (after waking up in the middle of the night, remembering it was still in my basement awaiting washing, and convincing myself he was going to freeze to death because I am a bad horse mom, thanks brain). I petted him on the nose. Then I went back inside somewhere warm, because NOPE.
So anyway. I digress. It’s the most wonderful baking time of the year! Ingredients are on sale, keeping the oven on all day serves dual duty, and people are happy to eat sugary, floury, delicious things.
I thought I’d list a few of my favorite recipes and a few of my favorite tools to use for baking. I’d love to hear your favorites, too!
Brownie Roll Out Cookies from Smitten Kitchen
These are a perfect chocolate cookie. They are intensely chocolatey, fudgy, easy to make, and they last for days. They hold up to frosting – they are not too sweet – and make perfect ice cream sandwich cookies. This winter, I’m considering adding in a little mint extract to the dough and some crushed peppermints to the top. If you’re like me, and you hate the idea of rolling out dough because who has time for that, let me tell you: these cookies are worth it.
Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies from the back of the package
The original. I make these all the time. ALL the time. I actually use a recipe that my grandmother pretended was invented just for me back when she was teaching me to bake – in the picture above. I bake up about half of them, and then I put the other half in these genius freezer cookie dough storage trays. Then I can either just eat balls of cookie dough (in summer) or cook up 2-3 cookies in the toaster oven (in winter). Lately, I’ve been baking them with these Snickers baking bites. I chop them up and the half-melt and caramelize and my husband (who generally does not eat the things I bake) is obsessed with them.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
I know, they sound really complicated, but they really aren’t, but wow do they pack a lot of awesome into one cookie. These are another go-to because I always have the ingredients on hand, and they’re a fun one to bring to parties. They’re also a good Thanksgiving cookie. They are easier to make than you think, have a great flavor profile, and people are always impressed with them. I make a lot of things with dried cranberries, because a) I hate raisins, raisins are the devil and b) every year for Christmas my parents get me a humongous bag of Ocean Spray dried cranberries.
Okay, on to other things.
English Muffin Toasting Bread from King Arthur Flour
Even if you think you can’t make yeasted bread, you can make this. It’s so, so easy and it makes the best toast OF ALL TIME. It crisps up but is still moist in the center. It takes, like, an hour to make, so you can start this first thing in the morning and have fresh bread for breakfast. It’s the recipe I make when I need bread NOW. (I bake most of our bread, I’m that snob.) I have a 40 year old KitchenAid stand mixer that I use to make this recipe: there’s not even any hands-on kneading.
No Knead Bread from the New York Times
Once upon a time I could not make yeasted bread. I decided I wanted to learn, and this was my first success. You cannot screw this recipe up. It does require slightly specialized tools, but it is so damn foolproof, and it makes the most beautiful, wonderful loaf of bread. I almost always have some rising in a dough bucket on the counter. (Or, um, multiple dough buckets. Don’t judge.) For the dutch oven, I have a Cuisinart but I secretly lust after a Le Creuset.
St. Lucia Buns from Paul Hollywood
Okay. Confession time. I have made St. Lucia buns probably a half dozen times, but never successfully. I don’t know what it is. It’s some kind of mental block. My husband’s family is Swedish, so I have tried mightily. But! This recipe comes from the Great British Bake Off, and I fully intend on spending some quality time watching the episode in which they show the process, then committing myself to it until I get it right. This is the year, people. (Next year, brioche, which I also have yet to do well.)
Those are all recipe staples of my holiday – and year round baking, really. Next: kitchen tools.
Half Sheet Pans + Silicone Baking Mats
These are now my staples for all sheet baking – cookies, shaped breads, you name it. I am obsessed with them. I’ve used a lot of cookie sheets over the years and I now use these constantly. I also love the silicone lining. No more sticking, quick and easy cleaning, and they crisp the bottom of things beautifully. They’re perfect for doing things like french fries or cubed potatoes for that reason, too.
PS – the ones I linked to are USA Pans which is a company that is getting ALL my money lately; I am slowly converting all the things in my life to their products. I have almost all their sauce pans now and they are wonderful. Like All Clad but less expensive, American-made, and not as fussy.
Bowl Scraping Attachment for Kitchen Aid Mixer
Once you start using this, you will never go back. It’s like a miracle. You don’t have to stop the stupid mixer every five minutes and scrape things down into the bowl. It just…happens.
Ice Cream Style Cookie Scoops
Scooping out cookie dough is clearly the worst part of making cookies. It’s tedious and wasteful. I bought my first of these cookie scoops probably about eight years ago and now I have them in ALL the sizes. They’re great for portion control, shaping, efficiency, speed, and neatness. No more using your fingers to get dough out of a spoon. Just squeeze and drop and every so often rinse them with hot water. Then keep going. I love them so much.