Has self-isolation gotten to you? Do you often find yourself staring off into the void or binge watching the original Twin Peaks?
Perhaps you’ve dusted off some old cookbooks and decided to try your hand at a popular style of kitchen sorcery also known as baking – a combination of an art and science that isn’t for the faint of heart nor the heavy-handed.
And it seems during this period of isolation and social distancing, baking has become a new favorite pastime.
There’s nothing like a freshly home-baked loaf of bread and there’s a lot of pride in a successful pan of artisanal brownies or carrot cake that didn’t come packaged in a box.
So with all this extra time on our hands, let’s seize the day and release our inner Betty Crocker or Pierre Hermé.
Start with starter
Speaking of artisanal endeavors, if you’re feeling ambitious and think you’d like to carry on your new bread baking talents for years to come, you should consider making your first starter.
The basic elements of bread (flour and water) hang out in your fridge or on your counter slowly developing a personality as unique as its sourdough flavor.
All you have to do is keep it fed and happy and you’re on your way to never wanting store-bought sourdough again.
Day one: Combine half a cup of whole wheat flour with one-quarter cup of cool water in a large jar. Mix until it’s a thick paste. Cover loosely and rest in a warm spot.
Day two: Check for bubbles! (If you don’t see them yet, that’s OK.)
Day three: Feed your starter. Remove and discard about half of the starter with a spoon. Add to the remaining half a cup of flour and one-quarter cup of water and mix well. You can begin using all-purpose flour now if you prefer. Rest loosely covered in a warm spot.
Day four, five and six: Continue to feed your starter daily by discarding half and adding half a cup of water and one-quarter of a cup of flour, stirring well. Warmth is your friend, so keep it out of the fridge at this point.
Day seven: Hopefully by now your starter will have doubled in size and will appear bubbly and fluffy. If it’s not there quite yet, that’s OK. Just keep feeding it until it’s ready!
Once your starter is ready, you can test it by dropping a bit into some water. If it floats, you are ready to use it.
Like most living things, you’ll need to continuously keep feeding it. However many strong starters can survive off feedings only once a week. Just keep an eye on it. If it begins to deflate, it needs to be fed.
Once your starter is ready to go, check out their recipes for sourdough bread and get baking.
Don’t throw out those bananas!
You will never want to toss a browning or overripe banana again once you’ve tried this recipe. It’s simple, it’s resourceful and it’s delicious.
Half a cup of butter, softened
One cup of sugar
Two eggs, beaten
Three or four very ripe bananas
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
One teaspoon of baking soda
Half a teaspoon of salt
Half a teaspoon of vanilla (optional)
What you do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While it heats, mix together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and mashed bananas. Sift flour, baking soda and salt together and add to the mixture along with vanilla (optional.)
Mix carefully until just combined. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for about an hour — checking for doneness with a toothpick in the center. Once the toothpick comes out clean, your banana bread is ready.
The classic chocolate chip cookie
Yes, it is classic. Yes, it seems simple. But, if you’ve ever tried to make cookies from scratch (get out of here cookie-dough cheaters!) then you will know this recipe can be quite tricky and frustrating.
There are about as many versions of the chocolate chip cookie as there are opinionated grandmas, so proceed with caution. But most importantly, don’t overthink it. Sometimes simple is best, even if it’s not easy.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
One cup of butter, softened
One cup of white sugar
One cup of packed brown sugar
Two teaspoons of vanilla
One teaspoon of baking soda, dissolved
Half a teaspoon of salt
Three cups of all-purpose flour
Two cups of semi sweet chocolate chips
One cup of chopped nuts (optional)
What you do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While it’s heating, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then add vanilla. Add the dissolved baking soda and salt to the mixture. Incorporate flour, along with chocolate chips (and nuts if you like) then drop heaping spoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes — but keep a close eye! As soon as the edges are browned, remove the cookies to cool.
One of the trickiest parts of getting the cookie right is to pay attention to the baking time and don’t away from the cookie! Ten minutes in one oven is more like twelve minutes in another. Also, keep in mind your preference. If you prefer chewier cookies, take those bad boys out a little early. Store them in an airtight container and compare the results the next day.
That’s if they last until then.
The next level
Below are some hall of fame worthy options if you are all about going big or going home.
The Perfect Cheesecake: this recipe by Elise Bauer was adapted from a classic Dorie Greenspan recipe and is worth a try — plus, it’s very adaptable when it comes to adding toppings (try a caramel drizzle or a fruit compote!)
This should be a start to baking your stress away during these uncertain times. Go ahead and perfect your techniques, because once the pandemic is over, The Millennial Source will be back with some exercise tips to help you make up for all your research.
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