what to bake in quarantine

April 24, 2020

Well, it's been a minute since I last posted here. As time dragged on and I did not blog, it felt more and more unlikely that I would, unless something very special happened to drag me out of my blogging lethargy. ***Enter COVID-19***

Like the rest of the world, I've done quite a bit of baking in the last 6 weeks. I'm still working full time, but I'm mostly working from home instead of commuting one hour each way to my job. This has really opened up a lot of extra free time aka baking time in my schedule! Normally I keep most of my baking projects to the weekends, but now I'm able to bake pretty much any day. If I have a dough that I need to pull out of the fridge a couple hours before shaping, that's no problem when I'm working from my kitchen! I love it.

In light of the extra baking time in everyone's schedules, I've compiled a list of some of my favorite recipes to make. I know that many baking supplies are limited or hard to find right now (I had to UPS some yeast to a friend in California a few weeks ago because she was running out and couldn't find any anywhere!), so I've done my best to be mindful of that by suggesting potential substitutions where possible. I'm including a lot of different recipes aimed at different kitchens so that hopefully everyone can find a recipe on this list that they have all of the ingredients and kitchen equipment for right now.

A special note regarding bread flour: There are several recipes in this list that call for bread flour. Bread flour has a higher protein content (usually 11.5-13.5%) than all purpose (AP) flour (usually 9.5-11.5%). Rustic, lean doughs will almost always call for bread flour because the higher protein content allows for a chewier, strong dough. However, I've been unable to find bread flour anywhere in my area in over a month. In recipes that call for bread flour, if you're lucky enough to have some, use it! If not, AP flour is a suitable quarantine substitution (but try the recipe again with bread flour once it's available!). King Arthur AP flour is the best substitution because it has the highest protein content (11.7%!) of any AP flour brand. If possible, use unbleached AP flour rather than bleached for breads - the beta-carotene in unbleached flour contributes to a better flavor and better aroma. Bleached AP flour is great for cakes, cookies, and pastry doughs.

Without further ado, here are my quarantine recipe suggestions. Happy baking!

If you own a dutch oven and love a good crusty bread, then you should make Jim Lahey's insanely popular No Knead bread. Chances are you've already heard of or even made this bread before. It's a classic for a reason - it's easy, there's not a ton of hands-on time, it's delicious, and you feel like a fancy bread genius when you pull it out of the oven.

  • Where to find the recipe: I've actually posted an adapted version of this recipe before - find it in the second half of this post.
  • Special equipment needed: dutch oven
  • Potential ingredient substitutions: see special note about bread flour at the top of this post
  • My notes: Like most lean doughs, this bread tastes the best by far on the day that you bake it. A day or two after baking, it makes a great toast. After a couple days, your leftovers can be turned into amazing rustic croutons, breadcrumbs, or a delicious panzanella! 

If you've already bested the Jim Lahey recipe and are looking for a new challenge, or if you've always wanted to make baguettes but feel intimidated, then you have to try Peter Reinhart's recipe for pain à l'ancienne. This bread has the flavor, crumb, and crackliness of a baguette without the fear of not shaping them correctly. The instructions are long, yes, but read through them before you freak out. Reinhart goes in depth on each step to make it easier and clearer for you. It's actually one of the simplest bread recipes you can make, and the payoff is incredible.

  • Where to find the recipe: It's on page 192 of Reinhart's book The Bread Baker's Apprentice. It took me a little while to find it on the internet, but I finally came across it posted on this forum. There's also an updated version from a different Reinhart cookbook posted on Epicurious. The Epicurious recipe uses a totally different method of producing gluten development (stretch and fold vs kneading) which I've done in other recipes, but never this one. I've never tried this version of the recipe, but I am sure it's also delicious!
  • Special equipment needed: a baking stone is ideal, but if you don't have one, you can put an upside-down baking sheet in the oven while it's preheating, and then slide the loaves and parchment paper onto it to bake. Sliding the dough directly onto a preheated pan helps with oven spring. A bench scraper is also quite helpful for shaping the dough (if you don't have one, they're cheap and useful in many recipes. I have two and I use them all the time).
  • Potential ingredient substitutions: see special note about bread flour at the top of this post
  • My notes: This recipe is a tried-and-true favorite for me. Per the notes I've scribbled in the margins of my cookbook, I first made it in 2014 and have been baking these loaves regularly since then. It's a fairly forgiving recipe - I've added too much water before for an overly wet dough and it still turned out delicious. Just make sure your water is ice cold and you don't skip the overnight fermentation - it's crucial to the flavor and gluten development.
    Similarly to the Jim Lahey dough, these taste the best the day they are baked. To reheat the following day, wet your hands and lightly pat them all over the baguette before placed it in a hot oven for a few minutes. The loaf will reabsorb the water and have that delicious just-baked freshness.

If you're a plan-aheader and you have milk on hand, make Stella Parks's English muffins! I was planning to make these a week ago, but realized I didn't have any milk. What a disappointment. Luckily, I got some during my weekly shopping trip on Monday and was eating fresh English muffins by Tuesday. They were so tasty and so easy (another no-knead dough!) and so thrilling to make. This recipe does have two lengthy rises, so make sure to read the recipe through before starting and plan accordingly (Stella recommends mixing them up in the morning, portioning before bed, and then you can have fresh muffins in no time for breakfast the next day).

  • Where to find the recipe: Stella has posted it on Serious Eats, and you can find the link here. There's an updated version in her cookbook, Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts, on page 278, which is what I use. The updated version eliminates the honey and egg white and increases the amount of milk, and also calls for a 10 hour initial rise (instead of 4-5 hrs), but otherwise looks to be pretty similar.
  • Special equipment needed: cast iron skillet or electric griddle
  • Potential ingredient substitutions: see special note about bread flour at the top of this post. I've also successfully substituted Earth Balance for the butter, and I'd imagine you could switch in a neutral nut or soy milk if you're hoping to make a vegan version. You can also sub in white flour for the whole wheat if you don't have any.
  • My notes: I live in a household of two, so I love recipes like this because the English muffins are good for up to a week at room temp or a month in the fridge. Since you toast them before you eat them, they'll still taste as delicious on day 4 as day 1. In fact, I am toasting one for a pre-dinner snack as I write this!

If you're craving pie but you're quarantined in a small household and all the gyms are closed so you really don't need a whole pie, then Stella Parks's apple turnovers are for you. Can you tell I'm a big fan of Stella's recipes? She is probably my most trusted baking source, and she definitely didn't let me down with these turnovers. I just made them for the first time last week and I was absolutely blown away. Honestly I'm not really an apple pie fan (shocking, I know), but I LOVED these turnovers. They are inspired by McDonald's apple turnovers and they have a deep apple flavoring thanks to a special ingredient - freeze dried apples - which you grind up and add alongside fresh apples for a doubly strong apple flavor.

  • Where to find the recipe: The recipe can be found in her book, Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts, on page 288. I also found a link to the pastry crust recipe here and the filling here. If you are using these recipe links, once you've finished step #3 of the pastry crust recipe, stop there and start following the steps in the turnover recipe - it will pick right up with more directions for the pastry dough (I think I worded this kind of confusingly, so let me know if you have any questions).
  • Special equipment needed: food processor - a high-powered blender will also work (I often use our small Ninja for recipes like this, even though I own two food processors!)
  • Potential ingredient substitutions: the freeze-dried apples are a must, but luckily freeze-dried fruit is starting to be widely available. Whole Foods has a big line, and I actually got mine at Kroger. They only had cinnamon flavored apples, but they were perfect in this application! If you don't have unsulfured molasses or sorghum on hand, I'd recommend subbing in honey, dark corn syrup, brown rice syrup, or brown sugar dissolved in a little water. I haven't tried any of these, but I think they would be quarantine-worthy substitutions! 
  • My notes: This recipe makes 10 turnovers, which is a lot for a small household. The good news is that they crisp up beautifully after being reheated for a few minutes in the toaster oven or regular oven. You can also freeze the raw turnovers once you've shaped them. Just let the frozen turnovers thaw in the fridge a few hours and the bake as normal.

If you've used this time in quarantine to make a sourdough starter (or if you already had one!), then I have to share one of my favorite sourdough recipes: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedoes! This bread is delicious plain or toasted with butter, or as part of a savory sandwich or (omg) as an extra-cheesy grilled cheese sandwich. I haven't made this recipe in a while because I don't usually keep a starter going for more than a few months at a time. I made this recipe a lot when I was in college, and one of my housemates enjoyed it so much that she traded me a textbook I needed for a batch of these loaves!

  • Where to find the recipe: It's on page 278 of Reinhart's book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, or you can find a blog post featuring it here.
  • Special equipment needed: a baking stone is ideal, but if you don't have one, you can put an upside-down baking sheet in the oven while it's preheating, and then slide the loaves and parchment paper onto it to bake.
  • Potential ingredient substitutions: See special note about bread flour at the top of this post. I've made the recipe without chives and thought it was good, but the chives really elevate the flavor. If you can get your hands on any, I highly recommend including them. One ounce of chives is a lot, but don't skimp on them. You could try substituting green onions as well, although they don't have as strong of a flavor.
  • My notes: I haven't made this recipe recently, but based on my notes in the cookbook, I made it a lot in 2013 (lol). Here are some of my notes at that time: The recipe says to bake the bread for 35-40 minutes, but I've never baked them longer than 25, sometimes about 20. Baking time will really depend on size and how accurate your oven temp is, but for recipes like this, always go off visual clues over recipe times. They should be nicely browned, but not burnt. I've also noted that it's important to roll the loaves up very tightly around the cheese so you don't have gaps in slice. My final note was to not add too much potato water at the beginning of the kneading process, but to knead for several minutes and let the water hydrate the flour before adding additional water.

If you're ready for your next big quarantine baking challenge, then it's time for croissants. Yep, I'm telling you to make laminated dough. Many people are intimidated by croissants or think they are extremely difficult to make. It's time to overcome that fear! I love making croissants. I find it to be a calming process. Don't get me wrong, the recipe itself is time consuming. You have to plan your day around it a bit because of the time needed for various rises or chills in the fridge. But when you actually bake these, you let them cool for the appropriate amount of time, and then you tear one open and see those beautiful distinct layers... well. It's an amazing feeling. Also, they taste freaking delicious.

  • Where to find the recipe: One of my first blog posts covered croissants! I walked through some of the tricky steps and explained them, and then posted one of my favorite recipes. If you don't need the more extensive walk-through of the recipe, just scroll right to the end for the full recipe. Here is the blog post.
  • Special equipment needed: A bench scraper is helpful, but not necessary.
  • Potential ingredient substitutions: I know I put up a big stink about using King Arthur AP Flour and European-style butter in my blog post, but that was pre-quarantine! Feel free to use any AP flour and unsalted butter you can find.
  • My notes: If you're feeling confident in your ability to make the croissants, try adding fillings! I'm personally partial to savory fillings like ham and cheese, but chocolate or almond paste are classics as well.

If you're looking for a new and delicious recipe to try, but you don't need it to be overly complicated (in case you can't tell, I LOVE overly complicated recipes), then make the coconut white chocolate variation of Stella Parks's Honey-Roasted Peanut Butter Cookies! Of course, you could make the regular version without the coconut or white chocolate, and they are fully delicious. But the combination of coconut, white chocolate, and peanut butter in this cookies is highly irresistible. I've found that even people who don't care for coconut love this cookie. Thanks to finely ground peanuts + peanut butter, these cookies have an amazing peanut flavor and are still delicious and texturely pleasing on day 2 or 3, something I really value in a cookie. Of course, you can also make a big batch, scoop, freeze, and bake on demand, which is what I prefer to do with any and all cookie doughs.

  • Where to find the recipe: It's on page 50 of Stella's cookbook, Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts, and I also found it on this blog. The blog link is for the regular cookies. To make the coconut white chocolate variation, stir in 6 oz (2 cups) shredded coconut and 6 oz (1 cup) finely chopped white chocolate into the dough right before scooping it.
  • Special equipment needed: food processor - a high-powered blender will also work (I often use our small Ninja for this recipe)
  • Potential ingredient substitutions: you could substitute regular peanuts for the honey roasted peanuts, but I would recommend dry roasted either way.
  • My notes: I notoriously overbake cookies. It's something I'm working on, and I've improved, but am still prone towards. If you're like me, pay special attention to this instruction from the book: "Bake until the edges are firm and just barely beginning to brown but the cookies are still puffed and steamy in the middle."
If you're looking for a quick and easy savory snack, I'd recommend scallion pancakes! I've seen recipes for these floating around, but had never tried making them until my friend Rachel posted them on her blog and shared a how-to video on her instagram (@milkandhoneymi). I tried them out and Kyle and I both fell in love with them. They've quickly become a staple in our house- you can make a batch, roll them out, and then freeze them individually so that when you need a snack, all you need to do is pull one out and cook it! We love them plain, with a dipping sauce (there are a million recipes out there), or topped with fried eggs, rolled up with savory fillings, you name it.

  • Where to find the recipe: On Rachel's blog - here is the link. Check out her other recipes while you're there - she's been posting a ton during quarantine, and they are all accompanied by how-to videos on her instagram!
  • Special equipment needed: I like to cook these in a cast iron skillet, but I think you could use any skillet really.
  • Potential ingredient substitutions: None! This is a pretty straightforward recipe. 
  • My notes: The first time I froze a batch, I stacked them with wax paper in between, which I don't recommend. I had trouble removing each individual pancake without breaking it. Rachel recommends parchment paper or plastic wrap which I think would work better. I've actually been using freezer paper, solely because I have a box of it that I never use (why did I buy it? no idea). Since freezer paper is only treated on one side, I cut big pieces and folded them in half, and stored one pancake per folded piece of freezer paper, and then stacked a bunch of the pancake-filled papers and kept them in a gallon ziploc bag. It's a lot of paper initially, but you can reuse them multiple times. It also makes it really easy to grab them out of the freezer one at a time AND you can even roll out the pancake directly in the folded freezer paper if you want.

If you're ready for some comfort food, then it's obviously pizza time. I'm sharing my favorite pizza dough recipe ever. I will warn you - there's a rising time of 24-72 hours. Do the 72 hour rise! It is one thousand percent worth it. Just stick it in the back of your fridge and forget about it for a few days. This recipe was developed to be made in a food processor, and that is the easiest way to quickly mix the dough, and it does provide excellent results. However, I made it by hand for years and it was delicious that way as well. It's an extremely wet dough, so you can't just knead it by hand as you would normally. Instead, you can employ the French kneading method. If you don't know what that is, here is one of my favorite videos of the technique. It might look intimidating, but it's pretty fun and a great way to get a workout while the gyms are all closed! I will note that at times I've ended up with some wayward dough on the ceiling when French kneading. Oops.

  • Where to find the recipe: The recipe originates from Cook's Illustrated, but luckily is published in full on the Serious Eats website. Here is the link. This recipe is not just for the dough, but also includes ingredients and directions for a sauce and toppings. I always go my own route in sauces/toppings, but I'm sure their sauce is delicious as well (though I've never made it).
  • Special equipment needed: Food processor (or not, see my comments above).
  • Potential ingredient substitutions: see special note about bread flour at the top of this post
  • My notes: I have a couple favorite topping combos for this dough. Do note that it if you really layer the toppings on, it will overwhelm the dough and the bottom of the crust will be soggy. Be gentle when adding toppings! (I know, it's hard.) With that in mind, there are so many options. You can stick to the classics with a red sauce and cheese, pepperoni, etc. I also love it with a white sauce, bacon, and thinly sliced onions. My favorite flavor combo though is one that Kyle and I have been making together for the last 6ish years - since before we were even dating - and have thus dubbed it the "relationship pizza". For the sauce, we make this Thai curry sauce. Then we top it with a combination of chicken, red peppers, jalapenos, thai basil, red onions, and coconut. It was originally inspired by a pizza Kyle ate at 3 Floyds Brewery!

If you're thinking of making curry and you need something to accompany it, you have to make naan. If you're never made fresh naan before, it is going to delight your socks off. It is SO good and SO easy. I am serious. Even if you're not having Indian food, you should still make it, and then eat all of it straight. I'm going to share the recipe I've always used, but I'm sure there are about a million recipes out there that are just as good or better. This is just the first one that I found the first time I made naan, and I've never strayed from it.

  • Where to find the recipe: As I mentioned, there are a lot of recipes out there. This is the only one I've ever tried - it's pretty simple and I've always had success with it. You can find it on this blog.
  • Special equipment needed: A cast iron skillet is preferred to get a nice char, but you could try it with any heavy nonstick pan you have.
  • Potential ingredient substitutions: If you don't have plain yogurt, you could sub in sour cream, buttermilk, or probably even plain milk. The anise seeds are optional - I add them for look and flavor, but it will be completely delicious without.
  • My notes: I like to finely chop or microplane some garlic and add it into the melted butter before brushing it onto the finished naan for a subtle but tasty garlic flavor.

If you want to make a special treat for your dog too, then make homemade dog treats! This is one the easiest, and in my opinion, most rewarding things you can bake. Sure, whipping up a batch of homemade croissants gives you a deep sense of satisfaction and pride. But seeing the look of soul-level adoration on your dog's face when you offer him one of these homemade dogs treats also feels pretty dang good. Additionally, it's really hard to mess up the recipe because dogs will eat and love them no matter what. One note of caution - I've seen a few recipes for dog treats that include bacon. While I think we all know any dog would vote for that, apparently greasy human foods like bacon can cause pancreatitis, especially in smaller dogs, and your dog may end up in pain at the vet. Since I've only made these treats for other people's dogs, I decided to err on the side of caution and skip any recipes with bacon in them.

  • Where to find the recipe: This is the recipe I use. I received positive feedback from 11 out of 11 dogs that I used as taste testers!
  • Special equipment needed: Bone-shaped cookie cutters are very cute, but not necessary.
  • Potential ingredient substitutions: This recipe is very forgiving. You could grind up oats and sub them in for the whole wheat flour. You could probably even use white flour. Use a different nut butter in place of the peanut butter. Use applesauce instead of eggs. Use squash instead of pumpkin! It's all good.
  • My notes: When adding the flour, start with about half of it and then add the rest a half cup at a time. I didn't have trouble adding it all in, but I saw many people commenting on the recipe that they found it was too crumbly with the full amount of flour. Also, the baking time on this recipe is really a guideline - it depends on your desired crunchiness. A softer treat is nice for older dogs, while young sprightly dogs may enjoy a very crunchy treat.

And that's it for my quarantine baking list - for now! I hope you've found this list helpful and that you're able to try out one or more of those recipes. As you may have noticed, I mentioned two bakers a LOT - Peter Reinhart and Stella Parks. They are two of my favorite sources for recipes and I can't recommend their books enough. I know we all have enough cookbooks already, but these are worth the addition to your shelf. Peter Reinhart's book The Bread Baker's Apprentice was foundational to my knowledge of baking. I bought it back when I was just starting to have a deeper interest in the science of baking, and I've read it cover-to-cover multiple times. If that sounds weird to you, the first half of the book isn't recipes, but instead goes over everything from breaking down the three main components of a wheat berry to explaining the 12 stages of bread baking. BBA is a wonderful book, and one I reference often.

Stella Parks's book Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts only came out a few years ago, but it's quickly become a staple for me. Stella is well known in the baking world for her deep knowledge of the science and the whys of baking, and also for responding to almost any recipe-related question you post on her instagram. Her book contains not only a lot of awesome recipes, but she also gives you a rich history of how the recipes came to be in their current state. She researches and traces them back as far as possible to their first publication and tells the story of how they changed over the years. It's really fascinating, and makes you appreciate you baked goods even more. Either of these books would be great reading during quarantine (or anytime)!

If you try any of these recipes and have questions, PLEASE let me know. These are some of my most favorite and often baked recipes. I hope you love them as much as I do, but if you run into a snag, I'd be happy to troubleshoot. Happy quarantine baking, my friends.

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