Pro-Level Baking Made Easy

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Unconventional recipes that yield amazing results

Photos by RJ GOODWIN

While I love spending time in the kitchen crafting creative, garden-to-table meals, I have a special passion for baking.

Like most beginners, I started out “by the book.”

But over the years, I started tweaking and adjusting my own recipes to bring them to perfection.

If you’re ready to stop following along on the cake box and take your baking skills to the next level, here are three of my favorite recipes that I know will impress your family and friends this holiday season.


recipe for french breadCrusty French Bread (No-Knead)
This recipe makes a crusty loaf of French bread that is as beautifully rustic as it is delicious. It takes a bit of time, but it’s easy and there’s no demand for unusual ingredients. The only special piece of equipment you’ll need is a Dutch oven, such as a Lodge or Le Creuset.

OVERVIEW
Total: 15 hrs 10 min
Prep: 10 min
Inactive: 14 hrs
Cook: 1 hr
Yield: 1 loaf

INGREDIENTS
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed (King Arthur – All Purpose)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt (Diamond Crystal Kosher)
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast (Saf Instant – Red)
1 1/2 cups water (bottled or filtered)

INSTRUCTIONS
Mix flour, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and mix until combined. The “dough” will be very sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave for around 12-16 hours.

Flour your counter or baking board liberally and turn out the dough, fold it twice and let it rest for 15 minutes then shape into a rough ball. Use only as much flour as necessary for the dough not to stick to the counter. Put back in mixing bowl and let rise for 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and put an empty 4-quart cast iron pot with lid inside (a.k.a. Dutch oven, like Lodge or Le Creuset).

When dough is ready, remove the cast iron pot from oven, take off lid and place the sticky, floury mess of a “loaf” into it, seam side up. Replace the lid and put back into oven. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake for another 15 minutes. Finally, take bread out of pot and bake for another 15 minutes or until golden brown and delicious. Let cool completely on baking rack before serving.


sugar cookie recipeButtery Sugar Cookies
This is my go-to recipe for sugar cookies because they’re delicious and also because it doesn’t require softened butter; you can mix up this dough immediately. Rolling it out is super easy with the dough sandwiched between parchment sheets and chilled. Perfect for a holiday cookie swap!

INGREDIENTS – COOKIES
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 sticks butter, unsalted

INGREDIENTS – ICING
2 2/3 cups confectioners sugar
2 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

INSTRUCTIONS – COOKIES
Whisk together egg, vanilla and salt in a bowl and set aside. In a second bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and baking powder.

Process the sugar in food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds (6 pulses). Add butter and process for another 30 seconds, or until no large pieces of butter are visible. Add egg mixture and process for 10 seconds, or until dough comes together.

Turn out the crumbly dough onto your counter or a baking board and knead for a few seconds until it comes together. Split dough in half. Put the first half in-between two sheets of parchment and roll out until 1/8 of an inch thick, or roughly 7×9 inches. Repeat with second half. Place both dough halves with parchment on a baking sheet in your fridge for 90 minutes or longer to firm up.

Pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment. Retrieve one dough sheet and gently peel off top paper, put the paper back and flip—then peel off the second layer the same way. You should now have an exposed sheet of solid dough that is not stuck to the bottom parchment.

Cut out cookies using your favorite cookie cutters and transfer to parchment covered baking sheet. Bake until cookies are just starting to brown, or about 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and transfer to wire rack.

INSTRUCTIONS – ICING
Using a stand mixer, whip all ingredients on high until glossy, soft peaks form, or 3-4 minutes. Spread icing onto completely cooled cookies. Let dry completely before serving or storing, or about 45 minutes. Enjoy!


recipe for chocolate cakeDouble Chocolate Cake
I have probably made this recipe over 100 times and it is my favorite cake in the world. The unique thing is that it calls for oil instead of butter, which makes for a more soft and moist cake. Recently I made a couple of minor tweaks (slightly less leavening and lower temp) that made it even better because it now bakes more evenly.

OVERVIEW
Total: 1 hr 35 min
Prep: 30 min
Inactive: 30 min
Cook: 35 min
Yield: 12 servings

INGREDIENTS – CAKE
Cooking spray, for greasing the pan
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder (love Hershey’s Special Dark!)
1 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (Diamond Crystal Kosher)
1 cup full fat buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil (Canola is ok but Avocado oil is better for you)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup hot brewed coffee

INGREDIENTS – ICING
6 oz semisweet chocolate (Ghirardelli bar is great)
2 sticks unsalted butter (like Kerrigold) at room temp
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 confectioners sugar, sifted

INSTRUCTIONS – CAKE
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease two round 9” pans with cooking spray and line the bottom with rounds of parchment paper. Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt by pushing through a fine mesh sieve with a spoon (to avoid lumps). Add flour mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

In a second bowl, combine buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla; whisk to combine. With the mixer on low, add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix to combine, about 15 seconds. Add the hot coffee and mix until just combined.

Divide batter between pans and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, or about 35 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before using a butter knife to release cake from side, then turn out on cooling racks.

INSTRUCTIONS – ICING
Chop chocolate and melt in heatproof bowl over simmering water. When smooth, set aside to let cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until it gets lighter in color, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes.

With the mixer on low, add the confectioners sugar—1/2 cup at a time (to avoid making a mess). Keep adding until fully incorporated. Spread icing immediately over cooled cake.

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