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Need a New Hobby? Consider Quarantine Baking

Why do people bake?  Was it the comfort that lies in sharing good homemade food with good people? Or was it just the next step of evolution to usher us into the modern world? In any sense, baking is what people around the world have turned to whether it be to cure their boredom or for stress-relief.

Baking can be as good a stress reliever as any, especially during anxiety-inducing times. Kneading out your frustration while making dough can act as a much-needed punching bag when the feeling of containment can be a little too much sometimes. Not to mention the satisfaction from those buttery rolls or fresh pastries that come wonderfully out of the oven and knowing that your irritation created something delicious.  

Maybe people are baking just for something sweet to eat, for the feelings of good food can often overcome anything else going on in the mind at that moment. Those few moments of eating cinnamon rolls can turn the entire day around, just that little happy roll can help your mood. 

Or, it could be the people you bake food with. Family can heal a lot of things, just being with them can be fulfilling because you can crack jokes as you make pastry filling, or gossip as you open old family recipes, deciding which piece of your ancestry will go best with dinner. It can be annoyingly poofing flour in their face, or even those small talks while you wait for the finished product. Eating good food with good people can often make your heart full as well as your stomach. For example, one of our staff writers, Alexa Nunez, has taken this opportunity to bake with her sisters. Check out these cute cupcakes she made:

Alexa Nunez, The Talon staff writer and copy editor, made red velvet cupcakes with her family. Image courtesy of Alexa Nunez.

Baking can also bring people closer to their culture as they finally learn the family croqueta recipe or even a piece of their culture found online that they’ve never tried before. Cooking new things (or traditionally old things, based on how you look at it) can allow for new traditions and an innovative way to look at your culture and how you fit into it. Baking can even be an excuse to learn about other cultures that you’ve never known about before. Learning about how people from other countries and cultures bake food and why they do it gives you a new perspective to see the world.

Baking is a skill that anyone can conquer. Determination can shine through as you tackle something you have never even thought of doing before. Productivity, though hard to come by, can be a strong motivator to do anything. It’s okay to make mistakes along the way because imperfections just mean you are learning something new! And, even failures can open you up to new ideas and approaches. And if you keep going, you can end up with an incredible outcome (like a perfect coconut flan) and a feeling of accomplishment. 

People bake even for just the simple joy of it! The act of listening to music while sifting flour and spices together for a simple sugary treat can bring more serotonin than you think. Baking can give you many things to look forward to. Obviously seeing how the final product comes out to is first! But, then you can look forward to your loved ones’ reactions to your baked goods. You can even look forward to showing off your skills in the future. Whether baking for yourself or someone else, the pure happiness felt as you create something with your own hands is just about the most satisfying thing you can come across during these long weeks of isolation. 

The definition of baking has changed throughout the years, evolving as we evolve, and even acting as a sense of comfort in our darkest times. So, it is no surprise that we turn to it now, whether needing to fix a sweet tooth with some cookies, putting all our frustrations into the dough of homemade bread, or just needing something to keep busy. Wherever you go, food gives people culture, satisfaction, and a sense of family, all wrapped neatly in a warm cinnamon bun.

Below, we’ve compiled some simple recipes for baking novices. These recipes require few ingredients and are sure to be a hit at any family dinner!

Basic Homemade Bread – The best, most fluffy loaf of homemade white bread! This recipe makes two loaves. 

Course Bread

Cuisine American

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cook Time 30 minutes

Let Rise 2 hours

Total Time 45 minutes

  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 2 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 5 1/2 – 6 1/2 cups bread flour
  • butter for topping (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with a pinch of sugar. When the yeast is bubbly and foamy, add the sugar, salt, oil, and 4 cups flour, and mix until smooth.
  2. Add remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, to form a soft, smooth dough. The dough should stick just slightly to your finger when touched, but not be overly sticky. Knead 5-7 minutes, until smooth, then roll into a ball.
  3. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turn over once to coat the top with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise one hour, or until doubled.
  4. When the dough has risen, punch it down gently and divide it in half. Roll each half of the dough into a long rectangle about 8 inches wide. Roll the dough up, starting at the short edge, to form a cylinder that is approximately 8 inches wide. Repeat with remaining dough.
  5. Place the dough, seam side down, into lightly greased bread pans, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise one hour, or until the dough is ½ – 1 inch higher than the top of the pan
  6. Preheat the oven to 375. Bake 30-35 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Brush with melted butter, if desired. Remove to a cooling rack and cool before slicing. 

1-HOUR CINNAMON ROLLS

  • prep time: 40 MINUTES 
  • cook time: 20 MINUTES 
  • total time: 60 MINUTES 
  • yield: 11 -12 SERVINGS 1

CINNAMON ROLLS INGREDIENTS:

1 cup milk (I used 2% milk)

1/2 cup butter, softened and divided

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant (“rapid rise”) yeast

1 egg

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

CREAM CHEESE ICING INGREDIENTS (OPTION 1):

  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1–2 tablespoons milk (if needed)

TRADITIONAL ICING INGREDIENTS (OPTION 2):

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1–2 tablespoons milk

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Heat the milk and butter. Combine milk and 1/4 cup butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 1 minute, then remove and stir. Continue heating in 20-second intervals, pausing after each to stir, until the butter is melted and the milk is warm to the touch but not hot.  (It should be around 110°F — I recommend measuring the temperature with a cooking thermometer.)  If the mixture is too hot, just wait a few minutes for it to cool.
  • Combine dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour (not all of the flour), 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and salt until combined.
  • Mix the dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the warm milk mixture and sprinkle the yeast on top, then give the mixture a brief stir.  Add the flour mixture and egg, and beat on medium-low speed until combined. If the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl, add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to form a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  (Use no more than 3 1/2 cups of flour total.)  Continue beating for 5 minutes on medium-low speed. Remove dough and form it into a ball with your hands.  Place it in a greased bowl and cover with a damp towel.  Let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Mix the cinnamon-sugar filling.  While the dough rests, make your filling by whisking together the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon together in a small mixing bowl until combined.
  • Roll the dough (1st stage).  Once the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured work surface. Use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 9 x 14 inches in size. (If you want all of the edges to be even, you can use a pizza slicer to cut the dough into an even rectangle.) Use a knife or an offset spatula to spread the remaining 1/4 cup of softened butter out evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Then sprinkle the dough evenly* with the cinnamon and sugar mixture.
  • Roll out the dough (2nd stage). Beginning at the 14-inch edge, tightly roll up the dough and give the final seam a little pinch so that it seals. Use a piece of dental floss or a knife to slice off the two ends of the roll (just 1/2-inch or so on each end, which you can discard) so that the ends are even. Cut the remaining dough into 11 or 12 equal pieces. (11 rolls fit well in a pie plate, whereas 12 rolls fit in a rectangular pan.)
  • Let the dough rise. Place each of the cut cinnamon rolls into a greased 9-inch pie plate or 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Cover the dish with a damp towel, and leave it in a warm place to rise for 25 minutes.  Heat the oven to 350°F.
  • Make the icing.  While the dough is rising, whisk together either the cream cheese icing or traditional icing ingredients in a mixing bowl until smooth.  If it seems too thick, add in an extra tablespoon of milk at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.  If it is too thin, add in extra powdered sugar.
  • Bake. Once the rolls have risen, uncover the dish.  Place on the center rack of the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the rolls are golden and cooked through. Remove and let cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes.
  • Frost.  Drizzle with the prepared icing and serve warm.

 

The Best Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

The Best Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe – An easy chocolate chip cookie recipe made in minutes. These are the best homemade chocolate chip cookies ever!

Prep Time: 12 mins

Cook Time: 10 mins

Total Time: 22 mins

Course: Dessert

Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter -melted*
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (a 12 oz. bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, add the melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Whisk until well combined.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
  4. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir until no dry flour remains.
  5. Add the chocolate chips. Stir until well incorporated.
  6. Scoop out 1 1/2 tablespoon size balls (a #40 scoop) of the batter on a baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each cookie. SIZE MATTERS.**
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. The center should be soft and the edges should barely be golden. DO NOT OVERBAKE.
  8. Cool 3-4 minutes on the cookie sheet. Then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

 

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