At this point, you're probably just starting to settle into the at-home life somewhat, and are therefore looking to take on tasks that make good use of your time as well as those that offer a brief respite from daily chores and other forms of work. And getting creative in your kitchen can actually fall into both of these categories — even if you're not the world's best cook. In fact, there are plenty of easy baking projects that will not only help you feel more productive, but will result in something tasty to eat yourself or give to a loved one.
Because it's a more measured and precise practice, baking can be a bit intimidating, especially if you're generally not well-versed in the culinary arts. It's true that there's probably a bit more of a margin for error here, but practice makes perfect, right? And besides, you've got the time to spare. That said, some recipes are decidedly more easy-to-follow others, so you might have a bit more luck tackling them. And even professional chefs and expert foodies are turning to some of these simple pleasures to make the time go by in the most delicious way.
Ready to roll up your sleeves and start baking? Ahead find five surprisingly easy creations — both savory and sweet — to try ASAP, including a two-ingredient flatbread and a gluten-free version of a nostalgic treat.
Spelt Pizza Dough
Ana Ortiz, chef and caterer at Day Into Night puts a healthful twist on pizza with the help of an ancient grain. "Spelt is an ancient type of wheat and the predecessor of our hyper-industrialized high-gluten wheat," she says. "It’s more nutritious and has a really tasty nutty flavor that I think complements things like sautéed greens."
For the dough, you'll need: 1 pound and 1 ounce spelt flour, 2 1/4 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast, 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of olive oil, and 11.25 ounces water. "Mix all dry ingredients, then add the liquids and mix until you get a cohesive dough," explains Ortiz. "Knead for two to three minutes. Place in a well oiled bowl and cover with plastic. Let rise in your refrigerator for three days — I promise it will be worth it."
Once it's ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 475 degrees. While it heats up, roll out the dough using some spelt flour so it doesn’t stick. Then add some more flour to a baking sheet and place the dough on top. Add your favorite toppings (Ortiz likes mozzarella and long cooked greens) and bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is crispy and slightly golden.
If you're considering adding tea time to your at-home routine, this slightly herbaceous cookie is the perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of English Breakfast or Earl Gray. For this one, Ortiz uses 12 ounces of room temperature salted butter, 1/2 cup of sugar, 3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary.
"Mix all ingredients together with a wooden spoon or paddle in a mixer," she says. "Rest the dough for an hour. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle a little flour on your work table and on your dough. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Bake on parchment paper for 20 minutes or until cookies are lightly golden."
Gluten-Free Banana Bread
“Growing up, one of my favorite sweet treats was my mom's banana bread," says Elizabeth Stein, Founder/CEO of Purely Elizabeth. And just like the culinary expert and entrepreneur puts a healthy twist on her line of pre-made granola, pancake mixes, and more, she's also given this classic an update.
In her gluten-free, low-sugar version, you'll need: 2 cups almond flour, 1/4 cup arrowroot flour, 1/4 cup coconut flour, 3 tablespoons coconut sugar, 2 tablespoons flaxseeds, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 ripe bananas, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons coconut oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup chocolate chips, and cinnamon sugar.
Start by pre-heating your oven to 350-degrees. Grease a loaf pan with coconut oil and sprinkle cinnamon sugar to coat the bottom and sides. While the oven heats up, mix the dry ingredients until well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the bananas, oil, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Then mix the wet and dry ingredients well and fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Pour into a loaf pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.
All you need is self-rising flour (pre-mixed all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt) and whole milk Greek yogurt in a one-to-one ratio for this super-simple flatbread. Bake at 450 degrees to 10 minutes or cook in an oiled skillet on medium high heat, for two to three minutes on each side for a griddled effect. Then serve with an herby yogurt sauce, your favorite Indian dishes, or add your favorite toppings and eat it pizza-style.
Classic Cookie Base
"My favorite thing about baking cookies is how forgiving and adaptable a single recipe can be with a few tips," shares Los Angeles-based cook and food/prop stylist Saehee Cho. "Most of my cookies are based on a ratio based recipe that I constantly adapt. For example, if I want my cookies to be on the chewy side I use half bread flour/half cake flour. The bread flour has extra gluten for a chewy texture and the cake flour makes it light. Brown sugar is also key to giving cookies their dense moistness but if you run out of brown sugar, as I often do, you can use white sugar with a few added tablespoons of molasses."
For the base, you'll need 12 ounces room temperature butter, 12 ounces brown sugar, and 3 ounces white sugar. The dry ingredients include 9 ounces bread flour, 9 ounces cake flour, 1.5 teaspoons salt, and 1.5 teaspoons baking soda. Wet ingredients included are 3 tablespoons milk, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and 2 eggs plus 1 yolk.
"Combine base ingredients until creamy, add wet ingredients, add dry ingredients last and mix thoroughly to activate gluten," Cho explains. "Refrigerate dough for one to two hours, form into balls — about 1 large tablespoon — and bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes."