I’m already the sort of person who cooks and bakes and I figured that it’s a lot easier for me to have the makings for foodstuffs than it is to have bread going bad in a shelter-in-place situation. But apparently everybody decided that they were going to stress-bake through the crisis. Joepastry started posting again. Baking sites suddenly had incredible amounts of hits.
Once I realized that everyone was doing it, I figured I might as well lean in. Because now my somewhat aberrant behavior patterns are normal. Or something.
And then Jill who I’d met over tea at a tech conference started a Discord chat for stress baking, which turned it into an institution.
It’s been an interesting part of my life. I’ve had to remind people that, while I’m just using my cellphone, I am a serious photographer so I’m always picking the best angle.
I sat down ahead of time and collected a list of recipes that I’d always wanted to try, some of them I’d bookmarked years ago, and looked through a few sites to find a few more things to try.
Week One: Hokkaido Milk Bread and Oatmeal Cookies
There’s amazing bread that you can get from the local Chinese bakery. Apparently, it’s some variant on the Hokkaido Milk Bread recipe. It’s soft and a little sweet and super-tasty in French toast or bread pudding.
There’s a recipe in Brave Tart that’s a version of this, but since I couldn’t get that book from the library, I just decided to use one I found from the New York Times.
The loaf was the first time I made some bread at home that my wife really really liked.
The oatmeal cookies were just b’cause. I used the recipe off the Quaker Oats canister, like I always do. And I wanted to lower my stash of the instant quaker oats, which are better for cookies but after the Great Oatmeal Incident, doesn’t get eaten for breakfast in my household.
Week Two: Apple Pie and Bread Pudding
Jill is significantly more obsessive than I am in a bunch of ways. So, considering that they were making laminated dough, I figured I at least had to up my game and work on my pie crusts from scratch.
Not pictured is the other loaf of bread pudding I made mid-week with the rest of the roux from the recipe.
Both the pie and the bread pudding these were somewhat improvised. The pie was from a several-year-old issue of Cook’s Illustrated and then I mostly improvised the filling. The bread pudding is loosely like a recipe from allrecipes but it’s never the same every time and bread pudding really ought to be baked with some rum in it.
The thing I find amusing is that my rolling skills are way up, and that’s probably from pottery.
Week Three: Pizza and Scones
I decided to try out Jill’s favorite scone recipe. Also, we wanted pizza.
The pizza dough recipe is roughly based off of the one in my paper Kitchen-Aid manual and then I improvised from there.
Week four: Cinnamon Raisin bread and hot cross buns
I always remember that, some percentage of the time, during Easter time, there would be Hot Cross Buns that my mom would pick up from a bakery, if she saw one.
Since it was around Easter time, I decided it was a good idea to make some.
If I’d been able to find them while I was getting groceries, I’d have picked up some buns. Since I couldn’t, there was only one option, really.
This was a tasty week. My parents would sometime buy a loaf of the cinnamon raisin swirl bread from the store and it would be awesome as toast. But from scratch was even better.
There’s a version of hot cross buns where you use flour paste instead of sweet sugary frosting, but I was having nothing of that.
I figured that cinnamon raisin swirl bread french toast would be a good idea. It was really rich, perhaps too rich, unless you are the sort of person who will eat pastry cream with a spoon.
Week five: Rye bread, bread pudding, and yeasted raised donuts
My parents had a magical piece of 70s kitchen hardware: An electric donut baker. And they even made sure to find a second one, so my brother and I could both have one.
And I have tons of happy memories as a kid of that donut baker and the products it produced, but it, like most electric appliances, is a pain in the rear to clean.
I also have donut pans for baked donuts, but I never really got into using them. More recently, I made proper yeasted donuts that I deep fried and that was amazing, especially when I squirted pastry cream into them. At that time, I’d done a random web search to see if someone had done some sort of baked donut recipe.
The link sat in my bookmarks for quite some time before I tried it.
The rye bread was a bit of a fail. I didn’t wait long enough for the second rise… or something… so it was a little bit low and dense.
But the donuts came out excellently. They were still fairly different from a proper donut, but still very donut-y.
One strategy for bread with a household that doesn’t eat that much bread is to intentionally leave about six slices out to dry and stale in the oven overnight, then put them in the freezer, then make bread pudding the next week.
Bread pudding made from cinnamon raisin bread is next-level.
Week six: St. Lucia buns and Banana muffins
There’s a thing where my wife will buy bananas. And she buys them to eat them. But I know that, as soon as the bundle of bananas starts to reach about three, she’s going to loose interest in them and they are going to get all brown and then she’s going to ask me to make banana muffins.
I did a slight tweak to the St. Lucia buns. They were supposed to be done with eggwash, but I used milk instead.
The buns impressed a lot of people. It’s a relatively simple process to get them shaped and it’s actually fairly tolerant of screwups, but they look really really neat.
Week seven: Teacakes and browned butter bread
I’d stored away the recipe for the teacakes some years ago and never bothered to try them.
And since the fifteenspatulas site seemed to have good recipes, I decided to try a different one from the same site.
I didn’t know that browned butter was a thing until my adult days. My mom always thought that she had just screwed up, not that she had created a delicious thing.
You can see a common theme developing, of making some sort of yeasted buns. I think I’ve always loved sweet breads, I guess. The teacakes are definitely part of my cooking rotation from now on.
Week eight: Rye bread the second try and Danish Cream Rolls
Second try on the rye bread, and it still wouldn’t cooperate. Went through the first rye really fast, but then the second rise took hours and after all of that, I just tossed it into the oven to see what would happen and it was still fairly dense. Edible, but dense.
The Danish Cream rolls was something completely different. I’m well accustomed to making pastry cream and either eating it with a spoon or putting it inside something, maybe a layer of a cake or inside of a donut.
But in that recipe, you make up pastry cream and then bake it in the rolls and somehow it works out just fine.
It’s fun to have a stress-baking group chat on Sundays.
- At least two really good bread recipes that work for sandwiches and toast
- A bunch of recipes that I’ve wanted to try for years tried
- Some really tasty sweet enriched-dough recipes
- A better handle on yeast and gluten
If a fairy came along and traded eating all of this for eating gruel for eight weeks, but thousands and thousands of people weren’t going to die needlessly because of how the US is mis-managing Coronavirus, I’d of course take the trade.