The second eight weeks of shelter-in-place stress baking with Jill

Days and weeks blur together in shelter-in-place, I guess. Still, baking can continue.

Week Nine: Babka, Pizza, Hilton Garden cookies, and Brioche

My parents asked “Well, when are you going to do Babka?”

So I guess I had to do Babka.

Babka is something that’s really interesting to me. First, it’s part of my culture. Second, anything that involves candied mixed fruit bits, including fruitcake, is probably going to work well for me. And third, it’s a cake-ish recipe, but made with yeast. The history-of-food nerd in me knows that there was a time where there were no leavenings other than natural yeast cultures, so babka hearkens back to this time period.

I just don’t quite have the right pan. And babka leftovers aren’t nearly as good as fresh babka, hot out of the oven, with rum soaked into it.

I felt it was important to try making the Hilton Doubletree secret cookie recipe. It’s a bit of an odd one, requiring some lemon juice and being cooked at an odd temperature for cookies.

The brioche is an old faithful recipe that I’ve been using for a while, but since my wife had brought back a fancy brioche loaf some weeks prior, I felt like I should make my own brioche loaf.

The pizza was my best version yet. Mostly I’ve been more diligent about the rising process and, because I was going for something with a little puff to the crust, I left the pizzas out to rise before throwing them in the oven.

Week Ten: Bread pudding and Teacakes.

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. I used last week’s brioche: Pretty much, the second I had the brioche done, I took 6 slices, left them in the oven to dry out, then put them in the freezer.

When my mother-in-law makes it, she gets a package of vanilla pudding and puts it on top, so I decided to do that this time.

The teacakes were so good last time, I figured I had to make another batch.

Week Eleven: Faux Sourdough and scones

When I was procuring yeast online, I discovered that Red Star yeast makes packets of faux sourdough culture. Since I’m lacking the right sort of motivation to make my own sourdough, I decided to try this out with a loaf of the brown butter sandwich bread.

The results were undeniably of sourdough taste. Are they as magical as sourdough culture that has a name that’s been living in the fridge? No, but it’s still fun and different.

Also, a repeat on the scones, because all of us in the baking chat were tired but making a batch of scones represented the bare minimum of baking for each of us.

Week Twelve: St. Lucia Buns and cookies


I forgot to photograph the cookies. Oops!

This was a week for the postal mail.

See, some of my nieces had been seeing pictures of my baking. And one of them really really wanted to try the St. Lucia Buns, so when there was a cluster of family in one place, I made some cookies and St. Lucia buns and sent the batch of them there.

It was a surprise, so I didn’t remember to take pictures because I wasn’t posting any to social media in case one of them seen.

Week Thirteen: Rum Raisin bread and Peach Pie, plus an accidental pecan pie.

Peaches started to be really really in season in June, so it was time to make a peach pie.

The rum raisin bread looked interesting and, as my loaves have been fairly consistent lately, it felt like it was time for some bread not made in a pan, as a way to work up to the point where I was doing challah.

There was just one problem. I don’t know how to braid things. So I ended up calling my wife down to help braid after the first rise.

When I was done with my pecan pie, I realized that I had a fairly substantial amount of extra pie crust but absolutely not any extra filling. How did I solve this?

The accidental pecan pie:


My wife and I love pecan pie. Pretty much, I’d have the opportunity to have a slice maybe once or twice a year growing up.

It turns out that pecan pie is actually really easy and, depending on what sort of stuff you cook, you might have everything you want already in the cupboard. Also, the recipe gave me a temperature to shoot for, which was convenient.

I kinda improvised and added molasses to make it even darker and more caramel-y, and that was absolutely awesome.

Week Fourteen: Peach Brioche tart and accidental brioche peach cream buns.

I started out with a Peach Brioche Tart recipe from a blog but I didn’t really follow it. I used the brioche recipe that I was comfortable with and then decided to use the filling from the cream rolls recipe.

And then, I realized I had extra ingredients, so I made some impromptu peach brioche cream buns with the leftovers.

The only real problem was that I didn’t slice the peaches thin enough.

Week Fifteen: Kristin’s Birthday cream buns, third go at rye bread, and ginger cookies


Not on the usual baking day, I made my friend Kristin some cream buns. Since I was liking how the impromptu accidental peach buns turned out, I decided to make a proper batch of peach cream rolls for her.

I managed to procure a second bag of rye flour, and I managed to get a loaf that I liked.

I did the logical next step: Reduce the rye content by a few ounces and increase the bread flour content by the corresponding amount. That netted me a loaf that rose higher and wasn’t quite as dense and it really turned out how I was expecting.

I also had some cookies to send to friends who needed it and ginger cookies were tasty.

Week sixteen: Challah, Yeasted baked donuts, and more Teacakes

It was my best-friend-in-the-whole-world-besides-my-spouse’s birthday and I figured she needed something yummy.

I also figured it was time to do Challah.

On the bike car, one of the people has a partner who’s also a cooking and baking obsessive. He’s Jewish and he’d been baking Challah and so one of the people in the car asked for his Challah recipe.

We get sent the Bon Apetit recipe, but I think the person who was asking was more looking for some sort of magical mystical handed-down-for-generations recipe.

I was going to use that recipe, but the more I looked at it, the less I liked it, so I went for a recipe from King Arthur Flour instead and it turned out pretty good, once I talked my wife into helping with the braiding.

I figured that the yeasted donuts would survive the mail well and so would a teacake, so I sent all three of those. Except I forgot to take pictures of the teacakes, but it was the third time I made that recipe, so that’s probably OK.

The day after they arrived, I get a message from my friend saying, “Fruit bread works very nicely for tea time”

I told her that I had sent her teacakes. If they weren’t good for tea time, they’d probably be called something else.


The folks on the baking chat were not entirely pleased to have it revealed that it’s been 16 weeks.

I’ve got:

  • Babka, for next Christmas.
  • A rye bread recipe, finally.
  • The faux sourdough packets tested.
  • Some ability to start to be able to re-mix and re-combine recipes to make new creations.
  • Some recipes that are clearly part of my cooking repertoire because they are already repeating a bunch.

If a fairy came along and traded eating all of this for eating gruel for sixteen weeks, but hundreds of 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.