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Recipe Spotlight

My Favorite Baking Projects

I’ve got the time. As soon as I'm able to find the ingredients, this is what I'll be baking.

Published Mar. 29, 2020.

Hi there. How are you? Yes, strange times, indeed. It’s been slim pickings at my neighborhood grocery stores.

I’m going to venture out a little farther today in my ongoing quest to find flour and eggs. I’ve got a good feeling about today.

If a lack of supermarket supply has you in a similar situation, you might be looking at all of these social media posts—the ones showing people’s beautiful cakes, breads, and all kinds of delights —with just a little bit of envy in your heart. Same. It’s ok, I get it.

So I’ve decided that until I can get the goods (honestly, I will take any kind of wheat flour at this point!), I can do a little dreaming. Dream of the kind of baking projects that take a little more care—and yes, a lot more time. It’s something I’m usually short on, but these days, time is something I can carry by the bucketful.

Hang in there. We’ll get through this soon enough. Would love to see pictures of any of your baking projects or anything else you’re making in the kitchen. Feel free to reach me on Twitter. My handle is @realblancaster.

Now, to find that $&*#! flour . . .

Cinnamon bunsCroissantsParis Brest

Project 1: Ultimate Cinnamon Buns

I don’t think it’s much of a secret that I’m a fan of cinnamon buns, or sticky buns, or honey buns. But these are my family’s favorite. It could be the soft, plush interiors—that’s a function of using cornstarch to make the dough. Or maybe it’s the unadulterated cinnamon filling. What am I talking about? It’s definitely the blanket of cream cheese frosting. Hot tip: Check out the make-ahead instructions if you want to serve these before noon. [GET THE RECIPE]

What You’ll Need:
3 large eggs
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk, divided
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
2¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
1¾ teaspoons salt, divided
½ cup cornstarch
4¼ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups confectioners' sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1½ cups packed light brown sugar

Project 2: Croissants

The ingredients really matter here. If you can find high-quality European butter (ironically, it’s the only kind left in stock at my supermarket market) please use it. You’re going to laminate butter in between layers of dough, so that sweet butter flavor will really shine here. And about that term laminating—it is not difficult to do at all. Just take your time, put the dough back in the fridge if it starts to get a little warm, and take a deep breath. I know you can do this. [GET THE RECIPE]

What You’ll Need:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) European-style butter
1¾ cups whole milk
4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
4¼ cups (21¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1¾ ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cold water

Project 3: Paris Brest

I made this with Julia on America’s Test Kitchen last year and I’m ashamed that I haven’t made it since. Just haven’t had the time. Now I do.

It’s an incredible recipe that will teach you core techniques and pastry basics. By the time you’ve assembled the Paris Brest you will know how to make praline, pâte à choux, and a pastry cream that’s fortified with gelatin. Your piping skills will be top notch. If hazelnuts aren’t your thing you can sub in almonds.

The tire-like shape of the dessert is a nod to a famous French bicycle race. It’s also a good reminder to get out of the kitchen for a moment and go for a bike ride. [GET THE RECIPE]

What You’ll Need:
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 large eggs plus 5 large egg yolks, divided
½ cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1½ cups half-and-half
1⅓ cup water, divided
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hazelnuts, divided
1¼ teaspoon salt, divided
About 1 cup sugar, divided
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Triple-Chocolate Mousse CakeBaked Alaska

Project 4: Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

I believe the saying goes, “Now is the time for all good chocolate to come to the aid of my belly,” or something really close to that. This delight of a chocolate dessert ticks so many boxes. Chocolatey? Of course. Silky? Yes. Impossibly fluffy and light despite there being more than a pound of chocolate in there? Also yes.

The keys here are taking care to not over-fold in the whipped egg whites or cream, and taking time to really chill each layer before adding another. [GET THE RECIPE]

What You'll Need:
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
14 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine, divided
¾ teaspoon instant espresso powder
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
⅓ cup packed (about 2½ ounces) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
6 tablespoons hot water
3 cups cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
⅛ teaspoon table salt
¾ teaspoon powdered gelatin
6 ounces white chocolate chips
Shaved chocolate or cocoa powder for serving, optional

Project 5: Baked Alaska

This one’s for me. I might not even share, except with you.

Baked Alaska has all the food groups: cake, ice cream, and meringue. The chiffon cake is so easy to bend around the ice cream, but don’t worry if the cake cracks a bit. It’s all going to be covered with creamy, dreamy meringue anyway and no one will ever know of any “flaws” inside. We used coffee ice cream here but you can use any flavor that you wish. It’s your baked Alaska, after all. [GET THE RECIPE]

What You’ll Need:
2 containers (1-pint) coffee ice cream
1 cup (4 ounces) cake flour
⅓ cup (1 ounce) unsweetened cocoa powder
About 1½ cups sugar, divided
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
8 tablespoons water
4 large eggs plus 3 large egg whites, divided
⅓ cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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