Quarantine Kitchen: Homeopathic Baked Goods For Lockdown
Here are my recommendations for the best baked goods to make and indulge in during the pandemic lockdown.
I know, I know, you're thinking why is the Geographical Cure writing about baking? I'm not usually moved to bake. I'm more of a southeast Asian curry kind of person-chef.
But the past 8 months have been rather trying. I've been living through a seemingly unending kitchen renovation with problems, delays, structural issues, etc. And then, poof, the non-consensual cabin lockdown arrived, freezing life as we knew it. Our contractors went to ground and our materials were locked up in shut down businesses.
But we have one contractor with a waiver. I'm happy to report that he (finally) managed to get our appliances hooked up. I've had an oven for an entire week now. Spurred on by this development, I've perversely not been cooking up exotic foodstuffs. No, I've turned to the solace of baking. And I'm not alone.
The Baking Phenomenon: the Psychology of Lockdown Baking
Perhaps to block out the roller coaster of emotions, people have turned en masse to baking. On a scroll through social media, you can almost smell the wafting scents of newly baked bread or fresh-from-the-oven cookies. Such is the level of obsession that yeast is almost impossible to acquire.
Where did this sudden impulse come from? Apparently, we're all feeling a loss of control from the throes of quarantine culture. Baking gives us a sense of self reliance, as if we are the masters of at least a tiny speck of our universe. We are valiantly taking our survival into our own hands.
There are other upsides, to my mind. Baking helps pass the time during sometimes grim self isolation. Manual labor interrupts anxiety, is self comforting, and gives you something to do besides listen to the dreary news ticker. It seems like a healthy alternative to lockdown day drinking, though in terms of calorie intake I'm not sure which is worse.
10 Delicious Baked Goods To Make During Lockdown
While you’re bored at home during quarantine or addled by cabin fever, baking may be a homeopathic option. Here's a list of my favorite treats, complete with recipes, that I’ve baked during lockdown (aided my trusty daughter).
This recipe yields a cinnamon roll in cookie form. Out of all the cinnamon cookie roll recipes out there, this one's my favorite to date. Chilling the dough is the extra step that makes these cookies delectable.
FOR THE COOKIES:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
FOR THE FROSTING:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 tablespoons butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 teaspoons milk or cream
additional cinnamon, for sprinkling
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla, and mix well. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and mix until a firm dough forms. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Roll the dough into one inch balls and place on baking sheets lined with parchment. Flatten each ball slightly with your hand or with a drinking glass to be about 1/3-1/2 inch thick. Bake 7-9 minutes or until the bottom edges are just slightly golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack and let cool before frosting.
To make the frosting, beat together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla and milk as needed to reach desired consistency. Beat until light and fluffy. Pipe onto cooled cookies in a spiral shape and sprinkle with cinnamon.
This recipe is great because it's so easy, which is important for a newbie baker like me. You could swap out lemon cake mix for different flavors as well (red velvet, strawberry, or chocolate, for example). Don't overcook them. The centers should be soft when they exit the oven. They firm up quickly as they cool.
1 box lemon cake mix (I used a 16.5 ounce Duncan Hines mix)
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping (such as Cool Whip), thawed
½ cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray baking sheets with cooking spray or line with parchment. In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to stir together cake mix, whipped topping, and egg until a thick dough forms. Place sugar in a separate bowl.
Use a spoon to scoop about 1 tablespoon of cookie dough into the sugar at a time. Roll the dough around in the sugar to coat, gently roll between your hands to form a ball, and place sugar-coated dough balls onto prepared baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden around the edges.
This is one of the easiest recipes I’ve attempted. After I found the recipe, the cookies were in my mouth within 30 minutes. I also added in peanut butter M&Ms just to put an exclamation mark on the recipe. Make sure not to over bake so the cookies stay soft and chewy. FYI, these cookies won't spread at all. You can bake the full recipe on a single tray.
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir the ingredients together until smooth. Scoop onto a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet. (Roll into 1" balls with your hands, if you do not have a scoop.) Press down with the back of a fork and then press again from the opposite direction, to form the criss-cross pattern on top. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool on the tray for 1-2 minutes before removing to a wire rack.
“Slutty brownies” are the perfect combination brownie -- chocolate chip cookies, oreos, and brownies all in one. And you have to love the colorful name.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer—
1 cup unsalted butter melted and cooled
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour aka plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips
Oreo Layer— 24 Oreo cookies
2/3 cup unsalted butter cubed
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate* finely chopped
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees. Line a 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper and leave an overhang around the sides.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer:
Beat together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the flour and salt. Turn off the mixer and stir in the chocolate chips using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, and spread smooth with a spatula.
Place the Oreo cookies on top of the cookie dough pressing them down just slightly. I got 6 rows of 4 cookies.
Add the butter and chocolate to a large heatproof bowl. Microwave on medium power for 45 second intervals, stirring between each, until melted. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Gently fold in the flour, cocoa powder and salt using rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Pour the brownie batter over the Oreo cookie layer, and spread the top smooth as needed. Bake the brownies in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out dry. If you notice the top starting to burn, cover with aluminum foil and continue baking. I checked my brownies at 45 minutes just in case. Cool the brownies fully (at least 4 hours) before slicing for clean, even cuts.
This is a fun twist on classic Rice Krispie Treats, using one of my daughter's favorite cereal snacks.
¼ cup salted butter
1 16 oz bag mini marshmallows, divided in half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup plain Rice Krispies cereal
5 cups Fruity Pebbles cereal
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Pour in half of the mini marshmallows and stir until melted, stirring continuously. Take off heat. Pour in both cereals, the second half of the mini marshmallows, and vanilla extract. Stir until everything is incorporated, but not completely melted. Press mixture into a parchment lined 9x9 pan and set aside to cool, about 30 minutes at room temperature.
Oh, for the love of lime. I'd make anything that included that ingredient. If you love key lime pie, you’ll love these easy bars.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
pinch of salt
1 - 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
4 large eggs
2/3 cup Key Lime juice (or lime juice)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
green colored sugar OR grated lime peel
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the crust ingredients and press firmly into the bottom of a 9" baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake the crust for 8 minutes and cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, combine all filling ingredients with an electric mixer. Pour over the cooled crust. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until filling is set but not browned. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Cut into squares and garnish with whipped topping and colored sugar or grated lime peel, if desired.
There's a heated debate about whether to add oats or not to your apple crisp. For me, I love a crispy oat coating and so chose this recipe.
10 cups Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup (200g) brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups (180g) quick-cooking oats
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
2 cups (400g) packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks, 226g) Challenge Butter cubed while cold
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare a 9x13 pan with baking spray or coating with butter.
Place sliced apples in a bowl. Add brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Stir gently and make sure every piece of apple is covered in the sugar mixture. Set aside.
Combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together. Add in the cubed butter and use your hands to combine. You want the butter to be pea-sized and coated entirely. You should have 6 cups. Spread 3 cups over the bottom of your prepared pan and press flat. Pour the apple mixture over top and press down with rubber spatula. Pour remaining crisp mixture over top of the apples and bake uncovered at 375°F for 35-45 minutes.
The Mexican-themed bars are fabulous. Regular churros are sometimes too sweet. But add in cream cheese, and you've got a winner.
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 (8 oz) cans Pillsbury crescent dinner rolls
Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 2 Tbsp cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
Beat the cream cheese till smooth. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla and beat till smooth and creamy. Set aside. Spray a 9x13" pan with non-stick spray, then sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan.
Unroll the dough onto a lightly floured piece of waxed paper and press all the seams together. Carefully lift into the pan on top of the cinnamon sugar. Press to the edges of the pan. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the dough. Unroll the second can of dough and roll it out the same way as the first one. Place it on top of the filling. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar on top of the dough. Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes or until light brown.
These delicious treats are cinnamon-sugary goodness in brownie form!
1/2 cup butter melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
Pinch of salt
5 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment.
Add the butter and brown sugar to a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine.
Stir in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour and salt until well combined.
Spread into the prepared pan. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the batter. Bake for 22 minutes or until a tester comes out mostly clean.
Cool before cutting.
If you liked Reese's pieces, this dessert's for you. You can add raspberries to leaven the chocolate.
1 graham cracker pie crust
(1) 8 oz. container of Cool Whip
(1) 8 oz. pkg of cream cheese
1 bag Miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cups—crushed (You can actually use any candy bar and change it up... for example Butterfinger Pie)
Note: It's easy to cut and crush candy after it has been refrigerated for a while.
Blend the cool whip, cream cheese, and most of the Reese's Peanut Butter cups (save some candy for the topping). Pour in pie crust. Sprinkle extra candy toppings on top. Let the pie sit in the fridge for 30 minutes and serve.
If you'd like to bake your brains out during lockdown, pin it for later.