No offense to my sourdough bakers out there, but I have had enough. During this pandemic, my timelines have been filled with it seems like everyone’s sourdough starters all the way through to the baked and sliced loaves. I have never thought about sourdough so much in my life. And while I haven’t attempted it myself, I did order a box from a local bakery in New York City that had a loaf of sourdough, and you know what I realized? It’s all hype. I found the loaf arduous to slice and the result was just not something I was super excited by. Maybe the overhypedness had killed this poor loaf’s chance of impressing me…or maybe it just really isn’t that great compared to all the breads one could eat instead.
So while everyone has been tending to their sourdough, I have been on a different vibe. I’ve been baking delights that take far less time and attention, and quite a few of them. So if you, like me, are over sourdough, let me recommend you a few of my starter-free favorites I’ve made so far.
1. Hummingbird Snacking Cake
The idea of baking a multi-tiered cake for myself, while sweet (ba-dum-ching), was unnecessary and fiddly for the fact that I just wanted to eat homemade cake. The solution? Snacking cake! The Kitchn wrote a fantastic piece on snacking cake, which is what inspired me. But I didn’t want to make yet another chocolate or vanilla cake. I wanted to flex my baking muscle and make something I hadn’t endeavored to make yet. So I made hummingbird cake after craving a cake to throw some pineapple in. A nuanced craving, I know. So with my little cups of Dole pineapple and a block of cream cheese, I got to work. What resulted was a lovely moist, lightly spiced cake with little gems of pineapple speckled throughout, topped with a schmear of cream cheese frosting. Are you drooling yet? Get the recipe here.
2. Buttery Biscuits
Of all the treats on this list, this is the one I was most concerned about making. When you enter into the pastry world, things can get tricky. Temperatures of ingredients (looking at you, butter) and the dough overall matters so that the butter doesn’t just go running out of your biscuits in the oven. So I made sure to keep everything chilled, which meant a trip or two to the freezer. For the fact that I was so concerned, the dough was actually super simple to make and the biscuits turned out tender, buttery and delicious, aided by the brushing of butter I added to the tops, Popeyes-style, before they hit the oven (Note: This part was not in the recipe. But why wouldn’t you butter the tops given the chance, really?) They made for a great base to my biscuits and gravy. Get the recipe here.
3. PB&J Cobbler
Now this one is totally unique. I mean slightly crispy peanut butter cookies laid over top of sweet, slightly tangy baked strawberries? Come on! I watched @JoyTheBaker make this on her Instagram Story, and I was shocked at the simplicity of this recipe and the major flavor power. And you know what? It really does taste like PB&J! (Well, if you’re a strawberry jelly person like I am). The real kickers for me in this recipe were the ground ginger added to the strawberries and the chopped peanuts added to the cookies. Game-changers. AND as if this recipe couldn’t get better, I had to bake this cobbler in my toaster oven after my oven’s pilot light went out, and it was still fabulous! A winner of a recipe if there ever was one. Get the recipe here.
4. Homemade Pudding
To top off that cobbler, the logical thing to do would have been to grab for a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream, but I had neither of those things on hand (believe me, I even attempted to make heavy cream out of milk and butter. Alas, no dice). So instead, I reached for a box of Jello vanilla pudding hiding in my cupboard and topped it with that. But just a few weeks prior to that I had made my own pudding in the midst of a mad pudding craving. Before you say anything, yes, I know this isn’t a baked good so to speak, but it is a sweet treat that can accompany a baked good, so here we are. Long story short, homemade pudding is super simple to make, and super tasty. Plus, watching a heap of chocolate chips melt into the pudding base was so satisfying and so tasty. There really is something to be said for hot pudding, too. But anyway, you get the point. Jello pudding is good. Homemade pudding is better. But all pudding is good pudding, let’s be clear. Get the recipe here.
5. Soft Sugar Cookies with Brownie Bits
During quarantine, I have made quite a few cookies, but these were queen of them all. There came a point where what I truly wanted were some soft, chewy sugar cookies that reminded me of the ones my sister and I used to love getting for free from the bakery at the grocery store when we were little. My exact thought was, “How do I make a sugar cookie comparable to that one?” And while I’ll tell you these were not really those childhood cookies, they were a cookie our childhood selves would have very much enjoyed. Especially because they essentially had brownie sprinkles in them. This was the greatest stroke of genius I’ve had in quarantine, and honestly perhaps even beyond that. Prior to making these cookies, I needed to clear out the crumbs leftover from my browned butter cocoa brownies (recipe here) from my treat jar (well, it’s a plastic container, but you get it). So just before my arm jerked the the flurry of rich, chocolate-y, pecan-riddled brownie bits into the trash can, I decided no. My brownies deserve better. They deserve a new life within these pillowy sugar cookies. So that’s what happened. The sugar cookie recipe I used was tasty and chewy and perfect in its own right, but those brownie bits just took them over the edge. Every time I bit into one, I’d get the deep, rich cocoa-y flavor with the nuttiness from the pecans and the vanilla-infused sweetness of the sugar cookies. Heaven. Get the recipe here.
6. Banana Bread Pudding with Whiskey Cream Sauce
Raise your hand if you’ve made banana bread during quarantine. Me too. I’m slightly over banana bread, too. So when I received it in that box from a local bakery I mentioned before, I knew exactly what I was going to do with it. Sure, I could’ve just eaten it like a plebian. Or, I could turn it into bread pudding! I toasted off the banana bread in the oven just to dry it out in order to get it to soak up that lovely custard. Banana and chocolate also go great together, so I sprinkled some mini chocolate chips on top, just for good measure. And what resulted was a claggy, warm, sweet-but-not-too-sweet dessert that was only made better by the addition of whiskey-spiked cream. Get the recipe here.
7. Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins
If you’re not hungry enough by now, then I have more baked treat for you. A breakfast classic: the blueberry muffin. I was actually looking for something to do with the cornmeal in my pantry, when I came upon this. And though it’s simple, it’s amazing. It’s everything you love about cornbread, the texture, that subtle sweetness, with sweet bursts of blueberry. I will say, these didn’t keep for very long, but if you’re baking for multiple people, that shouldn’t be a problem because these will get eaten long before that concern arises. Get the recipe here.