No one is trying to hang on to 2020 any longer than is absolutely necessary. But even at the end of this strange, strange year I wanted to take a moment to remember a few bright spots. More than ever this year, I got messages, comments, and emails about how recipes on this site helped you to pass time, to find comfort, to learn a new skill. As a food blogger I can’t ask for anything more, so thank you for making this little hobby of mine even more rewarding through your kind words and recipe remakes. See you in 2021!
While it was a notoriously challenging year to release a book (ingredient shortages, printing and mailing delays, no in-person events or book signings), I smile every time I see Baked to Order in another kitchen somewhere in the world. Thank you for supporting me by supporting Baked to Order — I am truly humbled by your kindness, and I look forward to seeing more of your bakes from it in the new year.
Remember when flour and yeast was scarce and everyone made a sourdough starter? Yeah, me neither. But while the intense sourdough craze of spring 2020 has cooled, your love for sourdough hasn’t. My sourdough discard post was the most popular page on the blog in 2020, and I published a few new sourdough recipes this year:
Cookies were my ideal 2020 baked good: perfect for socially-distanced drop-offs and easy to freeze for later. I published more cookie recipes this year than ever before, because I made more cookies this year than ever before!
This year, we all looked for ways to celebrate in scaled-down fashion. I absolutely cannot wait for the day I can make and share a big old layer cake with my friends, but will enjoy these small-batch treats for years to come.
Cinnamon rolls will always and forever be my special breakfast of choice. I love everything about them, from the mixing and shaping to the frosting and devouring. This is a very slightly adapted version of the sourdough cinnamon rolls in my book, Baked to Order. I’ve been tinkering with this recipe for a few years now, and I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see photos of them in your kitchens.
My favorite feature of Baked to Order is the multiple suggested variations for each recipe. This dough is a prime example. It’s been the base for both sweet and savory loaves, wreaths, swirls, buns, you name it. If something works, find a way to make it work even harder for you, I say! I love trying out different sweeteners, liquids, fillings, and frostings — so many possibilities!
I’m always looking for ways to use up our annual carton of eggnog, so for this variation I’ve snuck eggnog into both the dough and glaze. Dark brown sugar, a touch of molasses, and a punchy spice mix add to the festivities. Eggnog for me is all about the nutmeg (I love love love freshly grated nutmeg; fresh really does make a difference here); so if you’re a nutmeg junkie like me, grate a little extra over the top of the glazed rolls for maximum holiday vibes. Or be like my kids and go the sprinkle route. 🙂
Wishing you a safe, healthy, and joyful holiday season!
A few notes:
If you want to have these rolls ready for Christmas morning, I suggest the building your stiff levain the evening of December 23rd, mixing the dough and doing the 2-hour room temp proof on the morning of December 24th and shaping the rolls right before going to sleep that night. Leave them out on the counter to proof overnight. Then preheat the oven and bake first thing when you get up Christmas morning. Note that you need a ripe, active 100% hydration starter to build the levain, so make sure your starter is nice and happy by giving it a feeding or two beforehand.
If you don’t have einkorn/spelt/whole wheat flour, you can omit it and increase both the bread and all-purpose flours to 142g (284g total) in the final dough ingredients.
If you don’t have eggnog, replace it with 100g whole milk and use milk (or cream or coffee….mmmm) for the glaze. I’ve also included my go-to cream cheese frosting for these buns if you prefer that route!
If you’re new to enriched sourdough breads, please read my tips here before starting! Cliff’s notes: make sure to knead your dough until it’s very strong and smooth (this will take awhile with a stand mixer) and not to rush the proofing — this will give you the softest, fluffiest, “shreddiest” rolls!
If you don’t plan to eat all the rolls right away, store unglazed/unfrosted rolls in a sealed plastic bag. They keep well for several days — just heat individually for about 15-20 seconds in the microwave to refresh.
Make the levain: In a medium bowl, mix the starter, milk, and flour together to form a stiff dough. Cover the bowl and ferment the levain at warm room temperature until more than doubled in volume, puffy, and domed, about 8 to 12 hours.
Autolyse and mix the final dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix together flours, sugar, milk powder, egg, molasses, eggnog, cream, and levain until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 45 minutes.
Add the salt and knead on medium-low speed until the gluten is moderately developed, about 5 minutes. The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Turn the mixer to low and add the butter about 1 tbsp at a time, incorporating each batch before adding the next. Turn the speed back up to medium-low and continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test, about 10 to 15 minutes. The dough should be smooth and supple. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and transfer to a lightly oiled container.
Bulk fermentation: Cover and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Stretch and fold the dough, cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, and up to 24 hours.
Shape and proof the rolls: When ready to shape, in a small bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, spices, and salt to form a spreadable paste. Lightly grease a 9 x 9–inch (23 x 23–cm) baking pan or a 9- or 10-inch (23- or 25-cm) round cake pan (preferably aluminum).
Take the dough out of the fridge and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 14-inch (36-cm) square, doing your best to maintain an even thickness.
Spread the filling mixture evenly over the dough, going all the way to the edges. Roll the dough up like a jelly roll, pinching to seal. Turn the roll so the seam side is down.
Cut into nine even pieces using a sharp knife or unflavored dental floss (my preferred method).
Transfer the rolls, cut side up, to the prepared pan, leaving space between each (they will grow into each other during proofing).
Cover the rolls with a piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature, about 74-76F, until the dough is very puffy and roughly doubled, about 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven and bake the rolls: About 45 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. Bake until the rolls are lightly golden and register 195 – 200F in the center, about 20 minutes. (Tent with foil partway through baking if browning too quickly.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool while you prepare the glaze or frosting.
Prepare the spiced eggnog glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the icing sugar, salt, and spices. Whisk in the eggnog a teaspoon time until you get a thick glaze that drizzles easily off the whisk (I used the full 1 Tbsp). Drizzle glaze over the rolls and serve immediately.
Prepare the cream cheese frosting: While the rolls are baking, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add half of the icing sugar and beat to combine. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fluffy. Allow the rolls to cool on a wire rack before spreading with frosting (or for an extra gooey situation, spread a thin layer on while they’re still quite warm then spread more on after they’ve cooled down). Serve immediately.
We spent the past weekend packing up white bakery boxes filled with sweet treats. Dropping boxes off on doorsteps, ringing the doorbell, and waving enthusiastically from the car when the recipients opened the door — it was heartwarming to continue a holiday tradition with a 2020 twist.
We gift about two dozen of these boxes each year, so I’m always looking for simple, non-time-intensive ways to add sparkle, texture, and color to our treat selection. Christmas confetti cookies fit the job perfectly — they’re a humble sugar/snickerdoodle at heart, but are loaded with festive flair (aka sprinkles). I make sure to whip up an extra batch of this dough because my family can’t get enough of these cookies — they’re just so good! (I’ve included a list of all the other treats we included at the bottom of this post, with recipe links where available.)
You can prep Christmas confetti cookie dough in advance and refrigerate it for up to 5 days (or freeze for longer storage). I like to bring the dough out to room temperature while the oven is preheating, then roll in sugar right before baking.
I like to use jimmies, or the long rod-shaped sprinkles, in this recipe. The color doesn’t bleed, unlike non-pareils and other sprinkle shapes. Feel free to sub in rainbow jimmies for non-holiday-themed confetti cookies!
Christmas Confetti Cookies
Makes about 12 cookies
113g unsalted butter, at room temperature
120g granulated sugar
30g light brown sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
175g all-purpose flour
50g red and green sprinkles (I use jimmies — the rod-shaped kind)
40g granulated sugar
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugars, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low to combine, then increase the speed to medium and cream until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle a couple times during this process to ensure even mixing.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the egg and vanilla. Increase the speed to medium and mix until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and paddle.
With the mixer on low, add the flour. Mix just until a few streaks of flour remain, then add the sprinkles. Use a flexible spatula to stir from the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure everything is well-mixed and there are no pockets of unincorporated flour. Cover and chill until firm but still scoopable, about 45 minutes.
While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Portion the dough into twelve ping-pong sized balls, about 45 grams (3 tbsp) each. Toss each in granulated sugar, coating completely. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches (6 cm) apart.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are set but the centers are still soft and pale, about 10 to 12 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store leftovers in an airtight container.
One of my favorite parts of December is turning the kitchen into a mini candy-making factory. I love giving edible treat boxes out for the holidays; and while there’s no love lost for cookies, Christmas candies are what truly excite me. Caramels, brittle, toffee, nougat, marshmallows — I love making them all.
Marshmallows might be the ultimate form of kitchen magic. You start with granulated sugar, corn syrup or honey, water, and gelatin; and somehow you end up with fluffy edible clouds that delight people of any age. You can get super creative with marshmallow flavors, though since I just make mallows a couple times a year (once in the summer for s’mores, and once around Christmas) I normally stick to either vanilla or peppermint.
This year, though, I decided to branch out and make some honey and sea salt marshmallows; and they are lovely! The honey flavor sings loud and clear, since there’s not many other ingredients to distract. I add a generous pinch of sea salt to round out the experience — not enough to make the marshmallows salty by any means, but just to give the slightest savory hint. Next time I may go truly wild and use some brewed chai to bloom the gelatin!
Here are a few tips for marshmallow success:
Read the recipe through completely a couple times before starting. Marshmallows aren’t difficult to make, but they do require close attention to temperatures and working with hot syrups. Syrups wait for no one and once you hit the right temperatures you need to move on quickly to the next step. Measure everything ahead of time and prep all your equipment. This is a project best done without small children or animals underfoot.
Use a digital probe thermometer for gauging temperatures. I have both a Thermoworks DOT thermometer and Polder digital probe thermometer; both work beautifully (note: these are affiliate links). Make sure that the tip of the probe is fully immersed in the syrup but not hitting the bottom of your pot to ensure accurate readings.
Most marshmallow recipes are pretty similar in terms of ingredients. The biggest differences you’ll notice are in the temperature for cooking the sugar syrup — I’ve seen everything from 225F to 250F. I’ve been using this method from Bravetart for years (first from her sadly archived blog and then her cookbook). Though cooling the syrup may seem like an extra step, it’s safer than pouring boiling hot syrups into a mixer. Plus it ensures that the setting power of the gelatin won’t be compromised through overheating.
Honey foams quite a bit when boiling, so make sure you use a pot that’s at least 3.5L to avoid overflows and sadness. I recommend using a mild honey such as clover since stronger varieties can be overwhelming in this amount. You can also replace part or all of the honey with light corn syrup (by weight) for a subtler flavor or for plain vanilla marshmallows.
The small amount of butter is optional — it adds a little extra flavor and tenderness.
While you want to whip the mixture sufficiently so your mallows are nice and fluffy, don’t whip too long or the mixture will start setting in the bowl. This makes an already sticky process even messier, plus you end up losing more marshmallow than necessary to the bowl and beater. I like to pan the mixture when it’s fluffy but still sliiiightly warm and a little fluid. A greased flexible bowl scraper is by far my favorite tool for scraping the marshmallow out of the bowl and into the prepared pan.
Honey and Sea Salt Marshmallows
Makes about thirty-six 1 1/2″ marshmallows | Adapted from Bravetart
For the marshmallows:
21g (3 Tbsp) powdered gelatin
115g (1/2 c) cold water, for blooming gelatin
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
115g (1/2 c) water, for the sugar-honey syrup
140g (1/3 c plus 2 Tbsp) good-quality, mild honey
340g (1 3/4 c) granulated sugar
5g (3/4 tsp) fine sea salt
14g (1 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted (optional)
30g icing sugar
Prepare the pan: Lightly grease an 8×8 square pan with cooking spray.
Bloom the gelatin: In a small, wide bowl, mix the gelatin with 115g (1/2 c) cool water and the vanilla extract. Stir to combine, making sure all the gelatin is saturated. Leave to bloom while you prepare the sugar-honey syrup.
Cook the sugar syrup: In a 3.5 or 4 L heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the remaining 115g (1/2 c) water, honey, sugar, and sea salt. Stir to combine. Place over medium heat. Stir occasionally with a heat-proof spatula or fork until the mixture starts bubbling, then stop stirring (stirring a boiling sugar syrup can encourage crystallization). Clip on a digital thermometer and continue cooking the syrup until it reaches 245-250F.
Cool the syrup: Once the syrup reaches temperature, pour the syrup into the bowl of a stand mixer, using a flexible, heat-resistant spatula to scrape the pot. Let the syrup cool until it registers 212F, about 5-6 minutes.
Whip the marshmallow: Once the syrup has cooled to 212F, scrape the bloomed gelatin into the bowl. Carefully transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium low until the gelatin has melted, then increase the speed to medium-high and whisk until the mixture is fluffy, thick, and roughly tripled in volume, about 8-10 minutes. The bowl should be slightly warm to the touch. If adding the butter, reduce the speed to low and drizzle in the melted butter; then increase the speed back to medium high and mix for a few seconds just until incorporated.
Pan, cure, and cut the marshmallow: Use a greased spatula or flexible bowl scraper to scrape the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan. Let sit, uncovered, for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight) to “cure” or set the marshmallow.
When ready to cut, sift together the cornstarch and icing sugar to make the marshmallow dust. Sift some of the dust over a cutting board, then invert the pan with the marshmallow onto the board, gently tugging it free with your fingers. Sift more of the marshmallow dust over the marshmallow. Use a thin, long knife to cut the marshmallows into 6 strips (or whatever size you’d like); then cut each strip into 6 even pieces. Clean the knife between cuts for best results. Toss each marshmallow in the remaining dust to ensure it doesn’t stick. Store marshmallows in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Ginger molasses cookies are always at the top of my holiday must-bake list. My favorite recipe is generously spiced, chewy, and instantly makes the house smell like Christmas. On a whim I stuffed a batch with some salted butter caramels I had leftover from some recipe testing. Best/worst idea ever: best because the caramel levels up a cookie I thought couldn’t be improved — the caramel adds another level of chew in addition to a surprise hit of sweetness. Worst because these have sort of ruined me for the “regular” version.
A couple of notes:
You can use any kind of chewy caramel candy for stuffing, though I like to an extra dark one that has just a hint of bitterness.
You can refrigerate the dough (stuffed or unstuffed) for up to 5 days. I like to bring the dough to room temperature while the oven is preheating and toss in sugar right before baking. I haven’t yet tried freezing this dough with the caramel stuffing but will update this post when I do.
Caramel-stuffed Ginger Molasses Cookies
Makes about 13 large cookies | Adapted from Bon Appetit
125g all purpose flour
75g bread flour
50g rye flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
65g granulated sugar
50g dark brown sugar
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
113g unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, at room temperature
113g fancy molasses (not blackstrap)
40g turbinado sugar
40g granulated sugar
13 chewy caramel candies, storebought or homemade (mine were roughly 3/4″ squares)
In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, spices (except for the fresh ginger), and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and dark brown sugar. Add the grated ginger and rub it into the sugar with your fingers to distribute.
Whisk in the melted butter, molasses, and egg to combine.
Add the dry ingredients and mix just to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm the dough up slightly to make it easier roll. (If refrigerated longer than an hour, let stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to soften slightly.)
While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 375F with a rack in the center, and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the turbinado and granulated sugar in a small bowl.
Divide the chilled dough into 26 equal portions (25g each).
To stuff the cookies, take two portions of dough and flatten each into a thick disc. Take a caramel and press it gently into the middle of one piece of dough (trim or squish the caramel to fit, if needed), then place the other piece of dough on top. Pinch the edges of the two pieces of dough together to seal in the caramel, then roll gently between your hands to form a ball. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
Roll each ball in sugar and place on the prepared baking sheets about 2.5 inches apart. (Cookies will spread a bit so leave plenty of room!)
Bake sheets one at a time for about 9-11 minutes, rotating halfway through, until cookies are puffed and starting to crack and the edges are set. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.