Many of us have picked up baking at home to destress during the ongoing work-from-home period. Unfortunately, baking is an expensive and frequently inaccessible form of relaxation, given that we don't all have the correct ingredients to try out different desserts. Here are a couple of easy bakes I've found online, which I adapted accordingly to match the ingredients I have at home. They've brought a variety of flavors and textures into my life, and I hope they'll brighten up yours too!
- Roy's Classic Melting Hot Chocolate Souffle
This recipe calls for chocolate, butter, sugar, eggs, a little bit of cornstarch, and that's it. That means no time spent working your arms off trying to whip up a meringue, no quirky ingredients that you have to reach deep into your pantry for. I halved the recipe because I just wanted a small snack to share with my siblings! Even though the ingredients came together so quickly, I was pleasantly surprised by the deep flavor of chocolate and the juxtaposition between the lightly crisped crust and creamy insides.
Note: It does require you setting it inside the fridge overnight, but between you and me, incubating it for five hours does the trick!
- Irish Soda Bread
No yeast? No problem. Create a huge crusty hunk of bread with all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, butter, an egg and buttermilk. The baking soda and buttermilk chemically react to generate leavened dough with some kneading. There's no need to let it rest. If the "cottagecore" aesthetic is something that calms you, then this incredibly rustic product will soothe your heart. My family divided it up very quickly and finished the warm slices of bread with strategically smeared butter.
- Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
I made these muffins with the overripe bananas on my countertop were being woefully ignored. The best thing about this recipe is how fluffy and tasty they are when they're fresh out of the oven—the combination of chocolate and banana is a classic and beloved one, for good reasons. The second best thing about this recipe is how brain-numbingly easy it is to combine the ingredients and mix it together: a welcome respite from the grind of academia. It calls for all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, about two large ripe bananas, an egg, butter, milk and semisweet chocolate.
- Shokupan: Japanese Milk Bread
I would marry this bread if I could. For all you audio-visual learners, this video sums up the process really quickly (and there's a written recipe here). I just used enough bread flour, milk, water, yeast, sugar, salt, egg and butter to fill a standard loaf pan. The outcome was pillowy soft with a thin golden-brown skin. It tasted slightly sweet with a faint hint of milkiness. In other words, a great snack—even if we had to wait for it to rest in two separate rounds!
- Walnut Hummingbird Cake
Some of my substitution experiments have gone terribly wrong. One time, I tried to make a red velvet brownie with a cheesecake swirl, only I substituted vanilla essence with almond extract and left out the red dye. I ended up with an awkward almond-scented brownie-cheesecake combination.
For this recipe, I swapped out the pecans for toasted walnuts. That way, I saved time by not creating the pecan cookie crumble while still retaining a crunchy layer to sprinkle all over the top. I know this recipe says it will take three hours to create, cool and construct, but trust me, it will be worth the time! This is a unique cake you could totally bring for a holiday celebration. It combines the rich warm spices of cinnamon and nutmeg, with the zesty, tropical spike of pineapple and banana—and it is paired perfectly with the brightness of cream cheese frosting and a nutty crunch inside and out. It's absolutely divine.
- Bonus Failure: Matcha Basque Burnt Cheesecake
This is what happens when you make a six-inch cake in an eight-inch cake pan! It tasted delicious, gripping matcha intertwining with silky cream cheese flavor, with an added depth from the caramelised top and sides. You'll need heavy cream, cake flour, sugar, cream cheese, eggs, matcha powder and patience for all the chilling that it needs to do in the fridge after it emerges in a post-bake glory!
It's perplexing how universally enjoyable it is to follow a set of instructions to measure, level, pour out, and mix a muddle of ingredients, then watch it bake slowly but surely. Don't deprive yourself of these simple joys—try out these bakes today in between your study sessions or after finals. I can't wait to see how they turn out!