By Erin Brown
People are currently passing time, getting creative, and using their pantries well at the moment. A quick scroll through my Instagram feed shows me that many are delving into elaborate baking projects. I give them a lot of credit – I always say I’m going to master croissants, babka, or macarons. But for me, this hasn’t been the time. I love to bake, as my colleagues know. But my time in the kitchen the past month has been sporadic at best. A bit of no-knead dough, a few small batches of cookies, and some late-night Rice Krispie treats (brown the butter, it’s a game changer). No pastry adventures here.
Part of it is time, of course. But other things make some of those elaborate projects tricky. Ingredients can be hard to come by and substitutions may be challenging. A fail would be even extra heartbreaking, given the possibility of wasted ingredients. Then there’s the question of what to do with all of it? Most home bakers foist their extras off on (hopefully) willing colleagues. I know I do. Baking a whole cake right now feels exciting at first and then quickly devolves into calculating the impact on our pantry. Do you know how many eggs homemade pasta calls for? Too many.
But baking makes me happy and that’s an important thing to hang on to at any time, so I’ve gathered some of the best tips and recipes* I can think of for seizing some of that happiness, with less impact on time, ingredients, and possibly our waistlines – unless we eat the whole thing. Enjoy, and be well.
*Not unexpectedly, this kind of baking has become a trend in recent weeks, meaning lots of creative recipe developers are coming up with new ideas every day. Search 3 or 4 ingredient baking, or small batch baking occasionally to see new ideas that have been developed.
Tips for Small Batch Baking
Dessert for Two
This blogger and recipe developer has been sharing great scaled-down recipes for years. Her site is full of inspiration for how to bake smaller.
p.s. I first discovered her blog a few years ago thanks to this Food 52 post. The salted caramel bars are amazing: https://food52.com/blog/18984-a-simple-way-to-bake-desserts-just-for-two
Peanut Butter Cookies
You likely know these, but in case you don’t. Keep in mind – they’re endlessly adaptable. I prefer them with almond butter and coconut sugar.
Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Speaking of almond butter – these are the first “healthier” cookies I ever made, years ago. They are still my absolute favorite. I never have Sucanat but have successfully subbed coconut sugar, date sugar and raw sugar with great success. Other nut butters are great too.
King Arthur Flour’s Shortbread
I’ve adapted this recipe often (different flours, sugars, and add-ins), halved it to make one pan, and sometimes skip the extracts. It’s always great. The link recipe calls for confectioner’s sugar, but if you don’t have it, you can easily sub granulated. To do that, for a half batch (1 9” pan): 1 stick salted butter, 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar, 1 cup + 1 tablespoon + 2-1/4 teaspoons of flour, and ½ teaspoon of vanilla (optional). Follow the recipe link below to bake.
Oatmeal Almond Butter Cookies
Another old favorite, these cookies come together in no time. I like to mix in some granola and turn them into breakfast.
I love thumbprint cookies and these are fantastic. Easy to halve the recipe too.
Need to use up some bananas, but not enough for banana bread? This recipe has been around for a while – now is a great time to give it a try. Quick and easy to adapt.
Nutella Mug Cake
If you’re craving chocolate cake – this might do the trick. Mug cakes in general are a great option for scaled down baking. Search for your favorite flavors – chances are there’s a recipe.
King Arthur Flour’s Flatbread
No yeast? This flatbread is quick, tasty, and easy to adapt. I halve the recipe.