Baking: Method and Recipes

Methods | Baking | Pastries

Baking is a way of cooking sweet or savory items in the dry heat of an oven. Although baking itself is a relatively easy process, it is good to have some knowledge of the role each ingredient plays in creating the final dish.

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Different ingredients strengthen, bind, thicken, sweeten, leaven and add moisture. Some ingredients, like milk and sugar, perform multiple roles. And others will only carry out their duties under very specific conditions. For this reason baking is often compared to the science of chemistry.

You shouldn't be intimidated by baking though. A reasonable knowledge of basic methods and ingredient functions opens up a world of variety and creativity that is the raison de faire cuire au four of the typical pastry chef.

Baking Recipes

Alfajores

Desserts | Alfajores Cookies

(South American dulce de leche sandwich cookies)

While they have origins in Moorish Spain, alfajores are especially popular in South America. They are simple shortbread sandwich cookies with a sweet filling of dulce de leche. Different doughs are used for the cookies depending on the country. Some use normal flour dough, while others add cornstarch or even cassava flour for a more delicate crumb. This recipe uses a mixture of flour and cornstarch. Read more »

ANZAC Biscuits

Desserts | ANZAC Biscuits

(Australian, New Zealand oatmeal and coconut cookies)

These tasty biscuits (called "cookies" in the U.S.) got their beginning during World War I. Mothers and wives with boys in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) worried they weren't eating well. So they devised a sweet treat in a time of rationing that would travel well in care packages sent a world away. Read more »

Apfelstrudel

Desserts | Apfelstrudel

(Austrian apple strudel pastry)

Hot apple strudel is one the most famous and delicious desserts to come out the kitchens of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Supple dough is stretched paper thin and rolled up around a tart-sweet filling of apples and raisins. Read more »

Apple Cake

Ingredients | Apples Image

(United States apple cake)

Apple cake is popular throughout the United States, especially during the fall when the new apple harvest is coming in. This simple, moist, rich cake really hits the spot. Read more »

Baking Powder Biscuits

Breads | Baking Powder Biscuits

(American breakfast quickbread)

Here is an easy, quick recipe for basic American breakfast biscuits. Spread with jam or serve topped with a generous portion of sausage gravy. Baking powder biscuits make a great addition to any Sunday morning breakfast. Read more »

Baklava

Desserts | Baklava

(Greek, Turkish nut and phyllo sweet pastry)

An ancient treat, baklava was first cooked up in its current form by Ottoman cooks in present-day Turkey. Its popularity quickly spread to Greece and other countries in the region. Sticky and sweet, it is the iconic Middle Eastern pastry. And it's surprisingly easy to make. Read more »

Banana Bread

Breads | Banana Bread

(Caribbean sweet quickbread)

Banana bread is eaten in many countries, of course. But it is especially popular in the Caribbean, particularly in Aruba, Jamaica and the Bahamas. Serve slices with dollop of whipped cream and a cup of coffee or hot tea. Also great for breakfast or as a snack for kids. Read more »

Barmbrack

Breads | Barmbrack

(Irish fruit bread)

Barmbrack is a tea bread popular in Ireland, especially around Halloween. This lightly sweet bread, studded with dried fruit, is best served toasted with a good smear of butter and a hot cup of Irish tea. Read more »

Basboosa

Desserts | Basboosa Image

(Egyptian semolina cake)

A favorite Egyptian sweet, basboosa is a semolina cake that is baked and soaked with a floral-scented syrup. Its melting sweetness goes well with a cup of hot coffee or tea. Read more »

Bauernbrot

Breads | Bauernbrot

(German farmer-style rye bread)

Authentic-tasting German bread is easier to make than you'd think. Bauernbrot, or farmer's bread, is a hearty rye bread that is the standard loaf in many German homes, especially in the south. It was traditionally made from scratch in farm homes and baked in age-old, wood-fired ovens. It takes a few hours from start to finish, but most of that time is spent resting the dough or baking it. The final product has a dense crumb, full flavor and a chewy crust. Read more »

Bibingka Especial

Desserts | Bibingka

(Filipino sweet coconut and rice flour cake)

Bibingka is a lightly sweet, moist cake made with rice or cassava flour and traditionally cooked over charcoal in a banana-leaf-lined clay pot. A simpler version can be made in a cake pan in the oven. Bibingka especial, with tasty toppings, is popular in the Philippines during the Christmas holiday season and is eaten after Midnight Mass on Christmas Day. Read more »

Bichak

Appetizers | Bichak

(Afghani stuffed savory and sweet pastries)

These triangular baked pastries come in both sweet and savory versions and are perfect as appetizers or with a cup of tea. The main recipe here is for meat (gosht) bichak, but try the pumpkin, cheese or jam versions too. Read more »

Blueberry Pie

Desserts | Blueberry Pie Image

(American blueberry-filled double-crust tart)

True blue American blueberry pie. Simple, sweet, rich, delicious and chock full of antioxidants. Blueberry pie is the perfect finish to a meal during the summer blueberry season. Try the star-studded crust variation for your next Memorial Day, Fourth of July or Labor Day celebration. Read more »

Challah

Breads | Challah

(Israeli Jewish braided Sabbath bread)

Challah is the traditional bread that begins Sabbath meals in every observant Jewish home. These braided loaves are a symbol and reminder of the miraculous manna that fell from the heavens to feed the Israelites as they wandered in the desert. For Rosh Hashanah, a round challah is favored and symbolizes the cycle of the year. Read more »

Cherniy Hleb

Breads | Cherniy Hleb, Russian Black Bread

(Russian black bread)

A hearty loaf of sourdough rye bread represents for many Russians the core of the Russian soul. As an old Russian saying goes, "porridge is our mother; bread is our father." Read more »

Clafouti

Desserts | Clafouti Image

(French cherry flan)

This sweet cherry flan originated in the Limousin region of France and is often served as a breakfast dish. Clafouti is classically made with fresh cherries in early summer, but you can substitute all kinds of seasonal fruits. Cherry clafouti is traditionally made without first pitting the cherries. Read more »

Coca-Cola Cake

Desserts | Coca-Cola Cake

(American cocoa-cola cake)

This fun cake originated in the Southern United States. Bake one up when you find yourself stuck with some flat leftover soda. A favorite for birthday parties. Read more »

Cornbread

Breads | Cornbread Image

(American cornmeal bread)

This recipe is for Southern cornbread, a drier, crunchier cornbread than its more cake-like Northern counterpart. It is best eaten same day it is baked. Stale leftovers can be used to make cornbread dressing. See the variations to make the Northern version. Read more »

Cornish Pasties

Meats | Cornish Pasty

(English beef and vegetable pies)

Pasties — handheld pies with a savory filling — have been enjoyed in Europe since the Middle Ages. But the Cornish pasty, from the English County of Cornwall, is the most famous of all. This meal-in-one classic was a favorite of Cornish coal miners of old, and it now enjoys protected status by the European Commission. To qualify, a Cornish pasty may contain only beef, potatoes, rutabaga and onion. No carrots please! Read more »

Dresdner Stollen

Desserts | Dresdner Stollen Image

(German Christmas fruitcake)

Dresdner Stollen is the famous fruitcake from Dresden that is sold throughout Germany during the Christmas holiday season. Stollen is made from a rich yeast dough mixed with candied fruit and almonds. Loaves are folded to symbolize the Christ child in swaddling clothes. Read more »

Empanadas

Meats | Empanadas Image

(Latin savory stuffed pastries)

Empanadas are meat pies popular throughout the Latin world. They probably originated in Galicia in the northwest corner of Spain. Spanish settlers introduced empanadas to the New World, and they are a special favorite in Chile and Argentina. The variety of fillings for empanadas is endless and includes stewlike mixtures chicken, beef, ham and cheese, fish and seafood. Other fillings include spinach, peas, potatoes, pumpkin and beans. Read more »

Focaccia Genovese

Breads | Focaccia Genovese

(Italian olive oil bread with sea salt and rosemary)

Focaccia is a rich Italian bread with roots in ancient Rome. It's name is derived from the Latin panis focacius, meaning "hearth bread," and authentic focaccia is still baked in wood-fired ovens. There are endless variations made in the Italy's various regions, but the most famous focaccia comes from the Ligurian town of Genoa on the northwest coast, where it's called a fugassa in the local dialect. Read more »

Gigantes Plaki sto Fourno

Vegetables | Gigantes Plaki sto Fourno

(Greek baked white beans in tomato sauce)

Healthy, full of fiber and filling, gigantes plaki (γίγαντες πλακί), is a common mezze all over Greece. Gigantes, or giant white beans, are slow-baked in a tomatoey sauce until they are creamy and caramelized. The beans — also called gigandes, yigandes, elephant beans or butter beans — can be substituted with lima beans. The Turkish version uses red beans. Read more »

Gingerbread Men Cookies

Desserts | Gingerbread Men Cookies

(English spiced Christmas cookies)

Spiced breads have been popular in Europe reaching back to the time of the ancient Romans and Greeks. Germans have their lebkuchen and gingerbread houses. The English have traditionally shaped ginger-scented dough into men, animals and Father Christmas for the holidays. This recipe is always a favorite with kids. Read more »

Glazed Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Desserts | Glazed Pumpkin Spice Cookies

(American cinnamon-scented baked treat)

Fall is pumpkin season, and these pumpkin cookies are perfect for Halloween, Thanksgiving or after raking up leaves on a crisp fall day. Enjoy their cakelike texture, subtle spice and sweet glaze with a cup of hot tea or fresh apple cider. Read more »