One of my favorite ways to cope with the state of the world this past year was by baking. Anytime I felt my anxiety begin to spiral, I'd walk into the kitchen and immediately feel at ease. It became my go-to hobby, a nice way to distract myself and offer some semblance of control which, of course, also resulted in delicious desserts. While there were some disasters (looking at you, s'mores pie that literally went up in flames and my bundt cake that wouldn't come out of the pan), there were plenty of successes as well. Here are my five favorite things I made this year that will forever be part of my baking arsenal:
1. Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake. Oh, the notorious Chocolate Guinness Cake. To give you some context, G and I send each other DMs, texts, and emails pretty much all day long with recipes or meals we'd like to try. And this cake, unknowingly, was one that we passed back and forth some...half a dozen times. I finally made it in November and was absolutely blown away by the results. It's by far the best thing I've ever made—almost an entire can of Guinness goes into the batter and while the taste of the beer isn't one that you can make out, it lends itself to a cake that is moist, fluffy, and ultra chocolatey without going over the top. And the silky cream cheese topping only solidifies this as the best cake, ever. I won't tell you how long it took us to demolish the whole thing and suggest you make this as soon as possible.
2. A Cozy Kitchen's Tiramisu. I'm not even a tiramisu fan and this dessert was pure perfection – made even better by the fact that the recipe is my friend Adrianna's! It was incredibly easy to whip up (the only hard part is tracking down ingredients like Lady Fingers and Mascarpone cheese) and will definitely be something I serve to guests the first time we're able to throw a dinner party.
3. Nancy Silverton's pizza dough. I'd made pizza before quarantine, but once we added it as part of our weekly ritual on Sunday nights, I knew I had to step up my game. I rotate between two recipes, depending on just how much time I want to spend in the kitchen. When I'm feeling ambitious, the Nancy Silverton dough is superb—it puffs up beautifully in the oven, resulting in a light, chewy crust with impressive depth. It's a time suck though, and it basically requires that you dedicate the better part of an afternoon tending to it (which hasn't been much of an issue since we haven't been going anywhere). The other dough that's been a good alternative is this one, which can be made several days in advance (it gets better the longer it's in the fridge) and requires nearly zero hands-on time. Most Sundays we keep the toppings simple, using a basic tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil, but we've started experimenting with other combinations like meatball with jalapeño, goat cheese with chili flakes, and white pizza with rosemary chicken and potato.
4. New York Times' Coffee Cake. One of the requirements for a lot of what I've baked this year is that they complemented my daily cup of coffee. This coffee cake was an obvious choice and a delight to have waiting in my kitchen each morning. The cinnamon sugar gave way to an airy, bright cake that I've made three times since.
5. Cook's Illustrated's Key Lime Pie (recipe in this Highlight). I dropped off a key lime pie for a friend's birthday earlier in quarantine and I've never had someone request a recipe as quickly as she did. But it's that good. The graham cracker crust is the perfect balance to the lime custard that's equal parts tangy and creamy. This is one of G and my favorite pies in general and this variation is the best I've made (and had).