Posh bakery owner Michelle Apiar dishes on delicious baking tips
Simple tips to have a warm and fuzzy winter with your oven.
When the weather outside is frightful, we often look to our ovens for entertainment. Winter baking is one of the season's best pastimes — especially when the snow outside prevents you from leaving the house. Michelle Apiar, the artist at Haute So Sweet creations and a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, where she specialized in pastry, knows a thing or two about successful baking. To make sure your winter is a successfully sweet one, we asked her to give us her top three tips on baking.
1. Freezer-Friendly Doughs
Shortbread doughs hold very well in the freezer, so you can make a big batch, shape it into logs, wrap well, and freeze. When you are ready to bake, thaw them in the fridge overnight, take them out and lightly coat with an egg wash, roll in colored sanding sugar, slice, and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets to bake. Simple, festive, and delicious!
2. Don’t Overwork It
The biggest mistake home bakers make when making cookies is overworking the dough. To maintain the tender and buttery nature of shortbread cookies, you want to mix the dough until just combined and only roll out the scraps once. It is also important to let the dough rest between mixing and rolling.
3. Use Festive Flavors
Creative flavors to work with are pomegranate, cardamom, and cranberry with Grand Marnier.
Winter to summer yeast baking
Do you ever have trouble with a much-loved yeast recipe suddenly starting to misbehave? Maybe your baguettes, always shaped so nicely, mysteriously fall flat. Or the dough for your favorite weekly sandwich bread, usually so easy to knead, is suddenly unbearably sticky. Plus your shaped loaf rises in what seems like just half the time. Transitioning from winter to summer yeast baking can be tough what’s going on?
Simple: it's the weather. Namely, increased heat and humidity.
Flour and yeast, the heart and soul of bread baking, are both affected by your kitchen’s micro-climate. Yeast loves warmth. The hotter it is, the more quickly yeast grows (until it experiences "thermal death" at around 140°F).
Thus dough made on a hot summer day naturally rises more quickly than dough made in the dead of winter, when your kitchen is probably a lot cooler.
As for flour, it can act like a sponge, absorbing moisture from humid air in the summer (and drying out in the dead of winter). So flour is usually “wetter” in the summer and “drier” in the winter. If you don’t reduce the liquid in your recipe in summertime, you may end up with yeast dough that’s too soft and sticky. Dough can over-rise and then fall in the loaf pan or your shaped loaf might flatten out (rather than rise) on the baking sheet.
How do you successfully transition from winter to summer yeast baking? By understanding heat and humidity, and how they affect yeast dough.
Identify your optimum dough texture, then aim for consistency season to season
Know what the dough for any particular recipe should look and feel like. Is it dry, stiff, bagel dough, super-sticky ciabatta dough — or easy-to-handle sandwich bread dough? Whatever the dough consistency is for any particular recipe (and most recipe writers will clue you in), adjust the ratio of liquid to flour to attain that result.
Here’s some dough for Gruyère-Stuffed Crusty Loaves that I made and photographed last January. Notice it’s sticking to the sides of the bowl in spots, but also starting to mound up and form a ball. For this particular recipe that’s the consistency I want: quite soft, yet not annoyingly sticky.
And here’s that same recipe's dough made in June. It’s sticking to the bowl all around, with no sign of forming a ball.
Finally, here’s that same recipe made in June with the liquid reduced by 10%, in order to make a stiffer, more January-like dough.
On the left, January’s dough on the right, June’s dough. Very similar, right? In order to get the same great Gruyère loaves in June that I get in January, I make sure June’s dough looks and feels like January’s dough.
How to adjust dough consistency by reducing liquid
If you suddenly notice your yeast doughs seem to be stickier and softer than normal, it's probably the result of hot, humid weather. To get your dough back to normal, reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe — typically by about 10%, in my experience.
Naturally, you'll have to experiment with this everyone's kitchen climate is different. But if you have yeast recipes you make over and over again, and the dough always seems much stickier in the summer, it's worth it to figure out just how much you need to reduce the amount of liquid to get back to your optimal dough consistency.
But wait a minute. Isn't it easier simply to make the recipe as is, and increase the flour if your dough ends up too wet?
It would be indeed. But adding more flour to your recipe negatively affects the balance between flour and the remaining dough ingredients: yeast, salt, sugar, butter. While it's easier to correct a hydration mistake by throwing flour at it, it's actually better for your finished loaf to not make that mistake in the first place.
That's how to deal with humidity: by reducing the liquid in your summertime recipe by up to 10%.
For best flavor and texture, control the temperature of your dough
Pay attention to how warm your kitchen is. Yeast grows fastest in temperatures in the 90s. But the "sweet spot" for dough, optimizing both yeast growth and the production of flavor-adding organic acids, is 75°F to 78°F.
So for best texture and flavor in your finished loaf, try to keep your rising dough’s temperature in the high 70s. Which means if it’s late June and your kitchen is already 86°F, you’ll want to start by lowering the temperature of whatever liquid is called for in your recipe.
This process — adjusting liquid temperature to attain a specific dough temperature — is followed by professional bakers every day you can read more about it in our Desired Dough Temperature blog post. Just remember: the hotter your kitchen, the cooler the liquid in your recipe and conversely, the colder your kitchen, the warmer the liquid.
Winter to summer yeast baking: the takeaways
- The change in heat and humidity in your home from winter to summer can affect how your yeast loaves and rolls turn out.
- Identify the optimal dough consistency for any particular recipe, then adjust the liquid in the recipe seasonally to attain that consistency.
- Try to keep the temperature of your rising dough around 75°F to 78°F. In summer, that may mean using colder liquid than normal. For more on this, see our blog post on Desired Dough Temperature.
As summer settles in, along with its heat and humidity, try a yeast recipe you bake year-round and see if the dough seems stickier than it did last winter. If so — you know what to do!
Have you had trouble with bread-baking in different seasons? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!
20 Simple Baking Projects for a Winter Snow Day
A snow day means you suddenly have the whole day to play in the kitchen — hurray! But a snow day also means you can’t run out for ingredients, so if you’re planning on a baking project, it needs to be based on what you already have in the pantry and refrigerator.
Flour, butter, eggs, maybe milk — what can you possibly make with these simple ingredients? Quite a few things, especially if you can sneak in a few other staples such as cinnamon (our easiest cinnamon rolls!) or maybe you have a few very ripe bananas on the counter just begging to be transformed into banana bread.
Cookies, Bars, and Brownies
A batch of cookies is a classic snow-day treat. You can make chocolate chip cookies, of course, but a snow day is a bonus day, which means you can stretch a little, so try the palmiers or jammy granola bars!
Vanilla and chocolate are classic cakes to make, since most people have vanilla extract and chocolate as regular pantry staples. Here we offer some alternative approaches, as well as options for apple and banana. And just because you’re baking from staples doesn’t mean you can’t get a little fanciful. Vanilla magic cake might look like it involves some wizardry, but the ingredient list is pretty standard!
These yeast-based breads don’t need an overnight proof or require an ancient sourdough starter, so you can make them within your snow-day timeframe with a set of common ingredients.
Quick Breads, Sweet Rolls, and Muffins
There is nothing cozier than the smell of cinnamon wafting from the kitchen. Send the kids out to shovel the drive and then reward them with fresh, hot-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls!
11 Recipes You Can Make This Week To Banish Those Winter Blues
Winter food is great𠅌ome December, there’s nothing more exciting than using winter produce, cooking warming stews, baking beautiful pies, and roasting squash, sweet potatoes, and roots to my heart’s content. Come February though… I’m ready to mix it up. Let’s be real: You can only eat so many bowls of “hearty” soup, chili, and stew before you’re daydreaming of sunnier vibes. If you’re having serious wintertime comfort food fatigue and are ready for zesty, fresh, crunchy, colorful meals againsically, food that doesn’t need to be ladled out of a slow cooker, I’m 100% with you. These 11 recipes make use of fruits and veggies you can find in the supermarket this time of year, but are sure to bust you out of the wintertime rut.
Something about citrus and seafood really helps with the winter doldrums. The sunshiny zing of lemon and the tang of the herbed yogurt sauce will have you reveling in the promise of warmer, brighter days ahead.
Sumac Chicken with Cauliflower and Carrots image Justin Walker
If you’re not familiar with sumac, it’s slightly tart with mild citrusy flavors. Applied to beautifully browned, crisped chicken thighs, it’s a surefire cure to chili fatigue.
Optional dough conditioner bread baking tip
Add 1 tablespoon cider vinegar to the dough or 1 teaspoon of diastolic malt, when you mixing it as a dough conditioner. This adds enzymes and increases the lightness of your dough. Ginger can also act as a dough conditioner, add 1/4 teaspoon of dried, powdered ginger per 2 loaf recipe. This bread baking tip was listed on the bags of Roger’s flour in the 1970s. It’s a classic bread baking tip that Grandma used to get a good rise in her loaves.
Vegan Rum Spice Icing
Written by Sparky on 07 November 2010 .
This Vegan Rum Spice Icing recipe is a great companion for drizzling on spiced versions of Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, danishes, or Pop Tarts. The vegan icing features powdered sugar for its base, dark rum, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves to move the spice factor forward. Feel free to cut back on the rum or eliminate it completely if you're concerned about alcohol consumption.
12 Healthy Winter Recipes (that I love!)
Since we just received some unfortunate news from Punxsutawney Phil, I figured I would come to the rescue with a list of my favorite healthy winter recipes to get us through these next six weeks.
Despite living in a very cold city, I haven’t experienced the typical winter blues this year and I attribute that to a few things: taking morning and evening walks outside with Marley, investing in good outerwear (this coat has saved me!), regularly taking my Vitamin D, and appreciating the beauty of the season. Good comfort food doesn’t hurt either. Does my face feel like it’s about to fall off sometimes? Absolutely. But views like this don’t come around every day. There is no need to get stressed to get the perfect meal, if you are feeling anxious or stressed you can always go to OrganicCBDNugs.com to get a stress buster.
I’m always on the look out for cozy, satisfying, healthy winter recipes this time of year, and these next 12 recipes check all of those boxes. Yes, salad can be cozy, especially if you load it up with texture, colors, and a little bit of gorgonzola cheese. I’m taking a cue from the most recent issue of Bon Appetit magazine and calling these healthy-ish.
Are they perfect? No, but they’re pretty damn close.
1. Cauliflower Chickpea Curry
Vegetarian, Dairy Free, Gluten Free
This continues to be one of my favorite winter curry recipes! You all seem to agree, because it is currently one of the most-visited recipes on the blog right now. Be sure to check out the comment section! Lots of people have left great comments with their own variations, tips, and ways to adapt this recipe for a slow cooker.
Reader Review: “I made this tonight and it is seriously one of the most delicious things that I have ever put in my mouth! Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe.” – Hartley
2. Loaded Winter Salad with Radicchio, Pear, Gorgonzola, and Pomegranate
My mother-in-law, Rachel, and I revisited this salad over the holidays, and I was reminded just how much I love it. She always adds in a few endive spears as well, and I highly recommend that small twist! The color alone with the purple radicchio, red pomegranate seeds, pear, veined gorgonzola is enough to win anyone over. It is a perfect balance of sweetness, tartness, saltiness, and bitterness. Add some roast chicken (or canned beans) to turn this into a filling hearty main course.
Reader Review: “Absolutely stunning salad. The colors are brilliant, and it tastes good, too. Didn’t have fig olive oil, but I had blood orange olive oil, and pear infused balsamic vinegar. I also added an orange to this and used some of the juice. A special holiday salad. Thanks for sharing.” – Vicky
3. Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal with Apples + Cranberries
There is nothing worse than a cold breakfast on a freezing winter day. I love that you can literally throw all of the ingredients for this oatmeal into your slow cooker the night before, and wake up to a bowl of steaming hot, creamy steel cut oats.
Reader Review: “I’m always on the lookout for slow cooker steel cut oatmeal recipes, it’s the best way to cook them. This one hits all the right notes, the flavor is awesome and it makes enough that I can freeze in single portion containers and eat whenever I’m in the mood for oatmeal.” – Cat
4. Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Crispy Goat Cheese
If you’ve never been a big mushroom fan, this is your new gate-way recipe. My brother-in-law doesn’t even like goat cheese, and this recipe convinced him to give it another chance. If you’re looking to speed this recipe up, feel free to substitute the homemade tomato sauce with a high-quality store-bought one. Rao’s Homemade is the only brand of store-bought sauce that I’ve ever enjoyed!
Reader Review: “Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I made it today and it is absolutely delicious. The flavors, textures – incredible! I could go meatless with recipes like this…” – Barbara
5. Garam Masala Carrot Soup
Vegetarian, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Whole30 Friendly
Don’t be intimidated by the fancy micro greens on top. They are totally optional. This carrot soup, which can be made with just a sheet pan and blender, is proof that homemade soup doesn’t have to be time-intensive or complicated. If you can’t find garam masala, feel free to substitute it with your favorite curry powder blend.
Reader Review: “This was so yummy! I LOVE Garam Masala and it was perfect with the carrots and onion. We are a busy vegan family and we were able to make this on a weeknight no problem. Thanks!” – Dani
6. Middle Eastern Roast Chicken with Vegetables
Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Whole30 Friendly
There is nothing better than a crispy roast chicken during the cold winter months, and this spiced twist is my go-to whenever I’m beginning to tire of the classic, regular old version. The spice blend alone is worth making, storing, and putting on everything. This chicken is spatchcocked, which helps it cook more evenly and quickly –> check out this post on how to spatchcock a chicken.
Reader Review: “We just made this tonight. It was so amazing. We grilled it on the barbecue instead of baking in the oven and served with a couscous salad and grilled vegetables tossed with olive oil and one teaspoon of the spice rub. So tasty – we will make all summer!” – Andrea
7. Slow Cooker Cannellini Bean Soup with Rosemary
This soup is a wonderful reminder to keep things simple in the kitchen whenever possible. It contains only a few ingredients, but all the right ones. While most dried beans should be soaked before cooking, cannellini beans can go from dried to perfectly cooked in about 8 to 10 hours in a slow cooker. Set it in the morning and have dinner ready to go when you come home that night.
Reader Review: “This soup reminds me of the white bean soup my mom used to make, just a tad more sophisticated with the rosemary.” – Brittany
8. Whole Wheat Pasta with Walnut-Sage Pesto and Roasted Delicata Squash
??Proof that you don’t have to add ten pounds of cheese and buckets of cream in order to make the coziest of winter pastas. Also, proof that fresh sage and parsley can be just as good in homemade pesto as my go-to summer basil.
Reader Review: “I can’t stop smiling with every bite! I am eating this right now and I am loving every flavor. Doesn’t get much better than this when you gotta be stuck at home all day with construction workers under your house and nothing else to do but clean! This just made my day a lot brighter. Thank you!” – Amanda
9. Roasted Carrot Lentil Salad with Tahini Dressing
Vegetarian, Dairy Free, Gluten Free
I’m continually blown away by the response to this roasted carrot lentil salad! A fabulous reminder that some of the best salad recipes don’t need to contain a speck of leafy greens (aside from the carrot top stem garnish) to make them incredibly healthy, nutritious, and hearty.
Reader Review: “I made this tonight. I ate as a salad and added a few chopped walnuts. I added steak for my husband and kids as they are not vegans. It was a hit! Sooooo very hearty and complex flavors. Excellent. ” – Kristin
10. Green Pork Chili
Gluten Free, Dairy Free [without the toppings]
I’ll be the first to admit that this recipe does not have the most appealing of names (or photographs). Pork? Green? Chili? What? Once you get past that, you can appreciate this chili for all that it offers. If you’re looking for a different, non-tomato based chili recipe for the big day this weekend, check this one out. I can’t wait to adapt it to my Instant Pot.
Reader Review: “Made this last night and it was amazing. Filled with wonderful flavors!! The only change I made was I roasted ALL the peppers. I also cooked it in a pressure cooker!! Thanks again for sharing this recipe!!” – Mary
11. Slow Cooker Winter Vegetable Soup with Split Red Lentils
Gluten Free, Vegetarian [substitute vegetable stock]
Slow cooker? Winter vegetable? If that doesn’t scream health winter recipe, I don’t know what does. This soup is all about the vegetables and it is packed with them. The best part? The leftovers only get better with time. Don’t forget a sprinkling of parmigiana, parsley, and olive oil to finish it off! If you enjoy lentils (but don’t own a slow cooker), try this vegetarian green-lentil soup with coconut milk. It’s off the charts.
Reader Review: “This soup is delicious! It’s easy to make and full of healthy veggies. The olive oil, Parmesan, and parsley topping put it over the top.” – Bri
12. 30-Minute Beef Bourguignon
Dairy Free, Gluten Free [omit the flour]
Often times, I’ll dig deep into the recipe archives and discover an old favorite that I forgot about over the years. This dish happens to be one of those recipes. Adapted from a Cooking Light recipe, this recipe proved to the biggest skeptic (ie. me) that you can cook a lightened-up, time-friendly beef bourguignon in under an hour. This would make a fabulous weeknight-friendly Valentine’s Day dinner!
Reader Review: “Wow, this is great. I’ve always wanted to make beef bourguignon (or beouf as Julia used to say). I just couldn’t get the energy to start the daunting process. I think I can make it now.” – Norma
>>> Find more winter recipe inspiration in the recipe archives or check out what seasonal meals (and treats!) I’m loving on Pinterest right now.
Persimmon Cake with Pistachios
We’re at the tail-end of persimmon season, so try to scoop up some of the juicy red-orange fruits while you still can for this gooey, gorgeous dessert. (Tip: Check Asian markets, as they tend to more reliably carry persimmons in my experience.)
EASY WHITE BEAN CHICKEN CHILI
Soup recipes are some of my favorites to toss into the slow cooker, with chili rising to the top of the list.
Chili is hearty and comforting and so much fun to customize with whatever toppings your family loves best.
This Slow Cooker White Bean Chicken Chili has been making the dinner list quite often around here.
Made with Frontier Soups&trade California Gold Rush White Bean Chili Mix, this meal comes together with almost no effort yet still avoids any of the added salt or artificial ingredients I wouldn&rsquot want to feed to my kiddo.
Because I make this White Bean Chicken Chili in the slow cooker, it actually cuts down on a lot of the prep time that making a soup with dried beans would normally require. All I have to do is soak the beans overnight, then drain them and add them to the slow cooker in the morning.
You can even cook the ground chicken the night before if you&rsquod like. If you do, the only thing you&rsquod have to do in the morning is add the drained beans, broth, and diced sweet potato and turn the slow cooker on.
If you&rsquore not a morning person, this is definitely the recipe for you.
Heart of Winter Loaf
This robust loaf is great alongside stew or a hearty soup.
- 1 1/2 cups (177g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 1/2 cups (170g) King Arthur Premium 100% Whole Wheat Flour
- 3/4 cup (71g) oat flour or ground oatmeal
- 1/3 cup (32g) golden flax meal*
- 1/4 cup (28g) Baker's Special Dry Milk
- 2 tablespoons (25g) sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (9g) salt
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 3/4 cups (397g) lukewarm water
*Or substitute 1/3 cup additional whole wheat flour + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
Weigh your flour or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. Combine all of the dough ingredients, mixing and kneading to form a smooth, sticky dough.
Cover the dough, and let it rise for about an hour it should become puffy.
Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a 10" oval loaf. Place the loaves on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Cover the pan, and allow the loaves to rise for about 90 minutes, or until they've increased in size by about one-third.
Just before baking, brush with a lightly beaten egg white, then sprinkle with seeds. Slash each loaf diagonally three times.
Bake the loaves in a preheated 400°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the interior registers 200°F on an instant-read thermometer.
Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool. Store fully cooled bread at room temperature, well-wrapped, for several days freeze for longer storage.