Trends in home baking
Ancient and heritage flours plus taking control of ingredients are driving the home baking scene right now.
I’ve admitted this freely: I’m not great at baking. But I strive to get better and learn more, so when a friend sent along an invitation to an online presentation featuring the Home Baking Association’s (HBA) Sharon Davis, I jumped at this opportunity.
“We’re about getting the flour in the bow,” Davis said.
Hosted by St. Louis Culinary Society and the St. Louis Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, the program discussed recent stay-at-home lifestyles and how this has impacted home baking. Remember last year when we couldn’t find packaged yeast on grocery shelves? There’s a reason for this.
“During sheltering, people had more time on their hands,” Davis said. “And there was panic when everyday items weren’t available.” When bread wasn’t fully stocked, people researched how to bake it themselves (that explains the run on yeast); Davis added there also was a great interest in creating sourdough bread starters.
HBA research from late last year, however, revealed the ability to control ingredients was the top reason folks bake, edging out even those comforting family recipes we love to keep alive. And many bakers are exploring different ingredients, such as einkorn flour. Flour milled from heritage wheat, like Turkey Red, is another trend. Recently, I participated in an online cooking class hosted by Slow Food Saint Louis that featured Chef Rob Connoley of Bulrush restaurant, who taught us how to make delicious muffins using acorn flour.
Although outside sources such as social media and television cooking shows provide bakers with great information and inspiration, HBA research points to our mothers as the one who taught us to bake. Baking is popular with millennials (25 to 34 year olds), with 33 percent polled responding they bake at home. Of all survey respondents who don’t bake, 38 percent listed "it takes too much time" as the reason.
Honestly, I often feel that way. By the time I get out the mixer, the ingredients, and bring butter and eggs to room temperature, I could have made a pot of soup and fried a pan of pork chops.
But I also have a sweet tooth, so what’s a girl to do? For me, box mixes usually are at least the starter (if not the answer, frankly), or I swing by one of the few remaining bakers in my area. Yet, there is something special about baking something from scratch, at least from where I’m standing, and right now that’s in a pile of flour on the floor.
I like a recipe that’s pretty simple, so cookies and bars are right up my alley. These lemon butter cookies (recipe at the bottom of page) fit that bill: simple, tasty, and almost fool proof. I just wish a had some cute everyday cookie cutters (any ideas out there as to where I might find them) to add to my meager collection.
My mom clipped this recipe from a 1995 issue of Taste of Home magazine. I followed it pretty closely, only adding some lemon zest to the mix. They came out of the oven about 90 minutes ago, and I have to tell you that I’m having trouble keeping my hand out of the cookie jar. There is a subtle lemon flavor to this tender cookie; I’d like it to have a little more of a citrus punch, so next time, I’ll add an extra teaspoon of lemon extract and zest.
In my oven, nine minutes baked the cookie just before the edges turned brown, which was just right for me. Also, the recipe notes the yield to be “about 13 dozen” but that has to be a typo! I cut the recipe in half and used a biscuit cutter; this resulted in about 30 cookies, so a full batch would presumably yield approximately 60.
Be sure to chill the dough for two hours before attempting to roll these out. I chilled them overnight—being too tired in the evening to start baking—and let the wrapped dough sit on the counter for about 90 minutes. An hour probably would have worked; the dough was a little soft, sticking a bit to the rolling pin, so I put it back in the fridge while cutting out the first tray of cookies. Eventually, the dough was easy to roll out, just as the original recipe noted. Not counting the down time, the prep was about 20 minutes and baking three trays took approximately a half hour. Compared to some baking recipes, I’d say this is a quick route to some tasty sweets.
As spring continues to unfold in Missouri, a light, lemony butter cookie goes well with a cup of herbal tea for a late afternoon treat. But to be safe, I’d better put that cookie jar on the top shelf.
For more recipes and tips to get you baking at home, be sure to check out the HBA website. There is savory and sweet inspiration there that can help to put flour in your bowl and get you baking.
Want some more cookie recipes? Give one of these a try!
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