There’s baking, and then there’s holiday baking. It’s one thing to busily whip up a batch of brownies for the neighborhood block party, quite another to roll up your sleeves on a lazy winter morning—dog curled up next to a garland-strewn fireplace, ornaments twinkling in the pale sunlight, and no obligations in sight. See yourself there, a steaming cup of coffee in your hands, a dream of flaky crust or crumbly cake dancing in your head. The only thing left is to pick your project. And oh, friend, have we got projects.
This slow, cozy season is the best time to learn new techniques as you craft a scrumptious snack for your pajama-clad loved ones to savor while watching It’s A Wonderful Life or grappling with a Game of Thrones jigsaw puzzle. It’s kitchen work on your terms—creations made solely for the joy of making something, then sharing it with your nearest and dearest. Below, you’ll find some of the baking recipes that have most delighted our community of cooks—and we’re sharing the gorgeous results they’ve shared with us. That’s right, the small images you’ll find throughout this post are the work of ChefSteps users. Inspired? Great! Let’s get started.
We sometimes slice this chiffon cake riff into cubes for various deconstructed desserts, but it’s equally delicious served by the slice with a cup of tea or some festive bubbly. As you can see, ChefSteps users have found plenty of ways to showcase a straightforward cake that’s bound to become a favorite in your family.
Pastry enthusiasts who evangelize canelés will tell you that the real things are only available in some fairy tale town tucked away in Bordeaux—where canelés originate—to which you most certainly cannot travel. Ignore those enthusiasts. With this recipe and the proper copper molds, you can make canelés in your own kitchen, in less than an hour, that are worthy of selling at any patisserie in France. Nestle into your breakfast nook with a cup of espresso and a handful of canelés, and create your own little slice of Bordeaux. Don’t believe us? Just look at the image above to see what our community of cooks have created.
This is the only recipe on this list that comes at a price—our macaron technique is part of a comprehensive class—but you can get it half off until January 9th, 2015, and you will not find a better way to master this most festive of French cookies.
When you learn to make Kouign-amann (say: QUEEN-ah-mahn), you’re really learning to make croissant dough—also known as laminated dough. No way around it, this technique takes time and effort, and can be a bit of a bear to master. But once you do, you’ll reap the rewards usually reserved for artisans at top-shelf pastry shops. So settle in—you’re gonna make this Brittany-born treat your baking-project bitch.
You’ve already got a delicious banana bread recipe, we know. But this one goes beyond delicious to seriously blow some minds. The secret? Caramelized bananas along with freeze-dried ones. Serve it with Honey Butter for an unforgettable holiday treat you’ll return to every year. As you can see, however, Banana Bread doesn’t have quite as many photos as the previous recipes do. We strongly encourage you to remedy that by posting your results in the comments section of that recipe. We can’t wait to see what you come up with.
Want to find more great cooking projects for the holidays? Head on over to ChefSteps and join our community of cooks today!
ChefSteps community members who shared photos used in this post include: e. oliva, Michael Fiske, Douglas Hallett (Olive Oil Cake); Isabel Cabrita, David, Luciana, Martin, Rory (Canelés); Darragh O’Flaherty, Josh Deri, Jeff, Harry, Jyoti, Luiz Quintanilha (Macarons); Zach, Summer, Joshua Wanger, Matt, Ombibulous (Kouign-amann).