The 2019 Baking Roundup

If I had to summarize my 2019 in baking, I’d go with “Impulse Ingredients.”

I threw practicality to the wind last year and made tons of impulse ingredient buys. Think raspberry powder, peanut butter cups, toffee chips, rye flour. All things I wanted to try baking with… but not exactly pantry staples.

Which means I spent a lot of time researching recipes with very specific ingredients. made multiple rounds of rye chocolate chip cookies, tried toffee in all kinds of things and went nuts with Nutter Butters.

In between experiments, I also made time for some classics. I used my trusty caramel chocolate chip cookies for a thank you gift. Cinnamon chocolate chip bread helped sweeten a Monday morning. And I made my annual batch of pumpkin gooey butter cake, which is one of my all-time favorite recipes on this site.

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Overall stats
In all, I baked 38 recipes last year. 84% were new-to-me for 2019. My baking always skews to easy-to-transport treats, so it isn’t shocking that cookies dominated my recipe list. Still, I was surprised to see brownies so low on the list. Don’t worry though: I’ve already made one batch of brownies in 2020 and need to use up baking bars soooo there’s many more brownies in my immediate future.

Where it went
38 recipes may not sound like much over the course of a year. But unlike cooking a meal, my baking isn’t necessarily for survival or particularly “useful” for everyday life.  In fact, I only categorized one recipe as a “meal” in all of 2019. (It was blueberry banana pancakes. I stink at making pancakes. Please send help.)

So that means that most my baking was for pure, unadulterated fun. And within that context, 38 recipes can feel much more meaningful.

I brought 50% of the baked goods to work and 32% to other people’s events. I didn’t host any events in 2019, which is super unusual for me. Let’s say I’ll throw some parties in 2020 and bake up a storm to prepare.

Flavor list

Top flavors
53% of the recipes I made last year had some kind of chocolate in them. But when it came to dominant flavors, fruit won out. I think my favorite fruit-centric recipe was apple pie-stuffed snickerdoodles.

Pumpkin popped up for 4 recipes, but one of those was my biggest fail of 2019. Yes… even worse than the pancakes! I tried to make this pumpkin spice rugelach and it did NOT go well.

2019 on Sugarsmith 
I posted 7 times in 2019, way down from previous years. I wrote more about my lack of personal writing on my other annual report, so won’t get into the details here.

The top 3 new posts for 2019 were the apple pie cookies, lemon raspberry snickerdoodles, and vegan chocolate chip cookies. Older posts that performed really well were my beloved pumpkin gooey butter cake and this lemon cucumber cake.

Best new-to-me dishes in 2019
I’m always on the hunt for fresh food finds. This year’s top picks:

  • The Grilled Artichoke at Momed in Los Angeles
  • Truffle Fettuccine at Trattoria Gabriello in Florence
  • Lamb Hummus at Shalom Y’all in Portland
  • Strawberry Balsamic Hard Shell Soft Serve at Wiz Bang in Portland
  • The Mac and Cheese at the Cheese School of San Francisco
  • Spice Drinking Chocolate at Christopher Elbow in San Francisco
  • The hazelnut/peanut butter dessert course at Mini Bar in Porto

Here’s some of my favorite food pics from 2019. And keep your eyes on this space—my first 2020 recipe post is coming soon!

Nutter Butter Oreo Bars

A couple months ago I found myself with an extra package of Nutter Butter cookies. I’d bought them for an event, then didn’t need them, and they were just sitting around in my cupboard, waiting to be baked into something.

So I started searching Pinterest for ideas. I wanted to make some kind of blondie or cookie with little bits of Nutter Butter baked right in. When I saw this Pin from Six Sisters’ Stuff, I knew I had a winner.

And then I remembered that I also had Oreos in my cupboard.

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Enter these Nutter Butter Oreo Bars. Because why stop at one mix-in when you could have two?

These have a lovely blondie base, studded with chocolate chips, Oreos and Nutter Butters. Super simple to make, and a delight in every bite.

I happened to have Chocolate Oreos but you could definitely use regular Oreos, too. I decided to use mini chocolate chips instead of standard sized because I was worried too many big mix-ins might be overpowering. I loved how my mix-in ratio turned out but you could certainly use regular chips if that’s all you’ve got.

Nutter Butter Oreo Bars

Original recipe: Based on this recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff.

Yield: ~48 bars

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~50 minutes

Cook Time: ~30 minutes

Ingredients

For your blondies

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 8 Nutter Butter cookies, crushed into small pieces. Divide your Nutter Butte
  • 8 Oreos, crushed into small pieces

For the topping

  • 2 Nutter Butter cookies, crushed into small pieces. Divide your Nutter Butte
  • 2 Oreos, crushed into small pieces

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Use a rolling pin or your hands to crush your Nutter Butters and Oreos into small pieces
  3. Use your mixer to cream the butter and sugar
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla, then beat until combined
  5. Add in your baking powder, salt and flour. Mix on low until it’s combined.
  6. Mix in your chocolate chips, Nutter Butters and Oreos. You can do this part with a wooden spoon if you’re worried about over-mixing your dough
  7. Grease or line a 9×13 inch pan
  8. Use your hands to press the dough into the pan. Make sure its’s an even layer. If the dough is super sticky, you can spray your hands with cooking spray so it doesn’t stick to you
  9. Sprinkle your topping evenly over the batter (that’s your extra 2 Oreos and 2 Nutter Butters, combined)
  10. Bake for about 30 minutes. You want them to look slightly golden, but the center might still seem a little gooey
  11. Let the bars cool completely in the pan, then use a sharp knife to slice into squares

 

 

Confetti Cookies

IMG_6084I can’t think of a cheerier treat than these sprinkle-splattered cookies. They’re basically an amped up sugar cookie, made way better with a couple simple additions. The dough calls for both butter and cream cheese, which makes your cookies softer and cakier than most sugar cookies out there. You’re also gonna add in some almond extract, which gives the cookies a more more complex flavor than standard sugar cookie fare. Most people can’t tell there’s almond in there… but it definitely makes things tasty.

I made these for a dinner party and they were a truly awesome party pick. The recipe yields tons of cookies, they’re easy to transport and they’re a crowd pleaser. They also keep well: You can store them in a container for a couple days or freeze dough for later. 

The original recipe shared two sets of instructions so you could pick between using a food processor or a mixer. I was already using my mixer for somethin’ else while I baked these, so I used my food processor this time around. If you only have a mixer, check out Smitten Kitchen’s original post for detailed instructions! 

 

Confetti Cookies

Original recipe: Smitten Kitchen

Yield: ~ 4 dozen cookies

Suggested equipment: Food processor or mixer

Total Time: ~An hour

Cook Time: ~10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp fine sea salt (you can swap in table salt instead)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese (1/4 of an 8 oz brick)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract (optional, but definitely recommend using it!)
  • 1 cup sprinkles (Recommend using jimmies like this so they stick better)

Instructions

  1. Heat your oven to 375F
  2. Assemble your food processor with the metal blade.
  3. Put your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the food processor. Pulse a few times to blend.
  4. Slice your cream cheese and butter into large chunks, then put them in the processor. Blend until the mixture gets powdery.
  5. Add egg, vanilla and almond extract. Run machine until the ingredients form a dough and start to ball together. You should stop to scrape things down a couple times while you mix.
  6. Chill your dough for 20 minutes so it’s easier to roll into balls.
  7. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop your dough into sizeable balls. Deb from Smitten Kitchen recommends using a 1.5 tablespoon scoop to make sure they’re the right size. Make sure your dough balls are about 2 inches apart on the sheet.
  8. Roll each ball in your hands to heat it up a bit. This makes the dough tackier, which makes it easier to roll in sprinkles! Then, drop your ball into the sprinkles and roll it around to coat evenly.
  9. Use the bottom of a glass to press down on each cookie so it’s about 1/4-1/2 inch tall.
  10. Bake for 9-10 minutes. They’ll look a bit underbaked on top, but golden underneath. You want them to be a bit underbaked so they stay soft over time… if you bake these all the way through to start with, they’ll crisp up faster.
  11. Let your cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them over to racks to cool completely.

 

Apple Pie Cookies

I know this is a contentious thing to say on a baking blog, but it needs to be said: I really don’t like pie.

I don’t know what to tell you. The heavy crust and frequently-too-sweet fillings just don’t do it for me. I’ll take a fruit-filled crisp or cake over pie, any day of the week.

But cookies inspired by pie? Yes please, gimme, sign me up.

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These Apple Pie Cookies caught my eye a long time ago and I finally got around to making them this week. What a winner! The base cookie is similar to a snickerdoodle with a cinnamon sugar topping. And then you cook down some spiced apples, and stuff them right inside the cookie. In every bite, you get a bit of crisp cookie shell, a bit of spiced apple and a chewy hit of cookie. As my coworker put it: “It’s like pie, but with a better ratio of crust to filling.”

They’re also more portable than pie, though you’ll want to make sure to carry these babies right-side-up in a sturdy container. Since they have fruit in the middle, they don’t hold their shape as well as some other cookies, and might fall apart in transit if you put them on their sides.

These do take a fair amount of time since you need to prep apples, let your filling cool and go through assembly. I promise they’re worth it!

Apple Pie Cookies

Original recipe: Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~20 cookies

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~2 hours

Cook Time: ~16 minutes

Ingredients

Apple pie filling 

  • 1 3/4 cups apples—peeled, cored and diced. This takes about 2 medium apples.
  • 3 tbsp light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter

Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Coating 

  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Instructions

Make your filling

  1. Add all your filling ingredients to a medium saucepan (apples, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter). Stir to combine.
  2. Crank the heat up to medium, and let your pan come to a simmer. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, stirring continuously. You’re good to go when your apples are soft, with a thick syrup around them.
  3. Take your pan off the heat and let your filling cool for a while. You don’t want to stuff hot filling into cookies since the heat could affect your cookie dough. My filling took about 20 minutes to cool, but definitely keep an eye on yours to make sure it’s right before you move onto the next step.

Make your dough

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Use your mixer to cream the butter and shortening together. On medium speed, mix until the two are combined.
  3. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar, then mix on medium until it’s light and fluffy.
  4. Add the vanilla and one of your eggs. Mix the egg in completely, then add your second egg and mix it all again.
  5. Put your flour, baking powder and salt into the mixer bowl. Mix it on low until the flour starts to get incorporated into your wet ingredients. Then, turn up the speed to medium and make sure everything is completely combined.

Fill, roll and bake 

  1. First, make your cinnamon sugar topping. In a shallow bowl, stir the sugar and cinnamon until they’re completely combined.
  2. Scoop some dough from your mixer bowl—I used a couple tablespoons of dough per cookie. Smush the dough a bit so it’s easier to stuff.
  3. Put about 1/4 a teaspoon of filling in the center of your dough, and roll the dough back into a circle. You might want to play around with your filling ratio until it feels right, since it depends a bit on how big you make your cookies.
  4. Roll the dough ball in your cinnamon sugar so it’s completely covered in the topping.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Leave at least an inch between your dough balls so they have space to spread—these will spread quite a bit during baking!
  6. Bake your cookies 12-16 minutes. Mine took the full 16 minutes. Your edges should look set, but the centers will still look a little soft and will firm up as the cookies cool.
  7. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack, then move them into an airtight container for storage.

 

 

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Bread

A couple weeks ago, I’d planned to make muffins to bring my coworkers. After spending some time browsing recipes and thinking through the options, I realized muffins would be a bit cumbersome to carry that particular day. I also had cookies to bring… plus a suitcase, since I was headed on a work trip that night.

B270EEB4-4392-4327-9107-D5247733FF8BSo I pivoted to a morning quickbread. Quickbreads are a great solve when you want to make something that’s comforting, satisfying… but also pretty easy to make and carry. It’s a lot easier to carry a single loaf, than it is to carry a giant case of muffins or try to shove muffins in Ziplocs without crushing them. Most quick bread recipes come together pretty quickly (unless you pick one with super prepped ingredients!) and they’re pretty simple to bake right, too. 

I scanned my quick bread recipes on Pinterest, and landed on this Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Bread from Sally’s Baking Addiction. It looked delicious, and I already had all the ingredients on hand—so it won this round of recipe roulette.

This bread got rave reviews at work. There’s just something so comforting about cinnamon. To me, cinnamon means warmth—and when you put it in your breakfast, it helps the day get off to a better start.  

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Bread

Recipe source: Sally’s Baking Addiction. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added my own commentary. 

Yield: One 9×5 loaf. I sliced mine into ~40 smaller pieces.

Suggested equipment: None

Total Time: ~80 minutes

Cook Time: ~55 minutes

Ingredients

Cinnamon swirl

  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

 

Bread

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg, at room temp
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used dried buttermilk, and recommend it if you don’t want to buy fresh buttermilk that might go to waste. If you do this, follow the instructions on your package to figure out the right ratios of buttermilk powder and water.)  

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Make your cinnamon sugar by combining the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, toss your flour, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips together until they’re combined. If you’re using dried buttermilk, now’s the time to mix the powder in. Set the bowl aside for now.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk your egg, brown sugar and granulated sugar together. Make sure it’s totally combined—brown sugar can be pesky sometimes!
  5. Add the oil, vanilla and buttermilk (or water if you’re using dried buttermilk). Whisk gently until the mixture is smooth and you don’t see lumps. Be careful not to overmix at this step, since that could make your bread tougher than you want.
  6. Line and spray a 9×5 loaf pan. Pour half your batter into the pan.
  7. Top batter with 3/4 of your cinnamon sugar mixture. Then, pour the remaining batter on top.
  8. Sprinkle with the rest of your cinnamon sugar so it’s even on the top. You can add some mini chocolate chips to the top, too!
  9. Cover the bread loosely with aluminum foil before you put it in the oven. This helps the bread bake evenly since it often takes longer for the middle to cook, and you don’t want to burn the top.
  10. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your oven. I’d start checking at 45 minutes and go from there. Mine took about 55 minutes to cook.
  11. Allow bread to cool in the pan on a wire rack before you cut into it.

 

This bread will keep for several days if you wrap it tightly. It freezes well too—just be careful as you wrap it, since the foil might strip off some of the cinnamon sugar topping when you take it back out of the freezer. 

 

Lemon Raspberry “Snickerdoodles”

I have a strangely vivid memory of my first snickerdoodle. Ninth grade, school cafeteria, right after class. I’d never heard of snickerdoodles before, but loved them immediately. Partly because they’re delicious… and partly because the word “snickerdoodle” is really, really fun to say.

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Snickerdoodles stand out from the pack because they’re super chewy, with a bit of a tang that complements a cinnamon top. I’ve made a ton of takes on snickerdoodles over the years, from the classics to apple butter doodles and even a rosemary version. But I’d never thought about applying their approach to a totally non-cinnamon cookie until I saw this recipe from Hummingbird High. Michelle is genius to apply that snickerdoodle style tang and texture to a lemon raspberry flavor combo.

I brought these to work and so many people asked for the recipe, I knew I had to share it here. If you make these, keep a super close eye on the cookies as they bake. The little raspberry bits seem prone to burning, so make sure to get your cookies out of the oven at just the right time!

Lemon Raspberry “Snickerdoodles”

Original recipe: Hummingbird High. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~24 cookies

Suggested equipment: Food processor, mixer

Total Time: About an hour, with cooling time

Cook Time: 8-10 minutes

Ingredients

For the cookies 

  • 1 1/2 cups, minus 1 tbsp granulated sugar (just measure 1 tablespoon out and put it back in your container!)
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • Zest from one medium lemon
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (It’s important to use kosher salt instead of regular table salt! They’re totally different sizes and impart a different flavor.) 
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temp
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract

For the topping 

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freeze dried raspberries (I got mine at Trader Joe’s)

Instructions

Make your raspberry sugar

Use a food processor to combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar with the freeze dried raspberries. Pulse the processor until the raspberries get pretty small, and the mixture looks uniform throughout.

 

Make your dough 

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F and move a rack to the center of your oven.
  2. Combine your granulated sugar, brown sugar and zest in a small bowl. Use your fingers to toss it all together, then rub the zest into the sugar so it clumps and starts to smell fragrant. This helps release the oils that provide great lemony flavor. Set this aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk your flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and kosher salt.
  4. Throw your sugar mixture into your mixer, then add the butter. Beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, until it’s light and fluffy.
  5. Reduce your mixer speed to its slowest setting, and add the eggs one at a time.
  6. Add your lemon extract, and make sure it’s fully incorporated.
  7. Keeping your mixer on its lowest speed, start adding in the flour mixture. Add it gradually until it’s just combined with the other ingredients.
  8. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop your cookie dough so it’s about two tablespoons of dough per cookie. Put them on the sheets at least a couple inches apart so they don’t meld together when they spread in the oven.
  9. Roll each cookie dough’s top in the raspberry sugar coating, then put it back on the pan. The original recipe has you roll the whole ball but I found that the raspberries burn a bit, so I found it better to just put the raspberries on top.
  10. Bake your cookies 8-10 minutes. Keep a close eye on them to make sure they’re not burning on the tops. Take them out of the oven when the edges look set, but the centers are puffed and gooey. If the top starts to brown, it’s time to take them out.
  11. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then flip them over to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

The 2018 Baking Roundup

Listen, I know it’s kind of late for a 2018 roundup. But let’s pretend that I picked this timing on purpose, ok? Let’s just say that I was intentionally giving you a break from all those other year-in-review pieces, and wanted to spread mine out a bit.

Playing along? Awesome. Thanks for that.

I’ve been writing personal annual reports for a while now and started doing baking roundups a few years ago. It’s fun to see my baking trends, and set baking goals for the following year. So let’s dig in, shall we?

What I made in 2018

I baked 34 times last year, and 76% of that was new recipes. As always, cookies, bars and brownies dominated my list. That’s pretty typical for me, because those kinds of things are much easier to carry around on public transit than a tray of warm cinnamon rolls or a towering layer cake. I really do love making layer cakes, and always declare that I’m going to make more the next year… but logistics tend to get in my way. Maybe this is the year!

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I baked a pretty good mix of flavors last year. Chocolate tends to dominate every year, whether that’s brownies or chocolate chip cookies or M&M bars. In 2018, 50% of the things I baked last year included some kind of chocolate. But it wasn’t always the main flavor, and I tried lots of other things, too. I made 3 types of banana bread, 7 other recipes that included a different kind of fruit and 2 recipes that starred peanut butter.

The most intriguing recipe I made last year was these pea and vanilla cupcakes. They didn’t really taste like peas—you could tell there was something distinct going on in there, but I don’t think anyone would have guessed it was peas unless I told them. My absolute favorite thing I made last year (and didn’t blog about!) was this pistachio cake from Molly Yeh. It was perfectly nutty, perfectly fluffy and topped with this lovely, tart pomegranate frosting. I actually changed my mind at 9 PM the night before a party and switched from a different pistachio cake recipe to this one. It was definitely the right choice.

Who ate it?

hosted 3 events in 2018, accounting for 10 recipes. I took another 8 recipes to other people’s events, from birthdays to holiday potlucks to tea parties. The remaining 16 recipes went to work, where I leave things in the kitchen and beg people to eat them. They tend to happily oblige.

What did people read?

I published 12 new posts in 2018. That’s down from last year, but it correlates to a specific goal to spend less time on my computer than I used to. So, I can feel pretty good about 12 posts. I try to post a mix of things, from simple cookie recipes to complicated cakes. I think my absolute favorite recipe I posted in 2018 was these pumpkin cupcakes. It’s really just a standout recipe: Great texture, great flavor and lightyears ahead of lots of other pumpkin cakes out there.

Top New Posts on Sugarsmith for 2018

My Personal Favorites for 2018

Top Posts from Previous Years 

Looking ahead

I’ve baked a few times so far in 2019, and plan to rack up a few more recipes in the next couple weeks. My resolutions for 2019 are to bake more things with yeast, make more muffins and try to use all the random ingredients I’ve accumulated in my kitchen. Stay tuned to find out if I make it happen 🙂