Mediterranean Country-Style Bread. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)
Photo: Chris Lee
Photo: Chris Lee

5 of our favorite recipes for quarantine distractibaking

In this moment of quarantines and social distancing, distractibaking has overtaken its more prominent cousin, procrastibaking. Atlantans living under the current stay-at-home order might find themselves with more time at home and a good reason to avoid the grocery store, if possible. Plus, the wholesome, nurturing nature of baking makes for a welcome distraction from the pandemic and uncertainty teeming outside our quarantine walls. Read on to find recipes for some of our favorite baking projects.

Bread

A household essential that tends to disappear from grocery store shelves when people over-buy in the name of disaster preparedness, bread is one of the most rewarding baking projects you can undertake. Under quarantine, the phenomenon of a distractibaking has quickly taken hold. Social media has been filled with photos of cookies, muffins and the miraculous no-knead bread that has long been one of the most popular recipes ever published by The New York Times. For AJC readers who want to get in on the action, we’ve dug up an article from 2016 that has several recipes for everyday breads, including ones for old-fashioned white loaf and hearty country bread. 

Old-Fashioned White Loaf

Old-Fashioned White Loaf
  • 1/4 cup warm water, 110 to 115 degrees
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm whole milk, 110 to 115 degrees
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Place the water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. In a medium bowl, whisk together the warm milk and melted butter.
  • Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix for 1 minute on medium speed to blend. Add the yeast mixture and milk mixture and mix on medium speed just until the dough comes together, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free cotton towel, and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate before further kneading. Turn the speed to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is firm, elastic and smooth, 3 to 6 minutes. (To mix by hand, mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, add the yeast mixture and milk mixture, and mix until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead until firm, elastic and smooth, about 8 to 10 minutes).
  • Lightly oil a large bowl, scrape the dough into the bowl and lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes (longer if the room is cold). If you are using a glass or see-through plastic bowl, be sure to mark the starting level of the dough with a pencil or piece of tape so it’s easy to tell when the dough has doubled.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don’t knead the dough again or it will be too springy and difficult to shape (if this happens, simply cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free cotton towel and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes to give the gluten some time to relax).
  • Shape the dough into a loaf by pressing it into a flattened rectangle whose sides are a couple of inches shorter than the long sides of a loaf pan. Arrange the dough so a long side is parallel to the edge of your work surface. Fold the long side opposite you up into the center of the rectangle; fold the long side near you into the center, pressing the edges together with the heel of your hand. Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll the short side opposite you toward the center, rolling it as tightly as you can. When you reach the bottom edge closest to you, pinch the final seam closed. The dough should be the same length as your loaf pan.
  • Lightly coat the loaf pan with melted butter or an oil spray (not olive). Place the dough, seam-side down, in the pan. Lightly oil the top of the dough to keep it moist. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free cotton towel, and allow the dough to rise again until its top is 1/2 to 1 inch above the rim of the pan, 45 to 60 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and position an oven rack in the center. Brush the top of the loaf with a thin film of the beaten egg. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the internal temperature registers 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Yield: 1 medium loaf.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving (based on 16): 115 calories; 3 g fat; 1 g saturated fat; 17 mg cholesterol; 4 g protein; 19 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 230 mg sodium; 23 mg calcium.

Recipe from “The Art & Soul of Baking,” by Cindy Mushet

Hearty Country Bread

Hearty Country Bread
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 1/3 cups water at room temperature, divided
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour, divided
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Note: This bread takes 2 days to make
  • For the sponge: In a medium bowl, stir the yeast into 1 cup of the room-temperature water until dissolved. Mix in 1 cup of the bread flour and the whole wheat flour with a rubber spatula to create a stiff, wet dough. Cover with plastic wrap; let sit at room temperature for at least 5 hours or preferably overnight.
  • For the dough: Use a rubber spatula to mix the remaining 3 1/2 cups bread flour, rye flour, the remaining 1 1/3 cups tepid water, honey and the sponge from step 1 in the bowl of a standing mixer. Attach the dough hook and knead the dough at the lowest speed until the dough is smooth, about 15 minutes, adding the salt during the final 3 minutes (see note at end if kneading by hand). If the dough looks dry after the salt is added, add water in 1-tablespoon increments every 30 seconds until a smooth consistency is reached. Transfer the dough to a very lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until tripled in size, at least 2 hours.
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust the top of the dough and your hands with flour. Lightly press the dough into a round by folding the edges of the dough into the middle from the top, right, bottom and left, sequentially, then gathering it loosely together. Transfer the dough, smooth-side down, to a colander or basket lined with heavily floured muslin or linen. Cover loosely with a large sheet of aluminum foil; let the dough rise until almost doubled in size, at least 45 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and place a large baking stone on the rack. Adjust the other rack to the lowest position and place a small empty baking pan on it. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Cover a peel or the back of a large baking sheet with a large piece of parchment paper. Invert the dough onto the peel and remove the muslin. Use a single-edge razor blade or sharp knife to cut a large X about 1/2-inch deep into the top of the dough. With scissors, trim the excess parchment around the dough.
  • Slide the dough, still on the parchment, from the peel onto the stone; remove the peel with a quick backward jerk. Pour 2 cups hot tap water into the heated pan on the bottom rack, being careful to avoid the steam. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the bottom of the bread reads 210 degrees and the crust is dark brown, 35 to 40 minutes, turning the bread after 25 minutes if it is not browning evenly. Turn the oven off, open the door and let the bread remain in the oven 10 minutes longer. Remove, then cool to room temperature before slicing, about 2 hours. To crisp the crust, place the cooled bread in a 450-degree oven for 10 minutes.If kneading by hand: Make the sponge as directed. Place the sponge and 1 1/2 cups of the bread flour, the rye flour, the remaining 1 1/3 cups tepid water, honey and salt in a large bowl. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth, about 5 minutes. Work in the remaining 2 cups bread flour and then turn out onto a floured work surface. Knead by hand for 5 minutes, incorporating no more than an additional 1/4 cup flour as you work. The dough will be very wet and sticky. Proceed with the recipe. Yield: 2 loaves, about 1 1/4 pounds each.

Nutritional information

Per serving: (based on 20): 148 calories; 1g fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; 5 g protein; 31 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 234mg sodium; 8 mg calcium.

Recipe from “Baking Illustrated,” by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine

Cakes

In stressful times, cake is a friend. Lean into cake cravings and make something delicious that will raise the spirits of your entire household. Below, we have selected a couple of classic recipes that fit well with our city and state. The first is the legendary coconut cake from the long-closed Rich’s Bakeshop, a recipe that has been requested by AJC readers through several decades. The second is an Appalachian Apple Stack, a less-sweet option that works as well for breakfast as it does for dessert.

070313 - CONYERS, GA -- The famous Rich's coconut cake, made by Carl Dendy , wih help from local baker Angie Mosier , in Dendy's kitchen at his home in Conyers. Story about one of the most requested recipes in Atlanta, the coconut cake made at the Rich's bakery that closed more than 20 years ago. (CHARLOTTE B. TEAGLE / AJC Staff).
Photo: Charlotte B. Teagle/AJC

Rich’s Bakeshop Coconut Cake

Rich’s Bakeshop Icing
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons powdered milk
  • 1/2 cup water (for dissolving milk powder)
  • In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, combine the vegetable shortening, vanilla and salt and cream together until incorporated. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar until it forms a very thick consistency. Dissolve the powdered milk in the water and gradually add, just 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time, until the icing is a nice, spreadable consistency.

Rich’s prepared a three-layer cake with two layers of coconut filling. If you don’t have three pans of the same size, two works fine. This recipe makes three 9-inch layers or two thicker 9-inch layers.

Rich’s Bakeshop Yellow Cake
  • Shortening and flour for pans
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour or White Lily all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon powdered milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2/3 cup liquid milk (low-fat or whole)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake pans by lightly greasing with shortening, then dusting with flour. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir the powdered milk into the water and mix until dissolved. Combine the liquid milk with the powdered milk/water mixture and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the shortening and the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add about half the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated, and then half the milk mixture, again beating until just incorporated. Repeat this step, adding the remaining flour with the remaining liquid, and beat until just smooth (about 1 minute). Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowls once or twice during the mixing. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake in preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on how many cake pans you use and how full they are. The cake is done when it springs back when lightly pressed near the center with your finger. Allow the cake to cool for a few minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely.
Rich’s Bakeshop Coconut Filling and Cake Assembly
  • 2 pounds frozen unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • In a large bowl, thaw the frozen coconut. Set aside. Take 1-and-1/2 cups of the coconut and place in a smaller bowl. Combine the water and sugar and pour over this smaller bowl of coconut. This should be very moist but not soupy. Place one layer of the yellow cake on a cake plate and spread with icing. Spoon the moistened coconut over that. Place the next layer on top and spread with icing, spooning the moistened coconut over it. Continue this process until all your layers are filled; however, don’t put the moist filling on the very top of the last layer, as it will be iced. Next, cover the entire cake with the icing. Make sure to use a thick coating of icing on the cake to eliminate any of the cake showing through. Take handfuls of the dry, thawed coconut and press the flakes into the icing. You may want to put a tray underneath to catch any coconut that falls. Continue pressing dry, flaky coconut all over the cake until it is completely covered. Chill for about one hour to set (it helps the coconut to stay) before serving.
An apple stack cake is a traditional Appalachian dessert featuring a thick dried apple filling spread between layers of sorghum-sweetened cake. Once stacked, the cake is left to cure for a few days before being eaten. Some apple stack cakes are topped with confectioners’ sugar. This cake, prepared by Barbara Swell, Ashley Capps, Ashley English and Susannah Gebhart, is decorated with dried apples shaped like roses, lemon verbena, sage, rosemary and raspberries. TYSON HORNE / TYSON.HORNE@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Appalachian Apple Stack Cake

Apple Stack Cake - Apple Filling
  • 1 pound dried apples
  • Apple cider to cover
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • Place the dried apples in a large pot and pour enough cider to cover. Bring to a simmer and allow the apples to hydrate and cook, adding more cider or water as needed to keep from sticking. After about 30 minutes, stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt and continue to cook until the apples break down and thicken somewhere between applesauce and apple butter (there will still be some chunks). Set aside.
Apple Stack Cake - Cake Layers
  • 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sorghum syrup or molasses
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • Pinch nutmeg (optional)
  • Pinch allspice (optional)
  • Cream the butter and add the sorghum syrup and brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the eggs and buttermilk. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and optional spices and stir well. With your hands or a spatula, add the flour mixture in 2 parts to the butter mixture. Fold until incorporated. The batter will be stiff like cookie dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes until firm. Divide the dough into 6 balls. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll out into about 1/8-inch-thick circles that are about 9 inches in diameter. Use the bottom of a cake pan as a template to cut an even circle. Collect dough scraps and reroll. You will have between 6 and 8 cake layers depending on how thick you roll your dough. Place parchment paper with dough rounds on cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees until cakes are lightly browned. They will still be a little spongy.
Apple Stack Cake - Assembly
  • Apple Filling
  • Cake Layers
  • After the cake layers have cooled, place one on a plate, spoon some of the warm apple mixture on and spread in a thin layer evenly over the surface. Add another cake and repeat, stacking up the layers. You’ll leave the top bare for now, but reserve 1 cup of the apple mixture for serving. Wrap the cake well and refrigerate for a day or two. The cake will soak up the juices from the apples. Before serving, top cake with remaining apple mixture. Serves 12-15.

Nutritional information

Per serving: based on 12: 453 calories (percent of calories from fat, 25), 7 grams protein, 79 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 13 grams fat (8 grams saturated), 67 milligrams cholesterol, 346 milligrams sodium.

Treats from Local Bakers

For more baking-related projects, check out these recipes from popular Atlanta baker Sarah Dodge, formerly of 8ARM. She shared a few of her recipes back in 2017; that same year, she left the restaurant industry to start her own “rogue baking operation” called Bread is Good. Dodge specializes in long-fermented sourdough breads but sells an ever-changing mixture of loaves and pastries, as well as a monthly bread subscription. 

Another independent baker, Jesse Kirkpatrick, sells her breads and other baked goods through Instagram under the name After Flours. Customers can arrange to purchase her creations through Instagram for pickup at the recently-opened Elemental Spirits Co. in Virginia-Highland, where she is the assistant general manager and wine buyer. 

Kirkpatrick shared a personal-favorite cookie recipe featuring the calming flavors of Earl Grey tea. The recipe earned her third place in a staff cookie competition during her tenure at Aquavit, the acclaimed Nordic restaurant in New York City.

Earl Grey Tea Cookies
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea leaves (about 6 tea bags— you can use decaf tea)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsalted butter cut into pieces
  • Heat oven to 375. Pulse together all the dry ingredients in a food processor until the tea leaves are pulverized.
  • Add the vanilla, 1 tsp water and the butter. Pulse together until a dough is formed.
  • Divide the dough in half. Place each half on a sheet of parchment paper and roll into a 12-inch log, about 2 inches in diameter.
  • Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Slice each log into disks, 1/3 inch thick, rotating after every few slices to avoid flat sides. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart.
  • Bake until edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks.

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Read the AJC Fall Dining Guide: The Noodle Edition

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