“Baking Gold: How to Bake (Almost) Everything with 3 Doughs + 2 Batters + 1 Magic Mix” by Jami Curl (Ten Speed Press, $25)

‘Baking Gold’ uses baker’s expertise to give amateurs a head start

Jami Curl used to love devising elaborate recipes with laborious steps that might include smoking flour for cookies over Oregon alder wood, or candying nuts before folding them into brioche dough. That’s when she owned a bakery and had a team of assistants who helped her churn out various components in advance, ready to be quickly assembled into handcrafted creations throughout each day.

Since closing up shop, she’s learned to modify those processes for one set of hands that even a beginner baker could follow. That’s the premise behind “Baking Gold: How to Bake (Almost) Everything with 3 Doughs + 2 Batters + 1 Magic Mix” (Ten Speed Press, $25), a good-humored collection of low-stress baking projects built around six simple formulas.

Soft, yeast-risen Overnight Dough forms the basis of sticky buns and cinnamon swirls; Butter Dough transforms into a multitude of holiday cookies and tart crusts; Brown Sugar-Oat Dough morphs into fruit crisps and crunchy snack bars. Two ultra-easy batters can be baked into chocolate and vanilla cakes of any size and shape, ready to pair with a frosting, streusel, or flavored whipped cream.

Eager to use up the bag of marshmallows that’s been taking up valuable cabinet space since Thanksgiving, I whipped up a Marshmallow-Cocoa Cake: a dark and meltingly tender sheet cake made with sour cream and brewed coffee (no mixer required!) and covered in fudge sauce and marshmallow glaze. It was a glorious antidote to the gloomy news cycle.

“Baking Gold Mix” is a three-ingredient dry mix to have on hand for whenever a craving for a cookie or brownie strikes. I used it to bake Bits of Chocolate and Sea Salt Cookies that were so good, I immediately portioned most of them among plastic containers to leave outside neighbors’ doors before I devoured them all.

Next time, perhaps I’ll follow her more thoughtful gift-giving suggestion for wrapping logs of cold cookie dough in festive paper and ribbons, with baking instructions attached. Maybe I’ll add a jar of Cinnamon-Sugar Dust, or Custom Sprinkle Mix.

Until it’s safe to visit, I can’t think of a sweeter way to stay connected.

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.

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