Weekend Cooking

Ambitious Cooking Projects for the Adventurous Cook in All of Us

March  8, 2018

Some recipes simply can't be recreated with shortcuts—instead, they get more delicious the more time, energy, or special ingredients you put into them. We've partnered with Farrow & Ball to celebrate these labor-of-love cooking projects. (You'll get it when you take a bite!)

A homemade Napolean cake against a deep-hued wall in our studio, painted with Farrow & Ball paint. Photo by Rocky Luten

Holiday baking season is over. So is the Super Bowl Sunday snack fest. And Easter and Passover are woefully far away, as is spring. What’s a home cook to do at the tail end of winter? Projects. Nothing warms the home like a good ambitious cooking goal to cross of our list. Fresh tortillas for taco Tuesday? How about homemade cheese? (Mozzarella or ricotta or both—who needs to choose?)

Why only bake cookies when you can make ice cream too and poof—ice cream sandwiches? Or try your hand at a regal Napoleon—your own puff pastry will taste much better than the storebought stuff. Daunted? Don’t be. Enlist your family or your friends and make it a party. The best part, aside from bragging rights when you’re serving your homemade bacon, is eating your work. Whether you’re making apple strudel, Vietnamese pho, or sourdough starter, throw yourself into that cooking project with singular abandon. By the time you’re done, it may be spring.

The Recipes

Olea Hercules’s Napoleon

This Soviet-style cake is a true labor of love. It requires making your own puff pastry, rolling out and baking twelve thin rounds, then layering them with custard (homemade, of course). The end result is a flakey, creamy creation that you can’t get at just any corner bakery. A word of advice: Invite a few friends to help with this one (and tell them to BYO rolling pin).

Homemade Mozzarella

Remember the first time you tried fresh mozzarella, and realized the rubbery cheese from the grocery store has a soft, milky doppelgänger? Now take that sensation and multiply it by a million. That’s the feeling you’ll get when you make your own mozzarella at home. You’ll need to buy some unusual ingredients (rennet tablets and citric acid), make curds and knead your cheese. No one said it was simple. But is anything that’s worthwhile, really?

Raspberry Ice Cream Sandwiches

Churning your own ice cream is crafty, some might even say, ambitious. But making your own ice cream sandwiches? That’s next level. This divine recipe combines from-scratch tart raspberry ice cream and buttery coconut-lemon shortbreads in one crispy, creamy frozen treat. Why bother? Because woman can’t live on Chipwiches alone.

Homemade Manicotti

Get your crepe pans ready. This recipe for cheesy stuffed manicotti calls for making your own blintz-like pasta and fresh ricotta from scratch. The resulting casserole, with tender pasta leaves and lusciously soft cheese, is greater than the sum of its parts...which is saying a lot.

Homemade Bacon

Now’s as good a time as any to get to know your butcher. You’ll need him (or her) to special order your pork belly, because you’re making bacon! This is project cooking at its finest—not only does it require special ingredients and days of curing (including flipping and massaging your meat), you’ll also need to smoke the thing! But if you plan ahead, it’s totally doable. Plus, you win bragging rights for life.

Sourdough Starter

Creating a living, breathing sourdough starter is a long-term commitment, more like planting a seed and nurturing it than just baking a loaf of bread. All you need is rye flour, honey, water, and about a week or so of your time. But, as the saying goes, if you teach a woman to ferment, she can have sourdough bread (and pancakes, and waffles) for life.

Kaya Coconut Jam

If you’ve ever been to Singapore, you know that kaya jam on buttered toast with a soft boiled egg will redefine the way you think about breakfast. True, this recipe instructs you to “stir for 10-20 minutes,” but you’ve been wanting to build up your upper body strength, right? And you get a jar of rich, coconutty spread to show for your workout. Sounds like a win-win proposition.

Apple Strudel

Imagine making dough from scratch. Then imagine taking said dough and stretching it...and stretching it...and stretching it some more until it covers your entire kitchen table, and is thin enough to read a newspaper through. That, my friends, is what it takes to make your own flakey strudel. (Thankfully, the apple filling is comparatively easy.)


You don’t have to be someone’s abuela to make excellent corn tortillas at home (though it doesn’t hurt). This recipe, brought to you by masa harina, water, salt, and a whole lot of flattening and rolling, will up your taco game like no other. A bonus recipe for oven-baked chips means just one thing: world’s greatest nachos.

Viet Hapa Pho

Beef bones. Oxtail. Lots of aromatics. And time. Because there’s no cutting corners when it comes to cooking that rich, fragrant broth that makes Vietnamese pho the queen of comforting noodle soups.

When it comes to certain recipes, the labor of love is part of the fun, and makes the end result that much better. Our partner Farrow & Ball—our go-to paint for our office and beyond—completely understands. That's the same way the celebrated British company thinks about making its luxe, high-pigment paint: only the best ingredients with no shortcuts. We're so glad they do, because our walls reap the benefits.

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1 Comment

Smaug March 9, 2018
Don't see how tortillas got on this list- they're very easy to make and don't take much time (the dough does need a good resting period to hydrate properly), and are an everyday food for millions. The main problem is finding yellow corn masa- the relatively insipid white corn masa has become fairly ubiquitous; you're better off with commercially made tortillas. Bob's Red Mill makes one, but it's a bit too coarse for tortillas. Maseca also makes one, but I haven't found it in stores; it's available on Amazon, but expensive. If you're lucky enough to have a good Mexican market or tortilla factory nearby, you may be able to get fresh masa.