I want to spend a good chunk of time baking something delicious and slightly ambitious... what do you make when you want to bake a day away?

My birthday is coming up, and as a gift to myself, I want to spend a pretty good chunk of time in the kitchen baking something scrumptious and maaaaybe even a bit out of my league. I'm no stranger to cakes or breads, but I'm not a professional pastry chef, either. When you want to spend a long time baking--something more laborious than simple cookies or a sheet cake--what do you make? I'm open for all sorts of suggestions; anything I don't make soon, I'll probably make later anyway! Thanks!

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32 Comments

Megan H. January 19, 2017
Macarons! When we were snowed/iced in over the last week I made 5 batches trying to perfect my method. My freezer is filled with yummy cookies. I really didn't need cookies after the holidays but when you're stuck inside...
 
Smaug January 17, 2017
Cookies were hardly the first thing I thought of when I saw this question, but I recently passed a good hunk of a cold day making Ischler cookies. I used Maida Heatter's dough recipe- she does it by hand, starting by blanching a couple of cups of almonds- the dough is similar to a Linzer dough (note- Heatter says to roll to 1'4", which is too thick). For filling I made a Lekhvar from a recipe (Polish Christmas Cookies, from this site)- after making the cookies and putting them together (it's a sandwich cookie) and half the sandwich is dipped in chocolate- all of this takes quite a bit of time (and makes a considerable mess). Then, you should have enough of the Lekhvar left over to make a load of Rugelach in the afternoon (both of these doughs need refrigeration). Rose Levy Beranbaum (who needs a shorter name- Rosie B.?) also has aan Ischler cookie recipe that's pretty good- and a bit different- but I like this one.
 
magpiebaker January 12, 2017
It's not as fancy as some of these other suggestions, but I love to make challah when I have a little bit of time. I use the recipe in Smitten Kitchen's cookbook (https://smittenkitchen.com/2012/09/fig-olive-oil-and-sea-salt-challah-book-tour/) and it is so beautiful when it comes out of the oven. I would love to tackle croissants one day but need to have somewhere to bring them :)
 
Kayleigh January 12, 2017
I've been getting more and more into baking bread lately, but never made challah, and the recipe you linked also looks like something my husband would just kill for (any bread with sea salt on top is a winner for him). Thanks!
 
Nancy January 13, 2017
In addition to more-or-less basic challah (like the one linked), there are others wirh anise (Joan Nathan), Sephardic with while spices (Uri Scheft), Peshwari (with coconut, raysin, nuts and Indian spices), chocolate (which overlaps with babka).
Not to mention a James Beard recipe for chalkahvmadecwith mashed potatoes.
If you're interested, I can provide links.
 
Ali W. January 12, 2017
Babka! Bagels! Homemade puff pastry!
 
Lindsay-Jean H. January 12, 2017
Happy early birthday! Here are a few ideas from around the site:
https://food52.com/blog/15801-20-weekend-baking-projects-to-conquer-this-winter-and-spring
https://food52.com/blog/8309-homemade-croissants
https://food52.com/recipes/51577-pizza-swirl-bread
https://food52.com/recipes/56541-s-mores-layer-cake
https://food52.com/recipes/39542-brown-butter-butternut-rolls
https://food52.com/recipes/40319-triple-layer-mousse
 
Kayleigh January 12, 2017
Awesome, thank you for the links!
 
PieceOfLayerCake January 12, 2017
Anything laminated. If I want to get my hands into something, put a good bit of elbow grease into it and get something really magical afterwards, I make croissants or puff pastry or danish dough....and if its not yeasted, I make a bunch of it. A few times a year I'll just make a few pads of puff and keep it frozen. SO versatile and so worth it. With it you can make mille feuille, fruit danish/tarts, pot pies, hand pies, turnovers, kouign amann, cheesey turney straw things, etc. That's my zen.

Since its your birthday, you could build on the puff a little more and make St. Honore which brings together a few technique-driven applications like the puff, pate a choux, caramel, creme chiboust, etc. Get the piping tips out, make spun sugar or ganache or praline and just bake and decorate your little heart out. Its fun, involved and really makes an impact.
 
Kayleigh January 12, 2017
St. Honore is something I've never heard of! These are great ideas. I've never made my own laminated doughs before and it would be such a delicious challenge.
 
PieceOfLayerCake January 12, 2017
I'll post some of my recipes for puff and pate a choux just in case you decide to use them at any point.
 
PieceOfLayerCake January 12, 2017
I'll post some of my recipes for puff and pate a choux just in case you decide to use them at any point.
 
Kayleigh January 12, 2017
Fantastic!
 
foofaraw January 12, 2017
I have been wanting to make Pattiserie-type mousse cake, the ones that has many different layers annd filling, and so artistically decorated, like http://freshnewengland.com/fresh/2009/11/elegant-cranberry-and-white-chocolate-gateau.html , http://seelenschmeichelei.de/espresso-mousse-cake-mit-mirror-glaze/ , https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/94/d4/21/94d42124abc07e6c7c35df153c18b7b3.jpg , http://the-wandering-girl.blogspot.fr/2012/03/entremet-au-matcha-et-sesame-noir.html , http://antoinette.com.sg/products-wholecake.html , http://www.prettytastycakes.com/2008/05/28/opera-cake-with-apricot-mousse-and-pistachio-buttercream/ , http://chloedelice.blogspot.fr/2014/08/entremets-mangue-passion-insert.html .
 
Kayleigh January 12, 2017
Oh those look fantastic, thanks for the links!
 
Windischgirl January 12, 2017
Dobos Torta, a classic Hungarian cake and first choice for birthday cake in our family. It's 7 layers of sponge cake layered with a chocolate custard buttercream, and optionally topped with a thin layer of caramelized sugar. And it freezes well!
I would also be tempted to make any kind of Austro-Hungarian Torte that catches my attention. Birthdays are all about the cake!
Let us know what you decide to do...
 
Kayleigh January 12, 2017
Here's something else I've never heard of, it sounds lovely. I'm off to check it out! Thank you for the suggestion! Everyone's ideas here have been so amazing that I now have a huge list--I'm probably going to end up making all of these at some point or another throughout the year! Oh man, are my coworkers going to love/hate me.
 
QueenSashy January 16, 2017
That is my ideal Dobosh is the culinary masterpiece and a torte worth spending the entire day in the kitchen My grandmother did 12 layers!
 
BerryBaby January 12, 2017
Chocolate Babka! Takes some time but it is SO worth it😋
 
Kayleigh January 12, 2017
It's actually on my to-do list after seeing a recipe for it here. I've never had babka before... it looks amazing.
 
HalfPint January 11, 2017
Panettone recipe by Jim Lahey
 
Greenstuff January 11, 2017
Croissants or bagels? Food52 has good articles and recipes for both of them. Or if you want to go the birthday cake route, I, after encouragement from a Hotline question, had my first adventure with rolled fondant this year. It was definitely a special project. Happy birthday!
 
Kayleigh January 12, 2017
I've never even considered making my own bagels! I love bagels and probably only have them a few times a year as fuel for long races; making them myself would bring them out of the "very occasional indulgence" realm a bit more toward "less occasional indulgence." This is an adventure worth pursuing. :D thank you!
 
Kayleigh January 12, 2017
I've never even considered making my own bagels! I love bagels and probably only have them a few times a year as fuel for long races; making them myself would bring them out of the "very occasional indulgence" realm a bit more toward "less occasional indulgence." This is an adventure worth pursuing. :D thank you!
 
AntoniaJames January 11, 2017
Paris-Brest, a real showstopper and a bit of a stretch for many experienced home bakers. I use Alice Medrich's rice flour pastry cream and for the rest, the recipe from Cook's Illustrated, substituting almonds for hazelnuts because we just like them better. I seriously raised the bar for Christmas desserts, making one a few years ago.
If you need the Cook's Illustrated recipe, please send me a private message via my profile. I cannot post it due to copyright ownership, but I can share it individually, as that is "fair use."
Here are more details, though not the recipe I use: http://www.joyofbaking.com/ParisBrest.html
Cheers, and happy baking, and birthday! And what a lovely gift to yourself.
AJ ;o)
 
Kayleigh January 12, 2017
Oh that looks lovely! I've never had Paris-Brest before but I've heard it's absolutely to die for.
 
ChefJune January 19, 2017
Antonia, I was about to say the same thing. I learned it a few years ago from the fabulous Lucy Vanel at Plum Lyon school in Lyon, France. My recipe is here: https://food52.com/recipes/39848-paris-brest
 
hardlikearmour January 11, 2017
kouigns amann. i've made the recipe from the Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, and it is fantastic. Yosi Arefi posted a recipe here: https://food52.com/recipes/27245-kouign-amann
 
Smaug January 12, 2017
Actually, any of Beranbaum's recipes are likely to take up a large chunk of the day, and can be counted on to be informative.
 
Kayleigh January 12, 2017
Oh man, do I love a good kouign amann. And the number of GOOD ones I've had has been lower than the overall intake. What a wonderful idea, thank you for the link.
 
Nancy January 11, 2017
Brioche (any good recipe, but I like Julia Child's)...which, of course, can be made plain or fancy, filled, oe served with luscious jams and coffee.
Schwarzvalder kirschtorte...aka
Black Forest Cake (chocolater sponge layer cake with 2 kinds of cherries and 2 flavors of whipped cream. Oh, and did I mention the chocolate or the eau-de-vie? My go-to recipe is from CIA (not Langley; the one on the Hudson), I believe by Chef Albert Kumin.
 
Kayleigh January 12, 2017
Ooh, a Black Forest Cake. I bet that'd be a big hit with my friends too.

Also: CIA/CIA gets me every time; I swear I always do a double-take when I read that a baker or chef was trained at the CIA...
 
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