Easy-bake recipes to try during Circuit Breaker

Lemon Lime Soda Scones
PHOTO: The Straits Times

When I popped by RedMan over the weekends to buy my baking essentials, I was met with a shocking sight - a snaking (and completely unmoving) queue in front of the store.

Judging from the looks of it, it seems like the entire nation is on the exact same page as to how to pass time during this Circuit Breaker period… and that is to bake, bake, and bake!

So if you're looking to get a little mainstream and to jump on the 'Circuit baker' bandwagon, but you're intimidated by complicated recipes, here are four simple, tried-and-tested recipes from my favourite baker, Tessa Arias, better known by her followers as @handletheheat.

Whether you're into brownies, cookies or cakes, these recipes will be sure to satisfy your confectionary cravings and boost your confidence, whether you're a rookie or a whiz in the kitchen.

Pret A Manger's Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

PHOTO: The Straits Times

British sandwich chain Pret A Manger has done the same, publishing its chocolate chunk cookie recipe.

I tried out the simple recipe and was amply rewarded with eight very large cookies. How good they taste will depend on the quality of the butter and chocolate you use. I used Kerrygold unsalted and two kinds of Lindt dark chocolate bars, one with 70 per cent cacao and the other with 85 per cent cacao.

Here's the recipe from the company's website.

Ingredients

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 85g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 190g self-raising flour
  • 3g salt
  • 120g large dark chocolate buttons

Method

1.  Preheat the oven to 180 deg C. Melt the butter in a saucepan or microwave, until just melted (but not hot).

2. Using a stand mixer or electric beaters, beat the butter with the caster and brown sugars until well combined. Add the egg and beat on low speed until just incorporated - 10 to 15 seconds or so. Don't overbeat as this will result in a firm dough.

3. Add the flour and salt. Mix until a smooth dough forms - again, be careful not to overmix.

4. Add the chocolate buttons to the dough and combine with your hands. For a good distribution of chocolate, don't be afraid to break up some of the buttons into pieces or chop them slightly beforehand.

5. Scoop out eight balls of dough and place on a non-stick or lined baking tray. Make sure there is plenty of space between them as the dough will spread out in the oven.

Press them down lightly with your palm to flatten them out a little and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the cookies look puffed up and golden.

Let them cook on the pan for about 30 minutes as they will settle and sink into a dense buttery cookie. Best enjoyed warm (or place in an airtight container and eat within three days).

Makes eight

Tips

1. If you don't have soft light brown sugar, use soft dark brown sugar.

2. I used chopped up dark chocolate bars instead of chocolate buttons.

3. Space the cookie dough well apart on the baking sheet as the cookies spread a lot. Bake them on two trays if you have to.

4. Sprinkle some coarse sea salt on the balls of dough before baking - you'll be glad you did.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

PHOTO: The Straits Times

Versions of these cookies appear everywhere on the Internet. I do not blame you for being sceptical. I was too, until I tried it out myself.

All you need is peanut butter, sugar, an egg and salt. If you like chewy cookies, this recipe is for you.

Tips

  • I have tried using natural peanut butter and no-sugar-added peanut butter and they make good cookies, although they will not spread much. Use a commercial brand to get those cracks and a larger cookie.
  • Commercial brands have sugar added, making the cookies a little too sweet for me. I would cut the sugar to 125g.
  • Chilling the dough for an hour makes it easier to handle.

Ingredients

  • 200g crunchy or smooth peanut butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 1 60g egg

Method

1. Weigh out the peanut butter, sugar and salt into a bowl. Beat together with a wooden spoon or a handheld mixer. Crack the egg into the mixture and beat until it forms a dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. I use the tray that comes with the oven.

3. Remove the dough from the fridge, roll into cherry tomato-sized balls. Place on the tray about 10cm apart. If your tray will not hold all the balls, put the unused dough back in the fridge. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes until golden at the edges. Cool the cookies on the tray for 10 minutes, then transfer onto a metal rack to cool completely. Let the baking tray cool completely before baking the next batch.

4. Store in an airtight container for up to three days.

Makes 18 to 20 cookies.

Wacky Chocolate Cake

No butter, no eggs? You can still make chocolate cake. This one, also known as Crazy Cake and Depression Cake, originated in The Great Depression of the 1930s and 1940s in the United States, when ingredients were scarce.

Instead of butter, the recipe calls for oil. It does not require eggs or milk either, just tap water. The surprise ingredient is vinegar, either white distilled or apple cider.

The end result is a dark, glossy cake that tastes surprisingly good. The cake is springy, the chocolate flavour fairly intense.

Tips

  • Some recipes call for the ingredients to be mixedright in the baking tin. You create less of a messmixing the batter in a bowl and then pouring it into the tin.
  • This cake sticks to the pan, even though I grease it with oil. So grease the tin with oil, then line it with baking paper so the paper extends over two sides. Then, it is a simple matter of loosening the cake from the sides of the pan with a palette knife and lifting it out of the pan using the paper as handles, before serving.

Ingredients

  • 80ml canola oil, plus extra for greasing the baking tin
  • 250ml water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp white distilled vinegar (below left) or apple cider vinegar (below centre)
  • 160g plain flour
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 30g unsweetened cocoa powder (below right)
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp table salt

Method

1. Preheat oven to 160 deg C. Grease a 20cm x 20cm square baking tin with some canola oil.

2. Combine the 80ml of canola oil, water, vanilla extract and vinegar in a pouring jug.

3. Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl, to break up the lumps.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and whisk thoroughly until it becomes a thin batter. Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs and not chocolate sludge.

5. Set the baking tin on a metal rack and cool the cake completely. Slice and serve.

Serves six to eight

Lemon Lime Soda Scones

Ingredients

  • 220g self-raising flour, plus extra to dust
  • 90ml whipping cream, plus 1 tsp for brushing on the scones before baking
  • 90ml lemon lime soda such as 7-Up or Sprite

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 220 deg C.

2. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre, add the 90ml of whipping cream, then the soda. Mix with a fork to form a dough and knead very lightly, just to bring the dough together. Do not overwork the dough (photo 1).

3. Sprinkle flour on a work surface, place the dough on it, dust the top with a little flour and gently pat into a 14 to 15cm diameter round. Use a knife to cut the dough into six wedges (photo 2).

4. Place the wedges on a paper-lined baking tray. Brush the top of the dough with the extra whipping cream.

5. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the tops are golden. Remove from the oven and cool on a metal rack. Serve warm, with clotted cream or butter and jam.

Makes six scones

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

PHOTO: The Straits Times

I first made this cake when I was at university, after reading about it in a cookbook with wacky recipes.

Mayonnaise in a cake may sound abhorrent, but think about it - the spread is an emulsion of egg yolks, oil and vinegar.

Eggs and oil are common in cake recipes. In some, a sour agent like lemon juice, yogurt or buttermilk is used to activate baking soda, so, really, mayonnaise lets you cut out these three ingredients from a recipe.

Last I checked, mayonnaise is not sold out yet. And the finished product does not taste of mayonnaise, I promise.

Tips

1. If you do not have a 22cm round cake tin, use a 22 x 22cm square one.

2. Have the kids help you weigh out the ingredients and lick the spatula after you have scraped the batter into the cake pan.

3. I use 1 tsp of instant coffee to intensify the chocolate flavour. Feel free to swop it for 1 tsp of vanilla extract.

4. Serve the cake with softly whipped unsweetened cream and berries, or a scoop of ice cream.

Ingredients

  • Canola oil
  • 250g plain flour
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 45g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda 1 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 225ml water
  • 230g mayonnaise

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Line the bottom of a 22cm round cake tin with baking paper, oil the sides of the cake pan and the paper. Set aside.

2. Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and baking soda together in a medium mixing bowl until well-combined. Spoon the instant coffee into a measuring jug, add water and stir until the granules dissolve. Add the mayonnaise and combine thoroughly using a fork. Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients and mix until evenly combined.

3. Pour the batter into the baking pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean.

4. Let the cake sit in the pan for 15 minutes, unmould and let it cool completely on a metal rack before serving. The cake will be puffed up right out of the oven, and will sink in the middle as it cools.

Serves six to eight

Quick & Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies

PHOTO: handletheheat.com

Her Quick & Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies give you all you could ever want in a cookie - chewy throughout and decadently gooey in the centre, but crispy at the edges.

Yield: 30 cookies

Total time needed: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 deg Fahrenheit. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

2. Place the butter in a large microwave safe bowl and microwave on 50 per cent power until melted. Let cool slightly before whisking in the brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Do not overmix. Stir in the chocolate chips.

3. Roll heaping tablespoons of the dough and place onto the prepared pans, spacing about 2-inches apart. Bake until the cookies are slightly golden but still soft in the centre, about 12 minutes.

Let the cookies cool in pans on a cooling rack for 5 minutes before removing the cookies to the rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Best Easy Brownies

PHOTO: handletheheat.com

Every baker has their signature, and Tessa's signatures are her brownies. This Best Easy Brownies recipe is easy and fuss-free. You only require just 1 bowl, no mixer, and it takes under than an hour to make! I tried this recipe myself and my fave part of the fudgy, chewy brownie is the thin, crispy shiny crust on top.

Yield: 9 large brownies

Total time needed: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 10 tablespoons (142 grams) unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) semisweet chocolate, chopped*
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour*
  • 1/4 cup (25 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup (170 grams) semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a metal 8-inch square pan with parchment paper.

2. In a large microwave-safe bowl combine the chocolate and butter. Microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each burst, until the mixture is melted and smooth. Add the sugar to the hot butter mixture and whisk vigorously until combined. Allow to cool until just barely warm.

3. Add in eggs, yolk, and vanilla extract and whisk for about 1 minute, or until very well combined. This helps create that shiny crust on top.

4. Use a rubber spatula to stir in flour, cocoa powder, and salt until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

5. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth it out. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick entered in the centre comes out with moist crumbs. Let cool in the pan 30 minutes before slicing.

Recipe Notes

  • You can make this recipe even easier by using chocolate chips instead of chopping baking chocolate. Simply use 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips in place of the chopped chocolate. Just be sure to use high quality chips!
  • Be sure to weigh or use the spoon-and-level method to measure your flour & cocoa. Too much will lead to dry, dense, or cakey brownies.

Easy Death By Chocolate Cake

PHOTO: handletheheat.com

Chocolate lovers, this one's for you. This Easy Death by Chocolate Cake recipe gives you an indulgent, one-layer cake, with chocolate buttercream on top

Yield: 1 cake

Total time needed: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 3/4 cup (105 grams) plain flour
  • 1/2 cup (40 grams) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (90 grams) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick (115 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) of buttermilk

Chocolate frosting

  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick (115 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 and 1/2 cups (435 grams) powdered or icing sugar
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 cup (20 grams) cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup (100 grams) milk chocolate, pieces
  • 1/4 cup (40 grams) milk or dark chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 360 F (180 C). Grease and line a round 8 inch springform cake tin with baking or parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and then add the sugars.

Pop the butter into the microwave for short bursts, 10 seconds or so at a time, until it is just melted. Give it a stir with a fork to eliminate any lumps.

Whisk together the butter, eggs, vanilla and buttermilk until combined - don't worry if it goes a little lumpy. Then add the wet mixture into the dry mixture and gently fold until just combined.

2. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and pop into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middles comes out clean. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Gently run a knife around the edge of the cake before turning out of the tin. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

3. To make the chocolate frosting, add the butter to a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Gently sift in the icing sugar, one cup at a time.

Add a tablespoon or two of milk to help loosen up the mixture. Add the cocoa powder and beat again. Add the final two tablespoons of milk until the frosting is nice and creamy.

4. Frost the top of your cake with the chocolate buttercream. Then scatter over your pieces of chocolate and chocolate chips. Cut and serve.

Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls

PHOTO: handletheheat.com

This one will really impress your Instagram followers - this Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls recipe only takes an hour to complete, and is bursting with sweet cinnamon flavour.

Yield: 12 cinnamon rolls

Total time needed: 1 hour

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups (15.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt

For the filling:

  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • For the icing:
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

For the dough:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine all the dough ingredients and stir until combined. Turn the mixer on medium speed and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth. Remove the dough to a floured work surface, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.

For the filling:

1. In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.

2. After the dough has rested, use a floured rolling pin to roll it out into about a 9 by 15-inch rectangle. Brush all over with melted butter.

Sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border at the far edge. Roll the dough up, pinching with your fingers to keep it tightly rolled. Press the seam to seal before positioning the log seam side down.

3. Use a very sharp knife to cut off the ends then cut the dough into 11 to 12 equal pieces. Place in a greased pie pan or 9 by 13-inch baking pan.

At this point you could cover and refrigerate the rolls overnight then let them come back to room temperature for 1 hour before baking. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes.

For the icing:

1. While the rolls cool, whisk together the icing ingredients until smooth. Drizzle all over the warm rolls and serve.

Recipe Notes

To ensure these cinnamon rolls really are quick and easy, stick with the instant yeast (or sometimes called rapid-rise yeast) called for in the recipe.

This article was first published in Her World Online.