Baking Craze Revisited

It’s true what they say. Baking takes precision. And that intimidated me. As I’ve learned to cook, I had more fun throwing things together in a big pot, playing around, fiddling with this and that. But not enough this or too much of that in baking translates to flat, oozy cookies, salty or bland dough, raw or burned bottoms, and more. 


Remember the sour dough starter madness back in April? I knew I’d hate the amount of tending THAT required, so didn’t dabble in it. But I started experimenting, and still am. I’ve found that following the recipes exactly isn’t fun, but the results make me jump up and down and clap in my kitchen! Good baking is immensely satisfying. And as we head into a cold, dark winter with more infections coming fast, we all need some joy to round out this insane year.


The following two recipes are radically different. The first takes 30 minutes, and is arguably healthy with low sugar and whole wheat flour. Easy mixing in bowls, no rising required. The second has three components, wait time, and careful spreading and rolling, but the payoff is huge. I don’t have a mixer yet (Santa?) so I beat the heck out of the dough myself. It worked. Caution: you’ll be spooning that caramel sauce over everything for days. In the words of the brilliant Great British Baking Show, “On your marks, get set, BAKE!” 


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies


Makes 12-16




1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour

1 and 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips




Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.


In a mixing bowl whisk together pumpkin, egg, and vanilla until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices, and chocolate chips. Fold together the wet and dry ingredients until just combined – do not overmix. The cookie dough will be very thick. Taste the dough and add a pinch of salt if needed.


Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets and slightly flatten to the shape you want your cookie. Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for at least 3 minutes and transfer to a wire rack. Cookies stay fresh at room temperature for 3 days in an airtight container.



Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls


Makes 15



For the Dough

1 package active dry yeast 

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup apple juice or apple cider

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

3 – 3.5 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2 medium sized apples, peeled, cored, & thinly sliced (about 1.5 cups)

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2 medium sized apples, peeled, cored, & thinly sliced (about 1.5 cups)

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon


For the Filling

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature 

2 medium sized apples, peeled, cored, & thinly sliced (about 1.5 cups)

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon


For the Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 and 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream (no substitutions)



Make the dough: Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water for about 1 minute. Stir the yeast/water around. Then add apple juice, sugar, salt, egg, vanilla extract, butter, and 1.5 cups of flour. Beat everything together on low with a handheld mixer, scraping down the sides as needed. (A mixer is definitely needed to break up all the butter and beat everything to the proper consistency.) With a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough easy to handle – about 1.5 – 2 more cups. You are looking for a dough that is not sticky and will spring back when poked with a finger.


Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for about 5-6 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.


Line the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper, leaving room on the sides. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 15×9 rectangle. Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick, even at the corners.


For the filling: As the dough is rising, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan. Add the thinly sliced apples and cook down for about 20 minutes until the apples are very soft. Drain the apples from the butter and juices and place into a small bowl. Stick the apples in the refrigerator to cool down. In another small bowl, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. Spread the dough rectangle with 2 tablespoons of softened butter and sprinkle with 1/2 of the cinnamon/brown sugar. Line the apples on top of the cinnamon/brown sugar then sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon/brown sugar. Tightly roll up the dough and cut into 15 even rolls (1 inch in width each) with a very sharp knife. Arrange them in the prepared baking pan, cut sides up. Cover the rolls and let them rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes – 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375. Cover the rolls with aluminum foil and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until they are lightly golden in color. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for about 15 minutes.


Make the caramel sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once melted, add brown sugar and heavy cream. Stir constantly over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Allow to bubble for 3-4 full minutes, no more. Remove from heat pour over cinnamon rolls before serving. Caramel sauce will thicken up at room temperature or if cold. You’ll have to warm it back up to pour over rolls. Baked rolls can be frozen up to 1 month (without sauce) and warmed up to enjoy at a later date.


-adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction