Everyone responds differently to stress and anxiety, but it’s not uncommon to want to bake when things feel uncertain (or downright scary). With coronavirus still a constant factor and plenty else in the news weighing on many minds—not to mention the official arrival of fall and impending gloomy weather—it’s prime time for self-soothing measures too. So if you’re apt to tie on an apron and turn on your oven when you’re in need of comfort, we have some easy baking recipes you can make with pantry staples.
See all of our COVID-19 coverage for more information on what you can do, including for others in need right now—and remember to wash your hands often. Then get them dirty with flour and butter and feel a little calmer, at least for a while.
Take pleasure in feeding your family too, if you’re all at home together. Or, if you’re more isolated and feeling lonely, consider making a virtual date with a friend (or your grandma) to both bake something sweet—or savory—then hop on a video chat while you snack, have a cup of coffee or tea, and catch up.
Most of these recipes do call for eggs, milk, and/or butter, but not all of them. And none are complicated, because for most of us, that’s the last thing we need right now.
Flour and yeast seem to be in fairly good supply for now, but if you’re having trouble finding supplies, check out where to buy baking ingredients online (and consider reaching out to a local bakery).
Easy Sweet Baked Goods
Simple sweets for snacks, desserts, and maybe even occasional breakfasts.
Brownies are one of the simplest yet most satisfying sweets to make, and this version is pretty basic—but if you don’t have any chocolate chips or baking bars in the pantry, swap in a mix of cocoa powder, butter, and sugar instead. Get our Easy Brownie recipe. And if you have one too many cans of beans in your stores, try our Black Bean Brownie recipe that’s vegan and gluten-free too.
Wilton Brownie Bar Pan, $9.19 on Amazon
For those who are all about chewy edges (or just hate slicing brownies).
This small-scale dessert is perfect if you don’t have anyone around to help eat your baked goods and aren’t great at self-imposed portion control (um, hello). The jam is made with frozen berries, but you can also simply spread on some store-bought stuff from the jar in your fridge. And while the pink sprinkles are delightful, you can use regular sanding sugar, turbinado sugar, or whatever you have left from decorating Christmas cookies—or nothing at all. Get the Raspberry Cake Slices recipe.
Similarly comforting but yielding a bigger batch, these one-bowl peanut butter and jelly bars are perfect if you’re home with kids; they can help you bake the bars, and they’ll love the familiar PB&J flavors in dessert form. Use any jam or jelly you have on hand. Get our Peanut Butter Jelly Bars recipe.
If you have bananas that are going spotty, you know what to do: Get our Easy Banana Bread recipe. If yours aren’t ripe yet, you’ll have to wait a while—but this is why it’s worth getting in the habit of freezing any overripe bananas so you’re ready to bake banana bread any time you fancy. (And depending on what’s in your fridge and pantry, consider stuffed banana bread or banana bread mix-ins.)
Related Reading: How to Make the Best Banana Bread No Matter What
Practically perfect in every way, chocolate chip cookies are always welcome—and the methodical nature of scooping out the dough is sort of like meditation. If you have chocolate bars but no chips, just chop those up and mix them in. If you have no flour but do have pancake mix, try this chocolate chip cookie hack. Otherwise, get our Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe (and see 15 of the best chocolate chip cookie recipes ever, no matter what your texture preferences).
Related Reading: How to Make Cookie Dough That’s Safe to Eat Raw
These easy, vegan, gluten-free cookies (sweetened with maple syrup) are packed with protein, so you can feel good about snacking on them even in the a.m. They’re also highly adaptable—use another nut or seed butter; swap in agave nectar or honey for the syrup if you’re out; and if you don’t have trail mix, stir up any combo of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and/or chocolate to make up the full 1/2 cup total. Get the Peanut Butter Trail Mix Cookie recipe.
If only something deep, dark, and super rich will do, this foolproof, dump-and-stir, one-bowl cake is here for you. It separates into three layers as it bakes: a crusty top, cakey middle, and gooey pudding-like base. If you don’t want to include the brewed coffee, see some ideas for substitutions. And if you’re out of fresh milk, try full-fat canned coconut milk in its place. Get our Mocha Pudding Cake recipe.
No butter or eggs? No problem. “Crazy cakes” were popular during the Great Depression and wartime because they required no dairy—nowadays, that makes them good vegan options too. In lieu of frosting, you can simply dust the whole thing with powdered sugar, pour some caramel sauce over your slice on the plate, or break out the ice cream. Get the Chocolate Crazy Cake recipe.
Easy Savory Baked Goods
Because baking isn’t all about dessert.
If you’re making a big pot of chili to last the week, there’s no better partner than skillet cornbread. And if you only have regular milk, you can sour it with a little lemon juice or vinegar to use in place of the buttermilk that’s called for. Get our Cornbread recipe.
Related Reading: 11 Easy Make-Ahead Meals You Can Freeze
These make for a fun, mini-souffle-esque side to any number of savory dinners, but also work as breakfast with a smear of jam. Best of all, you only need six ingredients and a standard muffin pan to make them. Get our Muffin Pan Popovers recipe.
Related Reading: 17 Muffin Pan Recipes That Aren’t Muffins
A bakery-style loaf of crusty no-knead bread is well worth making, but if you’re still leery of working with yeast (or just don’t have any in your pantry), try a savory quick bread instead. This one is speckled with caramelized onions and poppy seeds. Toast it as a side for soup, eat a slice with butter as a snack, or use it for an upgraded grilled cheese. Get our Onion Poppy Seed Quick Bread recipe.
Header image courtesy of Apichat Thongmalai / EyeEm / GettyImages