14 Cooking and Baking Projects to Tackle While You're Social Distancing
All those dumplings, that sourdough bread, those croissants, homemade yogurt, a spectacular cake, and a classic coq au vin that you finally have time to make.
During these uncertain times, we find ourselves cooking more than ever. For better or worse, there is the necessity of getting three meals on the table for the whole family every single day. Beyond that need, many of us have also found a level of comfort and sense of accomplishment in taking on cooking projects, especially those recipes that take a bit more time and effort, but pay off in the end. These are the dishes that we never had time for before; instead, we relied on local bakeries and chefs to make them.
Maybe you dreamed of learning to make the Chocolate-Cinnamon Swirl Bread shown here but never hunkered down to do it, or perhaps you just have a craving for it now—and for the first time, you actually have the free time to devote to satisfying it.
Why not start with a baking project that is ultra popular right now, such as making a loaf of homemade sourdough bread? The process is rewarding and the end result will delight you with slices for breakfast toast, lunch sandwiches, or to pair with dinner soups or stews.
Gather your fellow quarantiners and roll out restaurant-worthy gnocchi or stuff polish dumplings called pierogies. Both are fun techniques to master. You can also keep a watchful eye on a simmering Pot Roast while you work from home knowing a satisfying dinner is on the way, or whip up a homemade take on classics like yogurt and applesauce—they just taste better when you've made it yourself, and you'll wonder why you've never done it before once you realize how easy they are to make in your kitchen. If you're feeling truly Martha-level, go for gold and take on a more aspirational recipe, like homemade croissants.
We suggest you select a project that you're excited to try, then take your time doing it. Enjoy the process and the delicious end results.
Tartine Country Bread
It's no surprise that our Instagram feeds are filled with photos of sourdough bread—the process of making it is and the end result is very delicious. Get your starter going and perfect the technique with our bread making guide. By the end of quarantine it will be second nature.
The rich, slightly tart taste of homemade yogurt beats store-bought any day, and it is so easy to make. This recipe doesn't require any special machine or ingredients. All you need is a mason jar, milk, and a little yogurt from your previous batch (use store-bought for your first one). If you have an Instant Pot, use it for a different way to make homemade yogurt.
Martha's Pink Applesauce
Leaving the skins on the apples lends applesauce a beautiful pink hue and the natural sweetness of the apples shines through—there's no need for added sugar. Another plus? Applesauce is the perfect way to extend the life of apples, as the sauce can be frozen for up to three months.
Salted-Caramel Six-Layer Chocolate Cake
Celebrating a quarantine birthday? Since we're not able to gather with family and friends, we are all looking for ways to make a birthday extra special. This rich six-layer chocolate cake combines gooey caramel with creamy chocolate buttercream and certainly delivers. This cake recipe is project baking to the max; follow the cook's notes and complete each element ahead of assembly.
Set aside an afternoon to make a yeasted dough for these light as air jelly-stuffed donuts. The only downside to this recipe is that the donuts will disappear fast.
Multigrain English Muffins
Make a batch of multigrain English muffins and you'll have the perfect start to your mornings. They're also great for lunches and snacks. Packed with whole grains, these are muffins you can feel good about eating too. Stack up a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, use one to house a burger, or just slather with melty butter and jam.
You don't have to be an Italian grandmother or buy fancy pasta equipment to make delicious homemade Italian food. These fluffy pillows of pasta are rolled by the hand, and the only "tool" you need is a standard kitchen fork. Double the recipe and freeze extras for a future meal.
Coq Au Vin
This classic French stew requires a little advanced planning since the chicken is marinated in red wine overnight, but it is actually quite easy to do and totally worth the effort. Stewing the chicken in the wine marinade with mushrooms and bacon develops magical flavors and a velvety sauce.
Hungry? Speed up the stewing process with our pressure cooker variation.
This is the most time intensive and skilled cooking project on our list but you'll be happy you tried it. The end reward is a perfect croissant and a sense of well-deserved accomplishment. Once you master the dough use it to make Jam-Filled Croustades, Ham and Cheese Croissants, and Pain Au Chocolate.
Bake a tray of stuffed cabbage and you'll have dinner tonight and leftovers for another meal. If you have little ones in the house or willing cooks, have them stuff and roll—it's fun to do.
Japanese Milk Bread
If your go-to loaf of bread is fluffy white bread, this Japanese milk bread recipe has your name written all over. It's light as air with a slight sweetness.
Martha learned the technique for these Polish dumplings from her mother and now you can learn it from her in this step-by-step guide. Select one of the fillings like potato or cabbage and prepare that and the dough, then call in whoever is in the household to join in on filling and wrapping.
We love tricks to getting dinner on the table fast, but we're also well aware of the fact that a good braise can't be rushed. Start this pot roast in the morning and check on it throughout the day. Time allows rich pot-roasty flavor to develop and the meat transform melting tender by dinner time.