Bake Like a Pro: Our Best Recipes for Brownies, Cheesecake, Pound Cake, and More
Giant chocolate-chip cookies. Dense, chewy brownies. Pound cake, pure and simple. If search engines are a window into our collective desires, these are a few of the treats we all constantly crave. That's why they're the subjects of this sweets symposium.
Want to earn major brownie points? Read on and bake the recipes as here our food editors share the secrets and tried-and-true techniques behind six of our most popular sweets. You'll soon understand why these are world-beating recipes.
The test kitchen, led by Sarah Carey, our editorial director of food, took on the arduous task of testing, tasting, and coming up with the ultimate versions of some of our favorite treats. Every home baker needs back-pocket recipes for classics like brownies and pound cake. These are the recipes you will turn to again and again, crowd pleasers that ace every occasion from bake sale to birthday parties.
They range from easy cookies to more time-consuming. An example of the latter? The silky smooth New York-Style Cheesecake shown here. But you won't be sent into the deep end alone. All the recipes you'll find ahead are packed with our food editors' insights to help you understand the recipe instructions and make a better bake.
Our team knows the joy of eating a homemade cookie, so they suggest making a batch of Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies—then rolling the dough into balls, placing them on a cookie sheet, freezing them on the pan, and transferring to a resealable plastic bag—to ensure that you can savor a fresh-baked treat any night of the week. Then you can bake one (or two) directly from frozen, adding three to five minutes to the usual time, whenever a craving strikes. They also have advice for those of us whose dream brownie is almost molten inside; remove the pan from the oven when a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs on it—a couple of minutes shy of the recipe's bake time.
As we're here to help you bake, enjoy the process, and produce delectable results, there's one important thing to note: You won't find an apple pie here. Instead you'll be treated to our recipe for Apple Galette. A galette is a free-form tart that's easier to make than a pie and that's why we chose to include it. Another plus? It's made with our Test Kitchen's Favorite Pâte Brisée pastry, not a more formal pie dough.
We hope you'll bake your way through this collection and then make these recipes over and over again, that they'll become your favorites, too.
Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie
A great chocolate-chip cookie contains multitudes of each main ingredient. For leavening, some recipes use only baking soda, but our editorial director of food Sarah Carey prefers a combo of baking soda and baking powder—it provides more rise between two pan bangings (done during baking to make the cookies fall and get a bit wrinkly and crispy-edged; hat tip to baker-blogger Sarah Kieffer for that move). Two forms of chocolate give ours extra gooeyness: the chips hold their shape while the chopped shards melt into ribbons. Mixing sugars lends dimension, since white is neutral and brown has a caramel flavor. When it's time to bake, use a quarter-cup scoop for the optimal ratio of sturdy edge to chewy center.
Fudgy Double-Chocolate Brownies
Our über-brownie has chewy edges, a fudgy interior, and a crackly top. But the balance of that trifecta is really in your hands. Want yours extra-gooey? Bake them in an 8-inch square pan instead of 9-inch (but know you'll have fewer edge pieces). For more chew, replace three tablespoons of the butter with oil (yes, it'll taste a little less lush and buttery). Cocoa powder provides deep richness, and chopped chocolate gets added in two batches—the second folded into the batter just before baking to create heavenly melty pockets. What you can't control is how quickly these babies will disappear.
Perfect Pound Cake
A traditional pound cake calls for a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour, and nothing more—so thoroughly creaming (mixing) the butter and sugar and beating the eggs are essential for it to rise. Even the retooled ratio of ingredients in our recipe makes for a seriously dense loaf, but we've fluffed it up with baking powder and sour cream. Adding the powder when creaming (versus mixing it into dry ingredients) means it is sure to fully distribute into the batter—a game-changing trick Sarah learned from baking icon and author Stella Parks.
New York-Style Cheesecake
While ricotta-based and fluffy Japanese cheesecakes have their moments, there's no substitute for this dense yet not-heavy classic. To execute a silky-smooth batter, take care to bring the cream cheese, eggs, and sour cream to room temperature before blending. A water bath ensures that the cake bakes evenly, so the center doesn't crack. Another tip: When assembling the springform pan for this recipe, invert the bottom so the raised lip faces down. This makes it easy to slide the cake onto a serving plate—just run an offset spatula between the pan bottom and the crust.
Sarah makes a mean pie, but she loves galettes for their simplicity: You roll the dough, pile on fruit, fold the edges over in a lovely, rustic manner, and put it in the oven. If it's your first time making pie crust, do it by hand to get a feel for how much to cut in (incorporate) the butter. Leave some pea-size pieces intact; they release steam in the hot oven to create flakes. Once you've graduated to a food processor, take care not to overwork the dough (the secret: pulse in small bursts).
When rolling out the dough, dust your work surface generously with flour—you don't want it to stick, and you can always brush extra off at the end. Let the dough sit on the counter a few minutes, then pound it with your pin to flatten it and soften the butter so the dough doesn't crack when you roll it. If it doesn't budge, it needs more time to soften. If it becomes sticky or breaks apart easily, rechill it. Finally, bake the galette thoroughly—it should slide on the baking sheet when done, and the fruit juices should be bubbling in the center.
One-Bowl Chocolate Cake
This is the recipe our food editors pull out when they need a quick and incredible cake,. The one-bowl batter means cleanup is a cinch, and it can be baked in layers, as cupcakes, and in sheet pans alike. It gets its rich, dark color from Dutch-process cocoa, but the flavor is delicate, not cloying. And because it's made with oil, not butter, it won't harden in the refrigerator when made ahead. Oh, and did we mention it's super-moist? So moist, in fact, that we suggest cooling it top-side up, in case it sticks a little to the rack.