Sure, you can keep baking sourdough bread. But we’ve got some other ideas.

By Stacey Ballis
February 02, 2021
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Since we have all become better bakers of late, feeling good about our basic skills, winter is the perfect time to dive a little deeper into baking projects. Stuck at home on cold evenings or weekend days means we have time to indulge in all sorts of baking, and let's be honest, there is nothing cozier on a blustery day than a house that smells of caramelized sugar or melted butter. While there is nothing wrong with just baking the stuff you have always baked, there is something about new exploration that really can reenergize you. So now is the time to experiment! Here are 5 great ways to wake up your baking this winter.

1. Take an online course

From famous pastry chefs hosting videos on their social media feeds, to local bakeries hosting virtual cooking schools, adding some baking content to your screen time can be a wonderful way to find new baking projects and build new skills. Platforms like Master Class have all kinds of cooking courses, and your subscription to the service gives you full unfettered access to the complete library of the site. For the best of their baking classes, look to the bread baking series from third generation French baker Apollonia Poilane, and for pastry, Dominique Ansel (creator of the Cronut) will give you all the fundamentals.

2. Explore new cultures

One of my favorite competitors of any season of Great British Baking Show was Brendan from Season 1 (season 3 in the UK) who mentioned casually on-air during Bread Week that he was on a project to bake one bread from every country on the planet and had achieved 90 of them already. While I don't know that I would go quite this deep, I loved how excited he was to present breads from other cultures. So, now is the perfect time to look beyond the expected American and French baking cultures and get into something new. Whether you look into traditional baking related to your ancestry, or just throw a dart at a world map, there are all sorts of terrific baked goods to discover. Need a jump-start? Yemeni kubaneh (a soft spiral pull-apart roll), Georgian khachapuri (a cheese-stuffed bread boat), and Kenyan mandazi (a fried bread like a beignet) would all be fun places to start.

3. Get good at alternative bakes

These days we all have people in our lives (or are those people) with dietary restrictions or chosen eating plans. From gluten-free to low-carb, keto to vegan to nut-free, there is a lot of baking that can seamlessly and deliciously fit into any eating program. And having some of these in your back pocket will make you a hero to those folks in your life who will feel seen, supported, and celebrated when you share with them. So take this winter to figure out which dietary issues you most come up against, and practice some delicious baking that will bring inclusive joy.

4. Investigate new ingredients

Nothing is more inspirational for baking than a new ingredient. Coming across something new to you—alternative sugars like honey crystals or date syrup, new flours like cacao shell flour or chickpea flour, ingredients like exotic dried fruits or nuts—is a great way to amp up your baking. Think about swapping in dried white mulberries for the raisins in your usual oatmeal cookie or using maple sugar in your pancakes. If you have local markets to explore, feel free to ask the staff about the baking ingredients, or dive in online for delivered inspiration.

5. Go full Sherlock

One of the best baking projects you can do is to dive into the box of faded index cards you inherited and play culinary detective. What did Aunt Dee mean by "a teacupful" of shortening? What was granddad thinking when he said, "Bake till done" in "a fast oven"? What would "3 cents' worth of baking soda" be in today's money/amount? Those old recipes have treasures hidden in them, but it will take some deciphering and experimentation to suss them out. What better winter baking project than a resurrection of an old family favorite, updated and rewritten for today's methods and ingredients, and easily shareable with the rest of the family? Get some of your siblings or cousins in on the fun, asking them to test the recipes with you, and be sure to ask any living relatives for their advice and input.