When in doubt, knead/roll/beat/bake it out. 

We all know the kitchen can be a gathering place for family and friends—a deliciously scented haven for face-to-face connection and comradery. Many of us also know (all too well) how it serves as the manufacturing hub for quick and easy meals, weeknight after weeknight. But now sure seems like a prime time to recall (or discover) that the kitchen can be a meditative space—one of the best we have at our disposal. In the moments when laying back in the bathtub, with not a thing to do, feels anything but relaxing, there’s a good chance that getting elbow deep into some dough might be the right move. 

There are any number of worthwhile culinary projects to engage your brain and hands in the kitchen, but for me, baking remains an exceptional refuge from outside stress. It requires you to be present and pay attention, every step of the way. Whether the recipe is complex and demands skillful precision, or it’s simple but needs your hands dutifully working throughout, baking invites you to step away and give your all to the pursuit of something delightful. 

It’s not necessarily about getting dinner on the table, but it’s a whole other world of rewarding. Because even when your cake doesn’t come out just right, there’s still something positively cathartic and empowering about being able to feed yourself—and if you’re lucky, people you love—something special that just plain tastes good.

I don’t say any of that to sugarcoat a serious matter (such as, you know, a global pandemic). Fear, anxiety, and even sadness are all resoundingly normal emotions to experience during times of uncertainty. I’d never suggest that anyone attempt to ignore or avoid these (or any) emotions, but neither do we have to hand them the keys and allow them to take the driver’s seat. And sometimes, something as simple as pulling a pan of OMG-gooey brownies from the oven is all we need to remember that. 

So with that being said, here are 10 baking recipes worth spending a little quality time with in the coming days. 

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Snickerdoodles

Credit: Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Elise Christiansen; Food Styling: Olivia Dansky  

I am nothing short of obsessed with these cereal-studded cookies. They’re so rich and fluffy, and filled with one of the greatest “junky” and nostalgic breakfast items the cereal aisle has ever offered the human populace, they’re as comforting as it gets. Not to mention, the scent of Cinnamon Toast Crunch toasting in the oven—first on its own and then, wrapped into a snickerdoodle cookie—delivers an inexplicably heavenly aroma. 

Turmeric Banana Bread

Credit: Photo: Caroline Arcangeli; Prop Styling: Christina Daley; Food Styling: Liz Mervosh

If you’ve stocked up on bananas, this unbelievably cozy loaf is well worth using a few. With its lively earthy flavor, anti-inflammatory properties, and sunny disposition, turmeric is like a warm hug from your spice cabinet—and it partners beautifully with densely sweet banana. The golden hued spice (coupled with a little bit of cardamom) makes a familiar banana bread recipe feel like something new, exciting, and utterly impressive. 

Get the Recipe: Turmeric Banana Bread

The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Brownies

Credit: Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

If ever there were a time for chocolate, now is it. Luckily, these intensely rich fudge brownies have plenty of it. And if you’re looking for more of a shortcut baking project, no sweat—try out one of these tricks to take your boxed brownies up a notch

Classic Focaccia Bread

Credit: Jen Causey; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Kay Clarke

Hearty, rustic focaccia bread scratches all of the homemade bread itches, but it’s better because the dense loaf’s signature olive oil-saturated dimples make it a more decadent—luxurious, even—bread experience. Plus, you don’t need a starter or any prior bread-making experience to make focaccia successfully. It’s a failsafe homemade bread for beginners, and being able to step into the kitchen and bake bread this wholesome and incredible… it’s a confidence boost to say the least.

Key Lime Pie

Credit: Meredith Food Studios 

When a day feels heavy, it never hurts to bake something especially bright and cheerful. I’d say a great key lime pie nails that better than just about any dessert out there. (Though, classic lemon bars are a pretty close second.) The version of the iconic pie linked below calls for a deep dish pie plate and Biscoff cookies for the crust; however, you can use whatever neutral-ish (or ginger!)  flavored cookies you have and simply cut the recipe in half if you are working with a shallow pie plate. And remember: Bottled lime juice is just fine. And if you want an even more straightforward route, try our Easy Key Lime Pie.

Get the Recipe: Perfect Key Lime Pie

Sesamillionaire’s Shortbread

Credit: Photo: Aaron Kirk; Prop Styling: Christina Daley; Food Styling: Robby Melvin  

Traditional millionaire’s shortbread covers three of your essential dessert food groups—buttery shortbread, caramel, and chocolate—in one layered bar. In other words, it’s kind of like the original Perfect Bar. (Not really, but it is perfect.) This uptake hits all the same basics, but does so with exceptional toasty depth thanks to beloved pantry staple, tahini.

Homemade Bagels

Bagels image

| Credit: Photo: Kelsey Hansen; Food Styling: Paige Grandjean; Prop Styling: Kashara Johnson

If you’re ready for a bread making project that’s ever-so-slightly more advanced than focaccia, try your hand at bagels. Trust me, the only thing in this world more satisfying than forming your own bagels is pulling your first fresh batch of the golden, glossy carb rings from the oven. 

Get the Recipe: Bagels

Skillet Cinnamon Roll

Credit: Jen Causey; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Kay Clarke

Canned cinnamon rolls will never be able to compete, and when you have a recipe for the giantest, fluffiest cinnamon roll in your corner… all I have to say is, look out, world. This cinnamon roll-for-sharing details a cranberry glaze, but you could just as well go with a classic cream cheese icing, orange glaze, or even a chocolate glaze. If the skillet cinnamon roll isn’t exactly your speed, take it up a notch with these Miso-Walnut Sticky Buns or lay back and opt for something with less finesse, like our Cinnamon Roll Swirl Cake

Get the Recipe: Skillet Cinnamon Roll

Copycat Oatmeal Creme Pies

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Prop Styling: Christina Daley; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey

The joyful power of nostalgia is real, and what better way to leverage it than reconnecting with a childhood lunchbox favorite? Chances are if you were to bust into an actual cellophane-wrapped Oatmeal Creme Pie, your response would be something along the lines of, “This doesn’t taste as awesome as I remembered.” But our homemade rendition will leave you delighted, and making them is a process you can enjoy solo or with your own kids. 

French Apple Cake

Credit: Photo: Jen Causey; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Prissy Lee

Most of us have read the guides on what groceries to buy for these quarantine times, and so while we may be limited on other fresh fruits, we have a lot of apples in the crisper. Use one of those apples (whatever variety you have will work fine here) to make something truly elegant, French Apple Cake. Whether you enjoy it for dessert, with afternoon coffee, or for breakfast the fact remains: You will absolutely enjoy this moist and marvelous cake. And if you’re really feeling apple cake these days (don’t blame you one bit), our Apple Coffee Cake and Apple Bundt Cake are also wonderful options. 

Get the Recipe: French Apple Cake

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Credit: Photo: Aaron Kirk; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck; Food Styling: Pam Lolley

This list would not be complete without the cookie jar O.G., the chocolate chipper. The beauty of chocolate chip cookies is that as classic and, by all accounts, “basic” as they are—they’re fantastically flexible, accommodating an expansive range of tastes. And if you’re looking to invest time and attention into some flour and sugar right now, I’d highly recommend dedicating your energy to finding your perfect chocolate chip cookie formula. Whether you like them chewy, gooey, crunchy, or cakey, there’s a recipe for you. If you’ve been consistently disappointed with your chocolate chip cookies in the past, take a look at this handy troubleshooting guide. For a classic formula to start with, go with these. If you want to skip using flour in them, I’m all about these Flourless Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies. Want to add a playful twist? Chocolate Potato Chip Cookies, coming at ya. And you can find one of my personal favorites below.