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15 Next-Level Baking Recipes If You're Looking for a Challenge

From laminating puff pastry dough to icing a Pinterest-worthy layer cake, we've got tips, y'all.

by Munchies Staff
19 September 2018, 3:01pm

Photo by Farideh Sadeghin.

There are lots of cooking projects that we here at MUNCHIES believe you should not cut corners on. Making homemade chicken stock? Sorry, you really do gotta let that shit simmer all day long on the back burner. Wanna make the perfect Baltimore-style crab cake? Yeah, you gotta watch a few YouTube tutorials about how to pick all the good meat out of those Maryland blue crabs. But when it comes to baked goods? Perhaps we’re a little more… lenient. It takes a lot of advanced planning and the patience of a saint to wait for your bread dough to rise overnight, and even more to actually remember to feed a sourdough starter and keep it alive. Most baking from scratch, especially if you haven't committed serious $$$ to a heavy-duty stand mixer, requires a lot of elbow grease—the kind of labor we will admit we’d rather let the local baker exert. We’re not above buying breakfast muffins in plastic tins, and we certainly wouldn’t judge you for putting store-bought cookies into one of your own pieces of Tupperware for your kid’s school bake sale. And no one maligns a Betty Crocker boxed cake mix on our watch.

But sometimes it’s worth it (and maybe even sort of fun!) to really go all out for a next-level baked good. We pulled together some recipes for sweets and other baked goods that require a little more effort than your average cookie, but with stunning, dare we say Instagrammable, results. Hell, even if it turns out ugly, you should ‘gram it, ‘cause you worked hard on that thing. (And if you do—tag us!) Now get baking.

If you’re not quite ready to jump into a complicated, over-the-top baking project like these extremely elaborate rugelach from James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Camille Cogswell, you can also just watch her make them.

Want to further perfect your dough laminating skills? Make homemade croissants your next big baking endeavor.

Get a taste of what it's *almost* like to bake with a sourdough starter with this pane Pugliese from expert baker Zachary Golper from Bien Cuit in Brooklyn, which still calls for making a starter with packaged yeast.

Once you’ve figured out how to get molten, liquid chocolate inside a cake, you’ll never go back to non-lava-fied cakes again.

This method of “baking” the flour, sugar, and butter mixture in this recipe requires you to form the dough into bite-sized balls after it’s already gotten nice and toasty warm in the oven for about an hour and 45 minutes.

Never worry about having to face your fear of popping open a cardboard tube of biscuits ever again, and learn to cook with real lard while you’re at it. Plus, to make sure you are always just minutes away from flaky, golden goodness, keep these biscuits un-cooked and frozen, then splash them with a little bit of egg wash before putting them right in the oven.

So, okay, no, there is no technical “baking” required here but once you give this a shot, just think of all the other possibilities you’ve opened up for what else you can use that bundt cake pan for.

If you don’t have a legit churro extruder, you can use a pastry bag with a star-shaped tip for a similar effect with what is essentially the same sort of batter made for a pâte à choux recipe, which you can also use for beignets or éclairs.

Cinnamon buns are the number one thing we always want to have for breakfast, but we always forget that it takes hours for the dough to rise, and honestly, at that point, we’ve already decided its faster to walk down the block to the coffee shop. But challenge yourself this weekend! Make these on Saturday night for a warm and cozy Sunday morning.

The two primary techniques at work here—candying citrus, and using gelatin to set a curd pie filling—can be a little tricky to nail down, but when you do, you’ve got a dessert that is certainly not boring.

Quick! Before the last of the sweet summer corn is gone from the farmer’s market, whip up this pretty and sophisticated-looking corn pudding with rosé-soaked peaches. No time like the present to learn how to make pudding from scratch with egg yolks and cornstarch.

Here’s the thing about pound cakes. Usually, the recipe calls for baking it in a rectangular loaf pan, which leads to a very dense and thick cake. And you know what happens when a dense cake bakes in those sorts of dimensions? It has a tendency to get seriously dried out from over baking. Spread that batter out over a muuuuch wider pan, like a sheet tray, for something that will bake much more quickly and evenly with less of a chance to get too crumbly.

A clafoutis batter poured over top of whatever fresh fruit you like then dusted with powdered sugar is about to become your newest go-to dessert for any and all dinner gatherings you’re invited to.

Want to know a quick trick for getting perfectly sweet and buttery pie crust? Add cream cheese. Making pie crust from scratch can be intimidating because there are SO MANY WAYS it can go wrong, but this version (which works just as well in a savory galette, or in an actual pie form) will be a winner for you every time.

Is it still considered “baking” if you’re using a waffle iron instead of an oven? We’ll let you hash out the semantics of that one, but nevertheless—if you’re going to attempt big, fluffy waffles diner-style at home, may we suggest these perfectly-perfect-in-every-way ones from our former Test Kitchen intern, Blue?

Layered, frosted cakes are perhaps the biggest booby trap of the Pinterest-era of home baking. Watching those above-the-hand videos makes it all look so EASY! All that smearing and scraping and smoothing, and the little round spinny pedestal thingy—I can do that! Cut to three hours and many pounds of buttercream icing later, and… you have what looks like something a six year-old created in art class. If you’re going to master the art of icing a layered cake, make it count, with this super rich and luscious chocolate cake.

This article originally appeared on Munchies US.