Dark winter days can bring you down, but they are also the best days to take on a baking project. I actually look forward to a bad-weather day to bake something I don’t always give myself the time for. In fact, I can be at my happiest on gloomy days when there’s no pressure to go out, and I can stay in to work on a cozy all-day or all-weekend recipe.
Not only does a baking project give me something to do at home, but when I’m done, I have a comforting, heartwarming treat that I can share with others or keep all to myself. It’s an excuse to stay inside by the warm oven. Plus, I just love the cozy smell of cinnamon or bread baking on a cold day.
Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
If your sourdough starter is going strong, or if this winter is finally the time to start your starter, these sweet and tangy sourdough cinnamon rolls are an excellent use of (and reward for) your care. They’re soft and fluffy, and with the overnight option they can be ready just in time for breakfast.
Homemade Crescent Rolls
If you’ve dreamed of making croissants but haven’t felt ready for the process, try these buttery and flaky homemade crescent rolls. It’s a lamination project that’s easy enough for a first try and worth every ounce of effort.
This chocolate babka is made with a rich brioche filled with swirls of decadent chocolate. It’s everything that a winter baking project should be: fluffy, sticky, messy, and fitting for breakfast, coffee, or dessert.
We can’t leave out savory bakes. This rosemary-scented focaccia makes an excellent side for hearty soups and stews. Oh, and the hands-off rising time happens to be just long enough for your favorite movie.
Overnight Milk Bread Cinnamon Rolls
I’m afraid to say “another cinnamon roll recipe” because this is not just another cinnamon roll recipe. Thanks to the tangzhong technique used in Hokkaido milk bread, these cinnamon rolls are extra pillowy and soft.
Bienenstich, or bee sting cake, is a German yeasted cake filled with vanilla cream and covered with a sweet and crunchy honey almond topping. This baking project involves three separate elements, but you can take it one component at a time for a rustic, yet impressive dessert.
This hearty and flavorful oatmeal loaf is the ideal Sunday recipe. It makes two loaves, freezes well, and because it stays moist for so long, you reap the rewards with sandwiches and toast all week long.
Povitica is a beautiful bread swirled with a walnut and cinnamon filling. It’s comforting enough to warm your spirits on even the coldest days, and once you try the first bite, it’s sure to become your go-to cold-weather treat.
Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread
Cinnamon swirl raisin bread is a classic, and for good reason. This recipe boasts fluffy and buttery brioche bread swirled with cinnamon sugar and studded with raisins. With techniques such as using a sponge, a slow overnight rise, and rolling in a filling, it’s a delicious way to learn some new bread skills.
Poppy Seed Kolache
If you’re not familiar with these sweet pastry pockets, kolaches are traditional Czech pastries that are also popular in Texas and parts of the Midwest. The classic poppy seed filling is fruity and nutty and absolutely irresistible.
There’s something so comforting about the mix of honey, lemon, and cinnamon. Add to that the infinitely flaky phyllo pastry and a mix of chopped nuts, and it’s just over the top. Phyllo pastry has a reputation for being difficult to work with, but a bit of patience and some confidence will more than pay off.
Chocolate Bundt Cake
This chocolate cake is complex in flavor, but not complex to make. Smoky bourbon and strong coffee complement the dark chocolate. Baking the cake low and slow creates a fine texture, and keeps the kitchen warm too.
Chocolate Tres Leches Cake
Chocolate tres leches cake is the ultimate comfort food with three types of milk, and chocolate in every component. It’s a great cake for baking ahead on Saturday and sharing the fruits of your labor with friends and family on Sunday.
Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake
You’ve probably already made a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, but this red velvet cheesecake cake takes things a step further by adding a satiny cheesecake layer in the middle. An extra component means you get to spend more time puttering in the warm kitchen on an icy day.
Speaking of cheesecake, no winter baking list would be complete without the classic. If you try this once, I guarantee you’ll find yourself “practicing” this recipe over and over again. Rich, dense but light, sweet but tangy, and enough to share, this needs to be your go-to cheesecake recipe.
If you’ve mastered making New York Cheesecake, now it’s time to try new flavors. Banoffee pie is a popular British dessert named for the combination of banana and toffee. If banoffee can comfort Brits in their notoriously gray and rainy weather, it can only do good for our winter blues, especially as a cheesecake.
This Oreo cheesecake is incredibly indulgent. It’s baked in an Oreo crust, topped with a white chocolate ganache and rosettes of whipped cream, and garnished with, you guessed it, even more Oreos. Got too excited and made too much cheesecake? You can freeze it.
A whoopie pie is like a cake sandwich: it’s made with two chocolate cake rounds and filled with marshmallow creme frosting. It’s a smaller baking project that can be whipped up in an afternoon, but a fun project nonetheless between baking the cakes, making the filling, and assembling.
This recipe for Amish-style soft pretzels walks you through the whole process from learning to twist and shape pretzels to boiling them in a baking soda bath for a dark and chewy crust. Not only is it a fun project when it’s too cold to go outside, but a warm buttery pretzel with a sweet and spicy grainy mustard does a lot of good on a dark day.
Another baking project that will test your dough braiding skills is homemade challah. This bread is soft, lightly sweet, and has a beautiful, glistening crust. Be sure to save a few slices for French toast the next day.
Learning how to bake homemade bread is such a rewarding experience and rye bread is a wonderful recipe to have in your repertoire. It has an earthy flavor that pairs magnificently with the heavier foods we crave in winter. Use it for homemade reubens or liverwurst sandwiches, or a side for thick stews like goulash.
Orange Breakfast Rolls
I can’t imagine ever being tired of cinnamon rolls. Nevertheless, these gooey orange breakfast rolls are a welcome change. This recipe smartly spreads the project over two days so that the rolls are ready early enough for breakfast. Make the no-knead dough the night before and let it rise overnight. The next morning, spread the dough with the orange and cinnamon filling, bake, and indulge.
Irish Brown Bread (With Yeast)
Hearty Irish brown bread is made with 100% whole wheat flour with some extra wheat bran added. The result is a nutty, dense yet well-risen loaf with a thick crust. It’s perfect with a slathering of Irish butter, a slice of cheddar cheese, or some homemade jam.
Marbled Chocolate Bundt Cake
I don’t know about you, but I love that first slice of a marble cake. The reveal always makes the extra work of splitting the cake batter, flavoring them separately, and trying to get a perfect swirl instantly worth it. It’s always stunning, and always a relief that I don’t have to choose between vanilla and chocolate for once.