The Secret to Stress-Free Holiday Baking? One-Bowl Wonder Recipes

The Secret to Stress-Free Holiday Baking? One-Bowl Wonder Recipes

Holiday stress.

For many of us, it's unavoidable. Along with the celebrations comes the pressure to buy the perfect presents (and stick to a budget in the process), decorate your home and prepare extravagant meals—all in addition to your regular chores and obligations.

Something’s clearly got to give, and for some of us, that means serving a store-bought or box-mix dessert.

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Luckily, cookbook author and Culinary Institute of America–trained pastry chef Yvonne Ruperti has a solution for time-pressed bakers who want to whip up from-scratch sweets: Go with just one bowl. In fact, that's the premise behind her new book, "One Bowl Baking: Simple, From Scratch Recipes for Delicious Desserts."

Just in time for the end-of-year rush, we sat down with Ruperti to discuss why she believes the satisfaction of executing simple recipes by hand isn’t just reserved for the pros—and how three easy recipes could make (not break) your spirit this holiday.

LearnVest: Your recipes use, at most, one bowl and no electric mixers. Do you lose anything from the simplification?

Ruperti: Nope. The only thing you lose are the extra dishes in the sink!

How much did your background influence this book?

My mother and my great grandmother had very little kitchen space, but they still put out a whole lot of food from scratch. Since I grew up around all of this great baking and cooking, I have many food memories. Some are of the foods themselves—such as the "sweet story cupcakes" that were based on a cake my great grandmother used to make—but also of the spaces in which they were prepared. I had an early appreciation for scratch baking—even though I have a few guilty pleasures!

one bowl bakingHow skilled does someone need to be to make the recipes in your book?

I wanted the recipes to appeal to both expert and novice bakers: A beginning baker can read through the steps and not feel intimidated, while an expert baker can take these easy steps as a breath of fresh air.

What goes into figuring out how to simplify a recipe?

Many recipes have you lay out ingredients in separate bowls: Whisk flour and baking powder in a bowl and set aside, stir the milk with the eggs in another bowl and set aside, and so on. So I experimented by seeing what would happen if you just added ingredients to one bowl, such as not sifting dry ingredients first or tossing everything right in the pan. I find that, most of the time, you end up with the same result—while saving a lot of extra bowls.

What are your favorite one-bowl recipes for the holiday season?

For a holiday gift, I think the brown sugar shortbread cookies are perfect. They're crisp and buttery, store well and the elegant wedge shape of the cookies looks pretty when packaged up.

If you're hosting a holiday party, I love the gingerbread cupcakes with white- chocolate-cream-cheese buttercream frosting. Gingerbread is a classic flavor for this time of year, and cupcakes are one of the easiest desserts to serve. For an extra special touch, top cupcakes with white chocolate shavings or a few silver dragées.

The no-bake chocolate mascarpone cheesecake is also a winner. It's rich and indulgent—plus there isn't any baking to do, saving not only time but oven space!

Ruperti's One-Bowl Wonder Holiday Recipes

Crispy Brown Sugar Shortbread

I’ve been making this simple cookie recipe for over ten years. I usually chill the dough, and then roll and cut it into delicate star shapes. To speed up the process, I simply press the dough into the pan and bake. The result is crisp, delicate wedges of shortbread with a buttery, caramelized flavor. (Be sure to bake to a deep golden color to ensure that the shortbread is crisp.) These cookies keep well—if you wrap them tightly, you can store the cookies up to five days.

Makes 12 cookie wedges.

8 tablespoons (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 ¾ ounces or 80 grams) packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (5 ounces or 140 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top

Place an oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

In a large bowl, stir the butter, brown sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Stir in the flour until combined.

Press the dough into the bottom of the tart pan (don’t go up the sides). Sprinkle the top with the turbinado sugar. Using a fork, poke the dough several times.

Bake until a deep and uniform golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. With the shortbread still in the pan, use a pizza cutter to cut into 12 wedges. Then use a small paring knife to finish cutting the slices to the edge of the pan (if the pizza cutter doesn’t reach).

Allow the shortbread to cool completely in the pan, then remove the sides of the tart pan and use a metal spatula to release the cookies.

If a crisp cookie has gotten a little stale, a brief toasting in the oven will restore much of its crunchiness.

RELATED: 6 Soul-Warming (and Winter-Perfect) Crock-Pot Recipes

Yvonne Ruperti

Gingerbread Cupcakes With White-Chocolate-Cream-Cheese Frosting

These are a spinoff of a gingerbread layer cake that I used to make in the fall and winter at my shop. The combination of moist, homey gingerbread and elegant white chocolate is simply perfect for a holiday party. Once frosted, you can store the wrapped cupcakes in the fridge for up to four days.

Makes 12.

Cupcake batter:
4 tablespoons (2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter, softened
⅔ cup (4⅔ ounces or 130 grams) packed light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
⅓ cup (80 mL) molasses
1⅓ cups (6⅔ ounces or 190 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

White-chocolate-cream-cheese buttercream frosting:
4 ounces (115 grams) white chocolate, finely chopped
1 8-ounce package (225 grams) cream cheese, quartered and softened
2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 28 grams) unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup (1 ounce or 28 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place an oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.

To make the cupcakes: In a large bowl, stir the butter, sugar and salt until combined. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until each is incorporated. Whisk in the molasses and ½ cup (60 mL) water.

Add the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and cloves to the bowl, and then whisk until combined.

Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake until just firm, about 17 minutes.
Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: In a large bowl, heat the chocolate until it’s just melted. Whisk in the cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla until combined and creamy.
If too soft to frost, chill briefly until it’s spreadable, about 15 minutes.
Spoon or pipe 2 tablespoons of buttercream onto each cupcake to frost.

These are particularly pretty if topped with white chocolate shavings, or a silver dragée (a tiny, ball-shaped candy).

No-Bake Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake

This cheesecake is pure indulgence: A rich mascarpone-and-chocolate cream fills a deep, dark chocolate cookie crust. (I like to use Nabisco® Famous Chocolate Wafers.) Elegant and sophisticated, this cake totally belies how easy it is to make. And while it’s delicious right out of the fridge, the texture gets satiny smooth at room temperature.

Makes 1 (9-inch) cake.

Crust:
3 cups (about 11 ounces) finely crushed chocolate cookie crumbs
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
9 tablespoons (4½ ounces or 130 grams) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
4 ounces (130 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 8-ounce package (225 grams) cream cheese, softened
16 ounces (450 grams) mascarpone cheese, softened
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon (3¼ ounces or 90 grams) confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cocoa powder, for dusting

To make the crust: In a 9-inch springform pan, combine the cookie crumbs and sugar. Add the melted butter and toss until the mixture is moistened. Firmly press into the bottom of the pan and 1 inch up the sides.

To make the filling: In a large heatproof bowl, heat the chocolate until just melted. Stir in the cream cheese and mascarpone cheese until combined.

Gently whisk in the sugar, cream and vanilla until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Spoon into the crust and smooth the top. Chill until fully set, about 4 hours. Before serving, dust the top with cocoa powder.

Using 60% bittersweet chocolate will ensure the chocolate flavor is there but won’t overwhelm the mascarpone. Don’t overwhisk the batter, or the mascarpone might curdle.

Recipes reprinted with permission from ONE BOWL BAKING: SIMPLE, FROM SCRATCH RECIPES FOR DELICIOUS DESSERTS © 2013 by Yvonne Ruperti, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

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