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Monday, December 11, 2023
Dec. 11, 2023

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Just one bowl to wash: How to simplify your baking, and cleanup

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One-Bowl Cheesy Muffins with Prosciutto and Chives.
One-Bowl Cheesy Muffins with Prosciutto and Chives. (Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post) Photo Gallery

Many of us love preparing a homemade treat, even on a weeknight, but aren’t crazy about baking projects (the kinds that call for running to two grocery stores for hard-to-source ingredients and tackling several components over several hours — if not days). Nor are we fond of doing dishes. I don’t think I’m the only one who has assembled something sweet over the better part of an evening, finally placed it in the oven, turned to a sink piled high with dirty bowls, ramekins and measuring cups, and thought, “I am never doing this again.”

Well, with one-bowl baking, you may never have to.

One-bowl baking, for the unfamiliar, is for busy folks who delight in baking delicious treats with short, easy-to-follow recipes, using pantry-friendly ingredients that mix up quickly in just one bowl. It is for those of us who constantly search for timesaving methods when it comes to meal-prep, but really wish we could find such shortcuts to making dessert (which is everyone’s favorite dish anyway, right?).

A one-bowl baked good is essentially the dessert world’s equivalent of a sheet-pan dinner. And just as assembling dinner on a single pan, or in a single “bowl” (i.e.: in an Instant Pot or slow cooker) continues to trend with those of us short on time, it is hardly a leap to conclude that recipes for sweets that are similarly effortless to prep (and cleanup) could easily become all the rage.

In fact, a Google search reveals a plethora of one-bowl baking recipes ready for the making, including the chocolate snack cake, blackberry cobbler and cheesy jumbo muffins with prosciutto and chives.

But what about all those go-to recipes dog-eared in your cookbooks; or surreptitiously ripped from a magazine in your doctor’s office; or bookmarked from that blog you love? In other words, what do you do with the recipes you already turn to, again and again, for your son’s birthday cake, your mom’s Christmas cookie box and your roommate’s “I broke up with my boyfriend — again” sympathy caramels? What if, with a few simple tweaks and twists, you could change those recipes into one-bowl wonders?

To simplify my baking, I have several strategies I rely on over and over again, and you can, too. Of course, not every recipe can be converted — for instance, those calling for beating yolks and whites separately will never a one-bowl wonder make — but favorites including upside-down cakes, pavlovas, whoopie pies and many others convert brilliantly to a one-bowl assembly. Here, I share the tools every one-bowl baker needs in their arsenal, as well as a few of my favorite tips for putting them to work.

• The one-bowl baker’s tool kit

A large glass mixing bowl is not only the “one dirty bowl” in which many one-bowl recipes are assembled, but is also the ideal vessel for a recipe that begins with melting butter (or chocolate) in the microwave. A large metal mixing bowl works as well, but to heat its contents, you must create a makeshift double-boiler over a pot of simmering water on the stove top. Hardly a tragedy, but a glass bowl, plus microwave, simplifies the process.

A large (4-cup) glass measuring cup not only measures liquid ingredients, and like the large glass mixing bowl, is handy for melting chocolate and butter in the microwave, but it is also the perfect container in which to prepare an egg wash to brush on biscuits, for instance.

A digital scale for measuring your dry ingredients indisputably reduces the number of dirty utensils needing to be cleaned. And as luck would have it for the one-bowl baker, many baking recipes now include weight measurements (I prefer those calling for grams, which are tinier and more precise than ounces, and thus easier to work with.) I still recommend holding on to your liquid measuring tools (a glass measuring cup, for example), but dry ingredient cups and (oftentimes) measuring spoons become delightfully obsolete when you have a scale on the kitchen counter.

A fine-mesh sieve is essential for ensuring your dry ingredients get mixed together before being added to your wet ones, since you won’t be whisking them first in a separate bowl. Sift your dry ingredients directly over your mixing bowl or onto a sheet of parchment (my favorite).

A roll of parchment paper is not only your best friend when lining a pan, but is also the perfect landing (and resting) pad for sifted dry ingredients. Moreover, a sheet of parchment can be recycled for this purpose. Store it folded up in a zippered plastic bag or rolled up with a rubber band around it, flattening it out on the counter before reusing.

• The one-bowl baker’s strategies for conversion

Reject mise en place. Mise en place is the process of measuring and setting out all the recipe’s ingredients in a variety of bowls before cooking and is — you guessed it — the antithesis of one-bowl baking. One-bowl bakers may still organize their ingredients before starting to assemble the recipe, but they scoop or pour directly from the ingredient’s vessel (a bag or a jar) into the designated bowl or sieve.

Modify the order of assembly. When one-bowl baking, there are no extra bowls in which to prep ingredients (see “Reject mise en place” above). Converting a favorite recipe to a one-bowl wonder, therefore, typically requires that you save the following steps for last: adding dry ingredients, prepping add-ins and, perhaps, mixing up such last minute flourishes as a tasty cinnamon-sugar mixture for sprinkling. Additionally, without the extra bowls, tricky-to-incorporate ingredients, such as powdery thickeners, need to be added in a sequence to maximize their mixability (such as, when making a cobbler, combining arrowroot or cornstarch with sugar in your one bowl, and mixing the two, before adding the berries, will help the berries to evenly absorb the thickener).

Reuse measuring tools for holding small amounts of ingredients. For instance, when making the cobbler recipe, squeeze the lemon directly into a measuring cup, which you will later use to measure the buttermilk and, finally, to whisk an egg wash.

Reuse the bowl for frostings and fillings. After scraping every bit of your cake batter into a baking pan, a quick wipe with a paper towel is all your bowl needs before adding frosting or filling ingredients.

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As these tools and strategies reveal, easy baking with little cleanup — even on a weeknight — is 100 percent within your reach. Converting baking recipes you love to a one-bowl assembly requires nothing more than a little forethought about which tools you will pull from your cabinets and how you will creatively use them, about how you collect your ingredients before baking with them, and about the rejiggering of your recipe’s steps. Done, done and done.

One-Bowl Blackberry Cobbler With Easy Cinnamon-Sugar Buttermilk Biscuits

Active: 30 minutes | Total: 1 hour 20 minutes

16 servings

Here, sweetened blackberries are blanketed with a glorious topping of easy-peasy biscuits that do not require a biscuit cutter. (You’re welcome.) The biscuits are not only lightly sweetened and flavored with cinnamon, they are also topped with cinnamon sugar and a sprinkling of raw sugar, too, for sparkle and crunch.

If you would like to use a different berry, you may need to reduce the amount of thickener, as blackberries require more than other berries. The amount of sugar you use will depend on how tart or sweet your fruit is, so once you’ve stirred in the lesser amount of sugar, taste and assess before adding more.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or a drizzle of heavy cream (the author’s favorite).

Make Ahead: The cobbler will keep loosely covered with plastic wrap at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Leftovers are best covered with foil and reheated in a 300-degree oven for a few minutes before serving.

• For the filling

1 to 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar, or as needed

6 tablespoons (39 grams) arrowroot powder or cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) table salt

About 2 1/2 pounds (8 cups) fresh blackberries

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

• For the biscuit topping

2 cups (290 grams) self-rising flour, or more as needed

1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) baking soda

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons (3 grams) ground cinnamon, preferably freshly ground from soft sticks

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

3/4 cup regular or low-fat buttermilk

1 large egg

1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) table salt

Raw sugar, for sprinkling

For the filling: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Whisk together 1 cup (200 grams) of the granulated sugar, the arrowroot powder or cornstarch and the salt in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish (preferably ceramic, but metal or glass work as well). Add the blackberries and toss to coat using your fingers or a wooden spoon. Pour the lemon juice evenly over the mixture and toss gently to coat. Taste a well-coated berry, and add more or all the remaining 1/2 cup (100 grams) of granulated sugar, as needed.

For the biscuit topping: Whisk together the flour, baking soda, 1/4 cup (50 grams) of the granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon (2 grams) of the cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Add the cold, cubed butter and use your fingers to rub it into the flour mixture. Pour in the buttermilk and stir with a wooden spoon, to form a shaggy dough.

Dump the dough onto a work surface, making sure to include all bits of from the bowl. You should not need to dust your work surface or your hands with extra flour, but if your dough is unusually sticky, by all means, do so. Knead the dough once or twice, divide it in half and roll each portion into a skinny 12-inch log. Slice each log into twelve 1-inch rounds, gingerly arranging them in rows on top of the blackberry filling and reshaping/correcting their round shapes, as needed, as you work.

Whisk together the egg and salt (in the measuring cup you used to measure the buttermilk); use this to brush the tops of the dough rounds.

Wipe out the now-empty mixing bowl with paper towel, as needed. Add the remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) cinnamon, whisking to blend well. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the rounds of dough, then sprinkle a little raw sugar on each one.

Bake (middle rack) for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 375 degrees; continue to bake for 40 to 50 minutes total, until the biscuits are nicely browned and the filling is bubbling between them. Check on the cobbler at 40 minutes by inserting the tip of a paring knife between the biscuits in the center to check on the filling beneath and to see whether the biscuits are cooked through.

If the biscuits are nicely browned on top, but not beneath, and/or the filling is not bubbling in the center, cover the cobbler with foil and continue to bake until bubbling is uniform across the top of the cobbler, and the biscuits are cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

Let cool slightly before serving. The filling will continue to set as it cools; for a less-runny filling, try waiting until the cobbler cools to room temperature.

Nutrition | Calories: 260; Total Fat: 6 g; Saturated Fat: 4.5 g; Cholesterol: 30 mg; Sodium: 370 mg; Carbohydrates: 50 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugars: 31 g; Protein: 4 g.

(From cookbook author Jessie Sheehan.)

One-Bowl Cheesy Muffins With Prosciutto And Chives

Active: 15 minutes | Total: 40 minutes

6 servings

Served warm alongside a plate of softly scrambled eggs or on their own smeared with salted butter, these intensely flavored muffins will satisfy all your savory baked-good cravings in the morning.

Feel free to swap in chopped, thinly sliced salami instead of prosciutto, but don’t use chunks of dried, because they tend to get tough after baking.

You’ll need a muffin pan with 6 large wells; if you choose to make these in a regular-size, 12-well muffin pan, reduce the baking time.

Serve with soft, salted butter.

Make ahead: The muffins are best eaten within hours after baking, but they can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Toast or reheat before serving.

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan

1/4 cup packed (50 grams) light brown sugar

2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk

1 cup low-fat or regular sour cream

2 cups (270 grams) flour

1 tablespoon (8 grams) baking powder

1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) baking soda

1 teaspoon (4 grams) table salt

1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) freshly ground black pepper

6 ounces shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, loosely packed (a generous 1 3/4 cups)

3 ounces prosciutto, chopped (2/3 cup)

About 15 chive stems, minced (1/4 cup)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Generously grease the wells of the muffin pan with softened butter or cooking oil spray.

Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter in a large microwave-safe bowl, covered with paper towel, on LOW in 15-second bursts.

Add the sugar and whisk until well incorporated, then add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, whisking after each addition. Add the sour cream, whisking a final time.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper on a sheet of parchment paper, and use the paper to pour the dry ingredients into the butter-egg mixture. (Or sift the dry ingredients directly into the bowl of wet ingredients.) Add the cheese, prosciutto and chives, folding just until incorporated to form a shaggy batter. Do not overmix.

Fill the muffin pan wells three-quarters full (a scant 3/4 cup per tin). Smooth the tops and bake (middle rack) for 20 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a moist crumb or two. Remove from the pan as soon as they are cool enough to handle.

Serve warm.

Nutrition | Calories: 560; Total Fat: 32 g; Saturated Fat: 20 g; Cholesterol: 195 mg; Sodium: 950 mg; Carbohydrates: 47 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugars: 11 g; Protein: 18 g.

(From cookbook author Jessie Sheehan.)

One-Bowl Chocolate Snack Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

Active: 30 minutes | Total: 1 hour, including cooling time

12 servings

This deeply chocolate-y and uber-moist chocolate snack cake is as perfect for the 12-and-younger set after school as it is for dessert following an impromptu weeknight dinner party. It is assembled quickly and bakes up in less than 30 minutes.

Topped with a billowy and tangy cream cheese frosting and sporting a name that includes the word “snack,” this easy recipe will likely become your go-to when cake is requested, required or craved.

Make ahead: The cake can be loosely covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

• For the cake

2/3 cup packed (130 grams) light brown sugar

2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (130 grams) cake flour

1/2 cup (60 grams) Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 teaspoon (3 grams) baking powder

3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda

3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) table salt

1 1/2 teaspoons (2 grams) espresso powder

1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

2/3 cup boiling water

2/3 cup heavy cream

• For the frosting

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) table salt

3 1/2 cups (410 grams) confectioners’ sugar

Multicolored sprinkles (optional, but highly encouraged)

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-by-8-by-2-inch square pan with softened butter or cooking oil spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper.

Combine the light brown and granulated sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a mixing bowl.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder onto a sheet of parchment paper, then use the paper to pour the dry ingredients into the bowl. (Or sift them directly into the bowl.) Beat on medium speed, until thoroughly incorporated.

Reduce the speed to low; add the egg and egg yolk, beating to incorporate after each addition, and scraping with a flexible spatula, as needed. Add the vanilla extract and the oil, beating to blend well. Finally, add the boiling water and heavy cream; once they are incorporated, increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds, until smooth. The batter will be quite thin.

Transfer to the pan, being mindful to scrape out every last bit of batter, as you will be using the bowl again to make the frosting. Bake (middle rack) for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back after the first 15 minutes, and checking for doneness with a toothpick at the center after 20 minutes. The cake is done when the tester comes out with a moist crumb or two and the cake is just beginning to come away from the sides of the pan.

Let the cake cool in its pan for 10 minutes, then run a paring knife around the edges to release it. Invert onto a serving plate to cool completely.

For the frosting: Wipe the same mixing bowl and paddle attachment or beaters with a paper towel, if necessary, then add the butter and cream cheese and beat on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and salt, then beat again on medium-high speed.

Reduce the speed to low. Add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, sifting it over if it is lumpy and beating until incorporated. Stop to scrape the bowl with a flexible spatula, as needed. Once all the sugar has been added, increase the speed to medium, and beat briefly until smooth. Do not overmix, or the frosting will lose structure.

Use a generous hand and an offset spatula to spread the top of the cooled cake with the frosting. Decorate with sprinkles, if using. If you do not frost generously, you may have leftover frosting (lucky you). Cut just before serving.

Nutrition | Calories: 520; Total Fat: 27 g; Saturated Fat: 14 g; Cholesterol: 90 mg; Sodium: 340 mg; Carbohydrates: 69 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 56 g; Protein: 4 g.

(From cookbook author Jessie Sheehan.)

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