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Novice baker in need of some tasty recipes

Hi all,

I'm fairly new to the baking scene. Although I'm Scottish I have a love of American baked goods and would love to recreate some of them for friends and family. If possible, could people recommend some simple, yet effective recipes that I could start out on? I'm thinking proper homemade brownies, cupcakes with REAL American frosting (not horrible British icing), granola bars, homemade cookies...anything that you would cook yourself that wouldn't completely overwhelm me.

I'd be really appreciative of any recipes that you'd share with me!



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  1. Em, go buy a bag of Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet morsels. On the back, there's a recipe for their Toll House chocolate chip cookies. Make those. That's a great starting point for you.

    Also, a quick bread (banana bread or zucchini loaf) is probably a good place to begin as well. Here's my recipe for banana bread:

    1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
    3/4 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/4 tsp. baking powder

    5 1/2 Tbs unsalted butter
    2/3 cup sugar
    2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    1 tsp. vanilla extract

    3 mashed, very ripe bananas
    3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

    Make sure all your ingredients are at room temp. Preheat your oven to 350 F and grease a 6 cup loaf pan.

    Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

    In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar on high speed 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Slowly add the flour mixture and blend until the consistency of brown sugar, scraping the bowl as you go. Beat in eggs slowly until combined. Add vanilla until combined.

    Fold in banana and chocolate chips until just mixed (do not overbeat!). Pour into pan and spread evenly. Bake 50 - 60 minutes until done (convection will probably take 35 - 40 minutes). Cool ten minutes on a baking rack before turning out to cool completely.

    As for brownies, I always cook out of the box (shame!).

    Hope this helps and good luck! Have fun with it!

    3 Replies
    1. re: QueenB

      Thanks for the recipe - I'm going to have a go at it tomorrow. Unfortunately in Scotland we don't have Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet morsels but I found a few good cookie recipes so I'm going to try those too. Thanks for your help

      1. re: Scots_lass

        Here you go Scots
        This link is for Nestle Toll House Cookies, you will have to convert measurements and find a chip that is a semi-sweet to use, but you can still follow the recipe!
        Good luck.


        1. re: Scots_lass

          Oh, I apologize. For some strange reason, I completely misunderstood and thought you were a Scot living here in the U.S.!

      2. There's a pretty good web blog on baking. I think it is the thefreshloaf.com.

        1. If you're interested in making your own bread (oh, you are), do a search on Chowhound for the No-Knead Bread (aka Bittman bread, Sullivan Street bread, Jim Lahey bread). It is the easiest recipe you could imagine with the most wonderful results.

          Honestly, my husband and I have not bought bread since the recipe came out (November?) - we make 4-8 loves per week and couldn't be happier with them!

          1 Reply
          1. re: kiwijen

            what is horrible British icing?
            also search brownies on this site and you will find many recipes and comments which will help you select which type of brownie you are craving (chewy, cakey, frosted, ufrosted, etc.)

          2. If you're looking for something savory, you might try cornbread. I usually use the recipe on the side of the cornmeal container (the same recipe also usually on the side of the baking powder container). I grew up with cornbread that wasn't sweet, so I usually cut the sugar way down -- or cut it out entirely. Also good if you substitute bacon grease for the fat in the recipe. Throw in some chopped jalapenos or shredded cheese for a little variety.

            Excellent with soups, chili, or breakfast. Very good as muffins.

            1. Essential if you're using American recipes is to have American measuring cups. Do you have those? Otherwise, your recipes aren't going to turn out right.

              The alternative is to find American style recipes converted to UK measurements.

              1. Hi ,

                sorry to bother you all again. I've found a really easy recipe for snickerdoodles but I don't have any corn syrup. what is corn syrup and is there an alternative I could use? (bearing in mind I live in the UK - I only have golden syrup - a kind of tangy maple syrup like substance - on hand right now which I assume is completely the wrong path to go down)

                2 Replies
                1. re: Scots_lass

                  golden syrup is definitely the right for sub for corn syrup, and some might even prefer it to corn syrup (although I've never heard it subbed in a snickerdoodle recipe).

                  1. re: Scots_lass

                    I was about to suggest the same thing.

                  2. I think golden syrup will work fine. It may give the cookies a slightly more molasses-y flaover than they normally would have. Honey would probably work as well. I don't recall ever making them with corn syrup, you might just look for a recipe without it.

                    1. Hi,
                      I hate to bake so I want something very easy when I do. I found the easiest and tastiest cookie recipe in an issue of "Southern Living " magazine several yers ago for a peanut butter and hershey kiss cookies. Here is the recipe...

                      1 cup sugar
                      1 egg
                      1 cup cruncy peanut butter
                      1 bag of hershey's kisses

                      preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar, egg and peanut butter and mix until all ingredients are well combined. spoon batter into 3/4" balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. bake for 10 minutes until cookies are slightly browned. While cookies are baking, unwrap equal amount of kisses to cookies on baking sheet so you can have them ready when you remove the cookies from the oven. Upn removing them from the oven, immediately place a kiss on top of the cookie, pressing down slightly. Let them cool about 5 minutes before removing them from the baking sheet to a rack. (I dont have a cooling rack so i cool mine on a sheet of wax paper out on the kitchen counter and it works just fine) They have to cool completely bacuse the chocolate kiss will melt a little and they have to cool so the chocolate will still be in the shape of a kiss.

                      I make these and give these to coworkers at christmas time and they love them. good luck.
                      Easy Peasy as Jamie Oliver used to say.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Bengaliwife

                        There's no flour in this recipe? How do you not end up with a pool of sweet, eggy peanut butter on your baking sheet?

                        1. re: amyzan

                          It totally totally works, no idea how. The sugar and the peanut butter thicken the "dough" and the egg binds everything. You don't cream the egg and sugar, just mix it.

                          1. re: ballulah

                            Wow, that's weird! I wonder if it'd work with other nut butters, or if peanuts have some magic stick-em.

                            1. re: amyzan

                              Hmmmm, interesting idea. Although I have noticed that other nut butters (maybe because they're not mass produced like peanut butter) can be runnier and oilier. I usually use something like Skippy (smooth not chunky) for these cookies.

                      2. If you really want to bake American, there is really nothing in this world more American than a the "cliched apple pie." From what I understand, fruit pies as we make them are of American origin.

                        Making a pie, has a difficult part, and that is mkaing a pie crust. Many of us, will go out and buy a crust that is premade and use that. If you cannot, then:

                        1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
                        1/4 teaspoon salt
                        1/2 cup lard or vegetable shortening, or combination of shortening and butter, chilled
                        3 tablespoons ice water
                        Sift together the flour and salt; sift again. Cut in the shortening or lard with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add ice water a tablespoon at a time (approximately 3 tablespoons in all), stirring the dough around the bowl with a fork.
                        As soon as it is moist enough to gather into a ball, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Handle the dough as little as possible. Roll half of the pastry dough out on a floured surface to about 1/8-inch thickness. The pastry should be about 1 1/2 inches larger than the the pie plate. Repeat with the other half of dough for a double crust pie, or freeze the remaining dough for a future pie. Makes enough for a double crust for a 9- or 10-inch pie, or two single crusts.

                        If recipe calls for a pre-baked crust, prick the pie shell with a fork and bake in a preheated 350° oven for about 3 minutes; remove from the oven and prick some more if the crust is puffing up. Return to the oven and bake 5 minutes longer. Place on a wire rack to cool, then fill as recipe directs.

                        For filling a pie, do some searches, but basically a mixture of only fruit and some sugar can work quite well. I know it does for my favorite, Blackberry Pie.

                        1. this recipe appeared in a recent issue of food and wine magazine - they are very easy and very good tasting.

                          Mascarpone-Swirled Brownies

                          2/3 cup all-purpose flour
                          1/2 teaspoon baking powder
                          1/4 teaspoon salt
                          4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
                          2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
                          1 stick unsalted butter, softened
                          1 1/4 cups sugar
                          1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
                          3 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
                          8 ounces mascarpone cheese

                          Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter and flour a 9-inch-square baking pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium saucepan, melt the semisweet and unsweetened chocolate with the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1 cup of the sugar and 1 tablespoon of the vanilla. Whisk in the whole eggs, one at a time. Whisk the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture until the brownie batter is smooth.
                          In a bowl, whisk the mascarpone with the egg yolk and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Pour half of the brownie batter into the baking pan. Dollop half of the mascarpone mixture on top and cover with the remaining batter. Dollop on the remaining mascarpone mixture and swirl the batter a few times with a knife to create a marbled effect.
                          Bake the brownies for about 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached. Let the brownies cool before cutting.

                          MAKE AHEAD The brownies can be refrigerated for 3 days.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: howchow

                            How is the mascarpone in this? It seems like it might get overwhelmed with the chocolate brownie. How different is it from using cream cheese (which would cost so much less)?

                            1. re: chowser

                              I thought it was very nice - I am not typically a fan of brownies in general - but this looked so appetizing in the photo I tried it and the result was really fantastic - the texture was similiar to a flourless chocolate cake. I do think you have a valid point about the substitition, any of these should work if you don't want to splurge on the mascarpone.

                              How To Substitute For Mascarpone:

                              8 ounces of softened cream cheese, plus 3 tablespoons of sour cream, plus 2 tablespoons of heavy cream (liquid, not whipped).

                              In "The Cook's Thesaurus," the following are suggested: (1) Blend 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 1/4 cup whipping cream, or (2) blend 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 1 tablespoon cream or butter or milk, or (3) Blend 6 ounces softened cream cheese with 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup cream (or Montrachet).

                              1. re: howchow

                                That sounds great--thanks! I love mascarpone cheese but don't want to use it if it doesn't make a difference. Two kinds of chocolate sounds good!

                            2. re: howchow

                              This is a great recipe. The ingredients are easily available and the results are sublime. Plus, you can bake as many as you want, when you want!

                              Walk-to-School Cookies
                              from LaPinata cookbook

                              1 lb. or 2 cups butter, softened
                              1 cup granulated sugar
                              4 cups all-purpose flour
                              1 tsp. vanilla extract
                              Powdered sugar

                              Mix butter, sugar, flour and vanilla until well combined. Divide dough among 3 sheets of wax paper (can use plastic wrap or parchment), wrap well and chill until firm. Slice roll into 1/4-inch rounds. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 325°F for 10-12 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar after baking. Cool. Enjoy!

                            3. Thanks for all your recipes (I'm definitelly going to try the walk-to-school Cookies - not sure I'm quite ready to graduate to Apple pie yet!) I had a go at some things today - good old cupcakes with different flavours of frosting, which I have to say were absolutely amazing. I also made oatmeal and raspberry squares and chocolate chip cookies, the cookies weren't that much of a success - don't know how I managed to make them so dry. Also, a whole tray of thumbprint cookies had to go in the bucket after I managed to mess them up as well. On the whole, for a beginner, I'm not doing too badly - I even got praise from my mum so that was quite good!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Scots_lass

                                Hey scots lass, what do you deem "horrible British icing", would it be fondant icing? I have some great recipes for butter creams and cream cheese icings, but I'll know better what to recommend if I know more about what you think is horrible! When I get home I'll look up my recipe for plain ol' brownies, they are always a hit. Also one of the easiest things known to baking man (or woman) is lemon squares. I'll find that too.

                              2. I just posted this Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe in another thread. Very easy and delicious.