Food editor by day, baker by night, I spend a lot of time scrolling past recipes that simply don't work for weeknight baking at home — too many ingredients, fussy steps, and the classic "you want me to use what now?" The good thing is that all that time searching has also given me a keen eye for recipes that will be quick, easy on dishwashing, and use common pantry ingredients so that I can bake on a whim. If you're new to weeknight baking, these are some of the things to look for when choosing a weeknight recipe.
1. It use a quick mixing method: muffin, biscuit, or cookie creaming.
Quick bread mixing methods — also know as the muffin and biscuit methods — require just a quick mix of dry ingredients and then incorporating the wet into the dry. There's usually chemical leavening involved like baking powder or soda and minimal mixing, which means the cakes, cookies, or breads come together fast.
Try it: Birthday Bundt Cake
2. There's at least one shortcut ingredient.
Shortcut ingredients don't have to be crescent rolls or pizza dough (although those are great too), but think of things like self-rising flour and even whole milk yogurt as shortcuts for both mixing and flavor.
3. It uses just one or two bowls.
Do a quick mental walk-through of the recipe: How many pieces of equipment are you pulling out and dirtying? Any more than two bowls is a deal breaker for me — especially if theres any other equipment (like, say, a box grater) required too.
My favorite one bowl cake: One-Bowl Vanilla Sheet Cake with Sprinkles
4. It doesn't require a stand mixer.
To be clear, most recipes that require a stand mixer also require at least 10 minutes of mixing — not exactly quick weeknight baking as we know and love it. Cookies and cakes can be creamed with a hand mixer as needed. I will make one personal exception for this: garlic knots, because they are so worth pulling out the mixer for (and the rest of the ingredients are minimal).
5. It calls for active/instant yeast and there is plenty of it.
We often think of yeast as a slow-rising, lazy-baking-day-only ingredient, but yeast can be a powerful leavener for weeknight baking if used correctly. Instant yeast is a nice fast-acting option for quick flat breads or yeast rolls, but not everyone keeps that on hand at all times. Active dry yeast, which we use in everything from pizza to bread dough, is always on hand at my house and as long as the proportion of yeast to flour is adequate (think: 1 tablespoon of yeast for several cups of flour), a quick rise is all but guaranteed.
Try this yeast-free quick bread: Easy Ranch Quick Bread
6. You've double checked the rise times.
So you've got a recipe with plenty of yeast or self-rising flour that uses just one or two bowls and the bake time is nice and short, but whoa, what's that? An hour rest time? Time to rethink the strategy here. Rest and rise time is one of those overlooked steps that can make a seemingly easy recipe take too long for a weeknight. You don't have to shy away from a long rise time, though. Just make sure the rise is happening while the rest of dinner is being chopped and cooked.
Mix these before you start dinner: How To Make 1-Hour Dinner Rolls
7. You've double checked the baking time.
A final sign that a recipe is perfect for weeknight baking is the bake time. I've seen more than a few "quick breads" with a 45-minute bake time. (Looking at you, banana bread.) There is no worse feeling than mixing up a bread to serve with dinner and realizing that it won't be done when the soup is.
What do you look for when deciding what to bake on a weeknight?
Why should Saturday and Sunday have all the baking fun? Especially when a few deft mixing methods and some ingredients shortcuts can make biscuits, breads, and cakes a part of any day of the week. Weeknight Baking is our ode to quick baking that can be done on even the most harried Thursday night.