Big Love for Small-Batch Cooking

When Mike Johnson made tiny batches of baked goods in early 2020, he did so to minimize the use of yeast and flour, which was hard to find in the early stages of the pandemic.

“It was a way for me to ration,” said Mr. Johnson, 28, the author of “Even Better Brownies: 50 Standout Bar Recipes for Every Occasion” (Page Street, 2020) and the writer of the blog Mike Bakes NYC.

“I kept it up because for a lot of people, myself included, small-batch baking just makes sense!” he said.

Mr. Johnson further simplified some of his recipes by eliminating equipment that might be necessary for the original recipe. His cinnamon roll recipe, for example, which makes just four, is done entirely by hand.

All said, 2020 may have been the year that got more people baking, but it was also the beginning of a mini trend: small-batch baking. Spurred on by necessity, then by requests from readers and Instagram followers, cookbook authors started creating scaled-down versions of recipes like biscuits, cake and cookies, perfect for those who want a baking project, but don’t want a big batch.

Michelle Lopez, 33, the author of “Weeknight Baking: Recipes to Fit Your Schedule” (Simon & Schuster, 2019) and the writer of the blog Hummingbird High, first found herself trimming recipes to suit her two-person household.

“I started sharing the recipes on my Instagram and blog,” Ms. Lopez said. “They blew up.”

Her small-batch blueberry muffin recipe, inspired by the oversize muffins at Levain Bakery in New York, makes four. Her baked ube mochi doughnut recipe yields six, and her loaf-pan Funfetti cake serves two to four depending on how you slice it (and how much you like cake).

I love to bake, but I live alone with my husband. Last year, small-batch baking became a creative outlet to make things I wanted without being bogged down by leftovers. I have a few small-batch recipes that I’ve been baking for years, but the most-baked in our house are buttermilk biscuits, which make just four (though admittedly, huge) ones, which I usually slather in butter or drown in gravy.

Before you head into the kitchen to scale down Great-Aunt Emma’s chocolate cake recipe, keep in mind that small-batch baking can sometimes mean more than cutting a recipe’s ingredients in half. It can include finding solutions to tricky questions like how to halve an egg (use one egg yolk), how to adjust rising and cooking times (check early and frequently) and what size pan to use (check dimensions and experiment). And sometimes, it requires reformulating a recipe entirely. If this isn’t your kind of project, don’t worry! Recipe developers and cookbook authors have done a lot of the work for you; there are so many tried and true small-batch recipes online.

Small-batch baking may have emerged as a trend in 2020, but beyond the pandemic, it may make a lot of sense for a lot of people. And there’s really nothing cuter than a tiny cake.

Recipes: Small-Batch Buttermilk Biscuits | Small-Batch Blueberry Muffins

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