Baking as Stress Relief

I have fairly vivid memories of being a kid and sitting and watching my great grandmother baking.  We’d be at the cottage, go out and pick wild berries and she’d end up baking us a pie.  I’d have aunts baking patés.  Tarts.  Sugar pies.  Pêtes de soeurs.  Cookies as far as the eye could see.  My fascination with Lemon Meringue Pies.

When I grew up, I inherited my grandmother’s baking recipes – thousands of them.  Some slow efforts to get through that. I still have a Christmas habit of baking gingerbread cookies, and giving baking gifts to friends.

I bake when I’m stressed.  I know it’s a coping mechanism. The eating part is certainly fun, but it’s the act of making that’s cathartic.  I didn’t really clue into why at first.  Now I think I get it.

Baking is as much science as it is art.  You need the right quality ingredients, in the proper amounts.  Day of year makes a difference, as humidity can make a heck of a difference, so weight is often better for dry ingredients.  You need to mix them in the right order, in the right fashion or you’ll get different results.  Just dumping it all into a pot gives you lumps.  The actual baking part needs a good oven, with even heat distribution (oh boy does convection make a difference).  An extra minute of baking can make a soft cookie get a crunch.

The art part is the difference between a baker and a grandmother.  I have recipes that have no weights, just ingredients.  Others that ask for a fistful of something.  And let’s be honest here, there’s the love factor that goes into this that just changes the overall recipe.  Cripes, I’ve done the exact same recipe when I was in a good mood and a bad mood and got completely different results.  Just the other day, my bread didn’t rise a damn inch.

The main stress relief factor is time.  It’s not possible to rush baking. You can’t put 5 people in a kitchen and go 5 times as fast.  The oven is only so big.  Cooking at a higher temp will burn the sugar.  If I want to make Ginger Snaps, I know it’s going to take me 90 minutes from start to end.  That’s 90 minutes of zen.  90 minutes + where the house just smells amazing.  90 minutes where I’m not being bothered with anything else.

That’s likely why more people are baking now.  Sure, it’s harder to just go and pick up bread, but people have oodles of time to bake.  Even those working from home likely have 2 hours that is free from not commuting.  I’ve been doing 12 hour days for what seems 3 weeks now, still find some time to get it done (heck, making time).  I don’t have hockey 6 times a week.  Kid activities are cancelled.  All I have is time, and some simple ingredients.

Time to bake some love.

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