It’s been almost two years since I, like many others, hauled home an armful of sugar and flour and turned to baking to escape the doom and gloom of quarantine. With three types of flour sitting at home and a notebook brimming with my favourite recipes, I’m happy to report that I am now dealing a lot better with the reality of the pandemic and that I haven’t been baking any less. It’s become about much more than the heavenly smell of vanilla wafting through the entire house, though.
When you make a full cheesecake or a whole batch of lemon squares, it hits you as soon as it comes out of the oven that the only thing to do is share. In this way, baking has become an unexpectedly intimate thing, whether it’s making tiramisu for my mom on her birthday, leaving my housemates a note that says “help yourselves!” next to a fresh loaf of bread, or trying out vegan brownies and gluten-free cookies for my friends. It’s become one of my favourite ways to tell the people in my life that I love them, and I adore the way they light up when they know they’ve been on my mind.
I’ve found that baking is a love language I speak with myself, too. Over the past two years, Zoom and Teams have demanded I spend more time online than I’m comfortable with, sometimes making real-life seem far away and intangible. Baking is soothing and grounding, putting me back in touch with my senses without overwhelming them.
Baking has also been a gentle reminder that everything is a process and that almost nothing is beyond saving. If a certain mix of herbs doesn’t taste good in this loaf of bread or I didn’t add enough cream to this milk pudding, I have to learn from it and try again next time, if only because I have leftover ingredients. It’s a constant process of forgiving myself and getting better, and I didn’t think baking would become a means of confronting my near-crippling perfectionism, but here we are.
It’s also important to remember that while making everything from scratch can be fun, baking is meant to be comforting! It’s still ‘real baking’ if you make cupcakes with a box mix and store-bought frosting or make bread with frozen Ciabatta dough from Costco (which I recommend, by the way). Don’t let Instagram bakers and their elaborate sourdough starters scare you; you can’t go too wrong with flour, butter, and sugar in an oven.