I bake because

I baked Sunday night. No surprise to many, I am sure. Logic would have dictated otherwise. But that new recipe from The Times beckoned, as did the softened butter on the counter. I trekked to the basement – yes, it felt like trekking – found the Bundt pan and set off on a new journey that culminated around midnight. Why? A million reasons and yet none. Just because.

Truth is, Saturday night is my favorite baking time. A quiet kitchen, a glass of wine, folk music from my favorite radio show, The Midnight Special, and no competing sounds.

I bake at other times, too, often with my children, beloved in its own right, but Saturday night baking has its own sacred quality. I’m sure that I should get out into the world and attempt to be social, put on clothes other than the coziest and seek culture, but, even on nights I am beyond exhausted and well within my rights to sit on the couch and just be, I sooth my soul — I bake.

I bake to create something delicious. I bake to channel my grandmother. I bake to bring my mother from New Jersey into my kitchen. I bake to embrace my children after school when a sitter greets them. To friends and family, teachers and neighbors, I express gratitude and bring kindness. I bake to welcome folks around our table, and show my love across the country. To make holidays and create traditions. To bring a taste of home whether within its walls or on the way.

Baking gives taste to holidays and seasons. Summer returns for a visit in winter when peaches and berries emerge in their crust. Plums greet the new year each Rosh Hashanah in Marian Burros’ plum torte 1https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/3783-original-plum-torte, zucchini bread calls out the harvest of autumn with friends in the sukkah. Pound cake gives warmth to Chicago winter, Grandma’s blintzes provide history to Shavuot, Mom’s brownies provide an expected foundation to all happenings.

Baking allows me to complete a beautiful finished product in a week in which I have buried too many or too young. It provides logical steps and control when life does not. Sliding the clean toothpick from the risen miracle brings joy whatever my mood when I began. Baking lets me bring calm to stressful holiday preparation, satisfaction when I have writers block, sweetness to friends in bitter times. When I don’t know what to do, leaving a small bag on a doorstep lets me bring comfort. When I can’t be there to say mazal tov, I ship a neat package of sweet pieces as my proxy.

And sometimes I bake for no reason at all

Notes   [ + ]

1. https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/3783-original-plum-torte

Keep Hugging the Bowl

Hug the mixing bowl. Yes, really hug it. If you don’t, it will fly across the kitchen. Actually, with liquid batter, the mixer works just fine, most of the time. But with dough, the bowl goes flying off the base, ingredients with it. If you hug the bowl while it mixes, it will stay on the base. So, I keep hugging the bowl.

“Why?”

Because it was Grandma’s. And when I bake with the KitchenAid 4C that is as old as I am, Grandma is in the kitchen with me. She is telling me to use the best of ingredients. She is baking alongside my three children, at least one of whom is already taller than her. All of this is a neat trick, since Grandma died 22 years ago. Continue reading