Why Do We Bake

Why Do We Bake?

At the opening of a great instructional video on baking sourdough bread, Claire Saffitz of the New York Times states that she does not do Yoga, but rather bakes bread, as she finds it meditative. After watching the video numerous times, I began to reflect on the question of why I bake.

For home bakers or those whose jobs are dependent on baking, the act of baking may be necessary work to make a living or to fulfill the need to put food on the table. But for the rest of us who continually return to the kitchen and the oven and see it as something other than work, there must be reasons for the effort.

On reflection of the question, my answer would be that I bake for two very different reasons, nostalgia and development of baking skills.

Growing up on a farm in central Illinois, baking was all around me. My mother baked as well as all the other farm ladies in the neighborhood. Whether they wanted to or not was not the point. Baking was an expected and required skill set.

I don’t believe that my mother necessarily baked for enjoyment, but it did not keep her from producing quality pies, cinnamon rolls and coffee cakes. My grandmother and aunt were the cookie bakers, the church ladies were the best cake bakers. Baked goods were always available for all meals and holidays.

Living on a farm was not necessarily an idyllic way of life, but baked goods sure helped to make life more enjoyable and contributed to good memories. The smell of coffee cake baking or the taste of a warm cinnamon roll reminds me in a good way of a time in my life that was so different from now. Recreating the recipes that are familiar and particularly ones that brought culinary pleasure to my life, serves to bring back good memories.

Baking is an art that is perfected through the development of skills. While some may find skill development to be of no interest or drudgery, it is the the very thing that brings me back to the kitchen every time. Working towards perfecting skills that consistently produce an outstanding taste and visual result is motivation enough for me. The crunch of a perfect crust, the zing of a perfectly balanced fruit pie, the sweet creaminess of a perfect cream pie, all represent a work of art that comes from my hands. Consistently reaching a high level of perfection is challenging and frustrating, but the journey is what makes life interesting.

So if you enjoy baking, why? I look forward to seeing your thoughts in the comments below.

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