As I scroll through my social media feed for the hundredth time, I cannot seem to ignore the unending pictures of beautiful golden-brown bread loafs, steaming hot cinnamon rolls and various versions of decadent cakes and brownies. My feed, full of these delicious goodies, ones I wish could be grabbed through a phone screen, has been constantly filling up with pictures of people baking during the lockdown and quarantine.
I too got back to baking during the initial stages of quarantine after shying away from it for over a year. Initially it was to pass time, because suddenly the clock didn’t matter and days were only opportunities to do whatever came to mind. Each day something new was in the oven, right from bread and cake to pizza from scratch, the oven was being used to its full potential to say the least. It felt good to bake after so long. To finally use my measuring cups, tins and spatulas that were probably feeling a little ignored all this while. I even cleaned out my bakery cabinet, getting rid of everything that wasn’t needed and making way for some semblance of structure.
At some point in my newly resurrected journey of baking, I came to a realisation that as much as I enjoyed the activity and the outcome, one of the reasons I got back to it during a time like this, apart from my obvious love for it, is the sense of direction it gave me. We live in some unprecedented times and the year 2020 hasn’t exactly been kind to us. This year has taken away a lot, right from our freedom to our sanity, leaving us all feeling directionless and unsure of the future. Baking has helped us gain a sense of direction. It has guided us with its precise measurements and numbered ingredients to forget a world that is unsure and directionless. Although for just a few hours, it gave us a sense of security within its world of teaspoons, tablespoons and step by step directions on what path to take next, something our world greatly lacks at the moment.
In the midst of all the flour, baking powder, vanilla, chocolate and everything else that makes a good treat, our fears and insecurities are momentarily eased. We know the next step and set our expectations accordingly. We are aware of what we need to add in order to get the perfect results, and if not, we know we have a guide to it all. Gently dusting flour on a rolled dough, folding in precisely half a cup of walnuts in a brownie or cutting out an exact hundred grams of cold butter, every new step that we complete in the process of baking feels like a personal achievement, like a goal has been reached while also keeping our minds at ease for a few hours of the day.
Baking is a science, a sentence we’ve heard often but never quite understood what it implies. It implies that baking, unlike cooking has a set structure, a grid that one can work with. It is precise, calculated and straightforward. It is this invisible grid that has become a safety map for millions during this time, as there are no ambiguities and the only proven formula is practice. We know the steps we need to take in order to get the perfect edible result, unlike life, in this pandemic, which comes without a manual and with many surprises.