Anyone else find themselves baking more than usual these days? Or in my case, more than ever?
So far, this past week, I’ve made a giant braided challah bread and a vegan banana chocolate chip loaf. Last week, I dabbled in chocolate chip cookies, using a recipe from my first cookbook, from when I was about 6 years old (The NEW Boys and Girls Cookbook, published in the 1960s). And another challah.
And yet, I AM NOT A BAKER! My usual baking exploits have involved buying vegan pre-made cookie dough and spooning it onto a silicone sheet before popping it into the oven.
Yet now, I find myself drooling at the pictures on instagram and searching for recipes on the web. Today’s effort was inspired by a recipe on @ohsheglows (since I’m not a baker, I rarely have all the ingredients listed, so find myself making lots of substitutions). I have no idea what the carb count for today’s banana bread clocks in at and guesstimated what to bolus for a small sliver.
When in doubt, I call my friend Sherri with various questions: “Is there a difference between bread machine yeast and regular dry yeast? Can I substitute x for y in a recipe? What do I do if the centre of the banana bread is still gooey, after an hour in the oven?
(That last question, I googled, because that banana bread did not seem to be baking. In case you’re interested, I put a piece of foil over it, very loosely, and turned down the oven to 330, then baked it for another 20 minutes.)
Baking is like chemistry, apparently. And I did not take chemistry in high school. My science career back then was limited to grade 10 biology. My time in physics was depressing. I started out strong, when the first two weeks talked about light and refraction (I’ve always loved photography, so this was easy to understand!). As the term progressed, I watched my marks plummet with each exam.
By the time I was ready to head to university, I begged the principal of our school to let me drop math, a course that threatened to destroy my high grade point average and my dreams of going to journalism school. We made a deal. I couldn’t drop it, but if I failed it, he’d remove it from my grade book, as long as I promised to work as hard as possible.
I tried my best, barely passing. I kept my promise and so did he.
I’ve probably mentioned it before — that diabetes has forced me to be good at math. Now, I can look at a nutrition label and mentally subtract fibre from carbohydrates. And yes, I can guesstimate with the best of them, based on what that piece of chocolate chip banana loaf I made looks like compared to the one I’d bought from the store a month ago, with it’s neat pre-calculated nutrition label.
But what is it with this obsession with baking these days? I’ve seen literally dozens of posts from friends who have hopped on the sour dough bread-making craze. A friend of mine and I took a sour dough bread-making workshop last year, and we were both so freaked out by the whole “starter” concept that baking that type of bread is not in my future. (I could not get my head around keeping something kind of yucky and fermenting in my fridge for months if not years, to create something new. I know, I know, sour dough bread is delicious, but as a concept this doesn’t work for me).
The challah came out of necessity. We’re really trying hard to limit our visits to the grocery store; by “us” I mean my husband. He’s been selected as official “tribute” for this duty. And he loves bread. Time to drag the 20 year old bread making machine (a gift from my father-in-law) out of the cupboard, where it’s been quietly living behind the bag of cat food and boxes of granola bars, and a secret stash of Nutella.
Making challah in the bread machine means the machine does the hard stuff (kneading, rolling, rising) and I only have to braid it and bake it.
I guess I could also argue that avoiding the grocery store has been the impetus behind home-made chocolate chip cookies and vegan banana bread baking.
But I think it’s deeper than that. My attention span for other things has been limited. It’s easy to fall into the judgement trap: “you finally have time to write the screenplay/novel/tv series you’ve been developing in your brain for the last 10 years!” “you can clean out your closets!” “you can whatever!”
Except most of us don’t. We sit here wondering what the next week will bring. We worry about our friends who are on the frontlines of this pandemic, seeing patients, caring for people, dealing with the world outside my window; that stark reality that I am privileged enough not to see or deal with.
Baking offers a quick fix for what an old friend of mine used to refer to as a bad case of the “should haves” as in I should have baked bread. Oh, wait. I did!
Here’s my mantra for week 8 of this current reality: I am lucky to have the choice to stay at home. I’m lucky to have at least some of the ingredients to bake stuff.
And I’m lucky that I have a bicycle in our living room, to balance out all the baking and to clear my mind.
(Please remember, I’m not a doctor or an educator. Just a person who has had type 1 diabetes for the past 26 years. Please follow me on instagram at @grownupdiabetes.)