Throughout the COVID-19 quarantine, there is one hobby that has become increasingly popular. While solitary activities increase, baking has become a method of choice for many to relieve anxiety and stress. With so many people beginning to bake, yeast producers have started reporting shortages. Flour inventories at stores have also plummeted and have even caused prices to rise. While many have started baking as a way to create food because they can’t go out anymore, many are using it as a creative platform. It’s also incredibly satisfying to have created something from scratch.. I have started baking more during quarantine and have found that focusing on one task is a fantastic way to relieve stress. Many people have also found comfort in the ability to control what they are making.
Baking has also become a way to stay in contact with friends and family. Many people, myself included, have been using this time to bring baked goods to people. Even the simple act of bringing someone food has become a great way to stay connected with people. It also feels wonderful to give or receive something, especially when there aren’t many ways to maintain connections with people. Franklin High School junior, Helen Harrison, says, “Making food for loved ones is such a deeply emotional and rewarding experience, and I think it’s an experience that a lot of us crave.” The CDC currently says that there is no evidence between food and coronavirus transmission. However, you still should wash your hands thoroughly and check with anyone to whom you plan to deliver food. Following food safety rules and discarding rotten or questionable foods are easy ways to maintain safety when cooking or baking.
There are many things to decide when baking. The first thing is figuring out what you want to make. An avid baker, Harrison says that she makes a lot of galettes, which are open-faced free-form pies. Baking also has been proven to help boost positivity, help maintain creativity, and even be meditative.
Harrison also says to step out of your comfort zone when baking. She says, “Experiment with ingredients you may not be familiar with! Try out new types of flours (Rye, buckwheat, spelt), and don’t be afraid to substitute an ingredient you don’t have.” She adds that it is important to look up measurement conversions, as well as conversions for flour, sugar, and liquid ingredients if you do substitute. If you have something that needs to be melted or cannot be measured easily, an easy way to measure it is to weigh it instead if possible.
Baking and cooking have also helped people adapt to restaurant closures amid the pandemic. Many restaurants closing, or only serving takeout orders, has challenged people to expand their recipes. A positive of this quarantine is that it has allowed people to try things they have always wanted to try. Whether it’s a complicated recipe, or a family favorite, many people now have plenty of time for new recipes. I have tried making new desserts, like pies, but I have also put spins on what I normally make. Slightly altering a recipe can be of great value, because it allows you to try something new while having confidence that it will still succeed. Adding different fillings to pancakes or muffins can be an easy way to do that. The small beauty in all of this is that we have the time and space to learn and try new things. This is an extremely valuable and important aspect of our lives. It allows us to boost our moods and maintain our mental health.
Baking is also a way to relax by stepping away from everything else in your life. Harrison says, “I find baking very calming, it’s a way for me to step out of the space in my brain where I worry.” She says that it helps her stop worrying about situations she can’t control and instead “focus on one simple task and end up with something delicious and beautiful.” Another part of baking that can be stressful is finding recipes. To alleviate some of that stress, Harrison suggested some recipes. She says that Bon Appetit’s buckwheat flour chocolate chip cookie recipe is a good option for beginners. She also recommends Samin Nosrat’s Ligurian Focaccia (www.saltfatacidheat.com). My family and I typically use The Joy of Cooking, as well as Moosewood Baking as our go to cookbooks. Whatever you decide to make, check your ingredients so you aren’t left without anything crucial. Most importantly, enjoy the process. You are trying something new and you will learn something along the way.
Vegan Banana Walnut Muffin Recipe:
BASIC WET INGREDIENTS:
2 large eggs, the equivalent of that as egg replacer to make vegan.
½ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup – 1 cup brown sugar. For this version I add ripe bananas, so I use ¾ because the bananas bring their own sugar.
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
BASIC DRY INGREDIENTS:
2 cups white flour (You should be able to use wheat flour, half and half would work better.)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a separate bowl mix the other ingredients as well as 1 and ½ cup mashed bananas(It usually ends up being 2 whole bananas.) then fold in ½ a cup of walnuts(chocolate chips, or other nuts work as well).
- Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined.
- Spoon the batter into oiled muffin tins. This makes about a dozen normal size muffins and a little over two dozen mini muffins.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown. 10-15 minutes if you’re using mini muffins.