Baking is evocative. Certain desserts resonate for me and making them transports me to a different time and place. These sweets are touchstones to the past and to those who no longer are here to bake in the present. Rolling out Christmas cookies across generations ties the years together. I stand behind my grandmother and mother, with my daughters behind me, sharing stolen bites of that rich, molasses-dark, cinnamon-scented dough. There’s comfort in the repetition and ritual.
Baking is traditional. Each season and holiday has its iconic desserts. Sticky buns herald Christmas. Strawberry rhubarb pie ushers in spring. Freshly baked apple crisp marks the official advent of fall. The latter isn’t simply apples, sugar, cinnamon, oats and flour. It embodies those crisp fall days with a taste of winter chill in the morning– The “Mandatory Family Fun Day” orchard trip with now-recalcitrant teens to pick apples–The crisp snap of a bite into a freshly picked apple–The peels and slices snapped up by our much-loved and missed family dog. All wrapped together, heated and served with creamy mounds of vanilla ice cream. Transcendent.
Baking is restorative. Magical. The ingredients rest separately, pristine in their containers. Fluffy, soft flour, crystalline sugar, golden sticks of butter. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice: Those lushly scented spices speak of comfort, warmth, acceptance and love. Separate, awaiting transformation. Rich in potential.
In these crazy end-of-the-year school days, I set my work aside and take comfort in measuring, blending, creaming. Mixing ingredients, I step away from the chaos and move into a slower, gentler pace. Baking soothes me.