Baking is bittersweet

As a child, I would watch my grandma as she made all sorts of cookies and pies, wanting to be as skilled as her. I remember how I would help her make pie crust, laughing at her curse as she struggled with the dough. She helped me learn how to bake, showing me how to make the dough and cleaning me up when I got flour all over me.

My mom later helped me find baking classes that would develop my skill. Along with friends, we attended a class at Sur La Table for baking, learning the precise techniques to make dough and finicky macarons. With the help of youtube videos, my skill has grown even more. Now I can give tips to my grandma on recipes she struggled with thanks to all the videos I’ve watched and classes I’ve taken.

Baking is relaxing but also infuriating. Exact measurements and instructions appeal to my tightly strung nature, but at the same time, if I mess up, I curse like a sailor. A couple of years ago, I tried to make caramels, which involves heating sugar and butter in a saucepan until it turns auburn in color. Halfway through the process, the caramel dripped over the pan and was attracting the flame, so I stupidly tried to clean it up with a paper towel. The napkin immediately caught on fire, and I then had to hurriedly toss into the sink to drench with water. I then sat on the floor and cried, scared of how quickly everything went wrong. But from failure you can only get better, so this past year I tried to make caramels again, this time without a fire scare. 

Orderly chaos is how I live my life, so fine-tuning my baking abilities is what keeps me calm. I know exactly what I’m supposed to do, and I’m first to witness the product of my hard work. It’s rewarding to know that all the stress paid off and that my friends and family can appreciate it too. Friends appreciate baked goods more than I do, not expecting to receive the gift. Biology was a rough class last semester, so I would bring in cookies or caramels to help my friends keep up their motivation and get through the class. Simple gestures like giving someone a cookie can help people to get through the day, however difficult.

I never really considered baking as anything more than a hobby until this year. I have become more adventurous in my baking practice, putting my own twist on recipes. Maybe someday I’ll open my own bakery, an environment where students feel comfortable to stay, work, eat treats and enjoy a drink: a safe haven away from home. I’m still figuring things out, but providing the same safe space that my grandma made for me would be so gratifying. And hey, free therapy. 

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