This article first appeared in my newsletter.
I’ve been a hobbyist baker for years. Starting in college, I used to pore over episodes of Food Network Challenge, whatever it was called back then, with pastry chefs creating elaborate constructions. I made all kinds of difficult baked goods just because I didn’t know enough to be intimidated.
In the intervening years, I’ve developed more confidence in my baking and developed a handful of strong skills: an amazing apple pie, for example, and an understanding of yeasted breads. With my time at home these last few months, I’ve taken to quarantine baking.
During quarantine, like many others, I started a sourdough starter. Someone on Twitter described a sourdough starter as a Tamagotchi for people in their 30s, and I feel seen.
I named my starter Dianne Yeast, after a joke made by Charles Boyle in Brooklyn 99 referencing his love for the actress Dianne Wiest. I made Dianne using the King Arthur Flour starter instructions. To keep from wasting so much flour, I cut my amounts down by a LOT. (The picture above is way more starter than I normally keep, but I was about to bake.)
Anyway, the sourdough starter gave me something to focus on and tend. It turns out, learning to bake sourdough bread was an entirely new skill set.
Baking is grounding in troubled times. I’m never a strong multitasker, and baking forces me to focus on one specific task at a time. I can start with raw ingredients, apply attention and care and effort, and create beautiful desserts and breads for my family and neighbors.
I’ve included some pictures below. Each photo is clickable to the recipe I used, in case you want to do some baking on your own. If you do, please comment below and let me know how it went for you! I love to talk about baking.
Note: The croissants linked in the last pic are sourdough croissants, and I linked to the actual recipe I used. If you have never made croissants before, I recommend starting with yeasted croissants from the King Arthur blog.