How baking helps manage quarantine stress
Vegan, gluten-free apple cinnamon bars hit the sweet spot for people with dietary restrictions.
How baking helps manage quarantine stress
WELL-BEING - Mylene Mendoza-Dayrit (The Philippine Star) - May 19, 2020 - 12:00am

It started perhaps a week into the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Our kitchen became busy the whole day. It was the most used area of the house, with everyone pitching in to help.

In our household, preparing meals yourself used to be unthinkable. Everyone was so busy and it was much easier to just dine out or order delivery. Time was not one of the things we had plenty of previous to the lockdown.

In the last six weeks, we finally had all the time to do things we had postponed such as gardening, tidying up our closets, painting, and learning new things. Thankfully, the Internet and social media overflow with ideas.

We started taking turns preparing themed meals to the extent of dressing for it at times. But eventually, my kids started to shift their focus to baking. Cookies of all kinds, gluten-free bars, pizzas, carrot cake, lemon tarts, cinnamon rolls, donuts, beignets, banana bread and sourdough bread get produced almost every day.

My daughter said that since she had all the time, she wanted to create things she craves for (also because it is not easy to order them now).

I knew the same was true for most households, because all of a sudden there was a surge of neighbors promoting their home-baked breads and goodies for sale. The spike in home baking left most groceries without a single bag of flour — of any kind! (Now we simply Viber CF Enterprise at 0917-892-6687 for our baking supplies.)

Then I started reading news from the US, Canada and Europe about a similar increase in popularity of home baking. In fact, they said that yeast manufacturers couldn’t keep up with the demand.

Gluten-free vegan oatmeal raisin cookies
Photos by Samantha Dayrit

Despite cultural differences, people around the world have similarities when it comes to coping with the stress of uncertainties. Globally, people have turned to baking as a productive and even de-stressing activity.

The Google search for “bread” reached an all-time high in the last three weeks, with #breadmaking reaching 500,000 posts on social media, claimed some reports. Incidentally, banana and sourdough bread are the most popular.

A study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology claimed that people who take on small creative projects are more relaxed and happier in their everyday lives. Cooking and baking, in particular, were cited as activities that made the study participants feel enthusiastic about their pursuits the following day.

Tamlin Conner, a psychologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand and lead author of the study, found out that in addition to feeling happier, those who engaged in little creative projects every day felt that they were “flourishing.”

Baking was also likened to meditation in the sense that the baker should be focused and aware.  There are a lot of small tasks that need to be done to follow the recipe precisely. 

Experts also say that kneading dough for 15 to 20 minutes, doing it five to 10 minutes at a time with breaks in between, engages all the senses, as well as provides a rhythmic and repetitive activity.

Others are of the opinion that baking provides the baker the “control” that we’ve lost in most aspects of our lives, as well as the sense of adequacy, of having a skill to turn cheap and simple ingredients into something that fills up the tummy.

We have a bread-making machine where I used to just dump all the ingredients and wake up with freshly baked bread the following day. But there was no way my children would use it. It is cheating; shortcuts are not allowed. They get redemption from being authentic.

If you have not tried baking at all, then this may be the perfect time to give it a try. YouTube, Pinterest and Google are full of simple recipes and hacks for the newbie home baker. Incidentally, most of the beginner failures are due to impatience, such as not kneading the dough long enough or losing patience in the middle of molding the bread.

Quarantine bread making might just be the simple task you need to flourish during this extended lockdown. 

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