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Caught Bread-Handed: The JCI Team on Quarantine Baking

Image Description: A cake with white frosting and strawberries

Whether to pass the time, use up pantry staples after a Costco run, or simply to learn a new skill, America has turned to baking during COVID-19. The JCI team is no different; we recall the sourdough spike, the banana bread boom, even the Great Yeast Shortage of March 2020. Suffice it to say we’ve learned a thing or two, and we’re ready to speak on it.

I’m a notorious procrasti-baker, my crowning achievement was an entire cake and batch of cookies the night before an exam. Which just goes to show that even when I’m avoiding responsibilities, I’m productive.

Part of the fun of baking is the coziness—you get to sift flour, stir stuff around, let the aromas fill the kitchen—but the other fun part of baking is decorating. Anyone can ice a cake, but how many people do you know that can pipe the Communist Manifesto in calligraphy on cookies? Zero? Me too, but I’ll get there eventually.

I am absolutely the Martha Stewart of this team, minus the crime part. No contest. Baking is so crucial to me that I imported yeast back in March (the next city over counts as importing, right?) just so that I could have homemade bread. You’re lucky international laws and quarantine are holding me back, otherwise I would be getting Paul Hollywood’s coveted handshake on the Great British Bake Off.

I haven’t done much baking since a few misguided attempts in my youth at making “healthy” muffins with protein powder. Don’t ask.

My pancakes, however, earn rave reviews from my 2 year old daughter (my secret is a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg in a quality premix such as Bob’s Red Mill). Gordon Ramsay could never. And of course pancakes count as baking, it’s got cake right in the name.

I did not catch the baking bug this quarantine, but my momma did. She baked Mexican sweet bread, biscuits, and muffins. I am no professional food taster, but I definitely enjoyed getting to play that role.

Yes, I baked banana bread in quarantine. Call it basic all you want, it’s a classic for a reason. Even Cold War-era households knew banana bread was king.

During COVID, I've mastered the art of creating weirdly-shaped pizza crusts from scratch. Since I don’t know how to spin dough, or anything for that matter, they end up looking like geometry projects...

Baking is less about the end product and more about the journey, which is a nice way to admit that I have no skills. I make up for it with hubris, though. Case in point: I live one block from a bakery, but I tried to make conchas at home anyway. Did it work? No. Did it successfully take up several hours so I wouldn’t have to lie in the open grave of 2020? Yes.


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