There was a time I used to bake quite a lot, and I absolutely loved it. It was the opportunity to focus on something, make it beautiful and delicious, and forget about everything else going on. So, it's no surprise that there's been a surge of baking over the last couple of weeks in Europe and the US as COVID-19 has kept us all in our houses, glued to the news, convincing ourselves we are living in an apocalyptic time.
Baking fits into the category (forgive the cliche term) of being a mindful activity. You have to concentrate on what you're doing, leaving your mind little time or space to wander into its anxious corners. Your fingers are sticky or dirty, meaning you can't swipe and refresh your phone every few minutes to see what the minute-by-minute statistics of the pandemic.
Your Instagram may already be full of "baking influencers" (who knew that was a thing?) running IG Lives on banana loaves and rhubarb tarts, but we thought we'd give you an extra helping hand by recommending three baking recipe books to get stuck into over the next few months...
1. The Pastry Chef's Guide by Ravneet Gill
If you follow her on Instagram, you'll already know that Ravneet is a lot of fun as well as knowledge. Her recipe book aims to demystify the pastry world, and help you to bake consistently well. Hop onto her Instagram for her IG Lives - the last one was chocolate chip cookies which I have baked, eaten and dreamt of... all in the last three days.
2. Hummingbird Recipe Book
It's an oldie but a goodie. I've never enjoyed a recipe book more than this one. Easy to follow, and every single recipe is an absolute joy to make and eat! Whether you're making a celebratory cake now that your fancy local cake shop is closed, or wanting a recipe for cupcakes and cookies to keep you going during those WFH days - this one could be for you!
3. #BAKEforSyria by Lily Vanilli and Serena Guen
The popular offshoot from the global #COOKforSyria campaign is the brainchild of Lily Vanilli (baker extraordinaire from Columbia Road) and Serena Guen (founder and CEO of Suitcase Magazine). The recipes are less conventional than the first two recipe books above, but open your eyes to Syria's incredible baking culture. Recipes include Tahini, Cardamom & Date Cinnamon rolls, Olive Oil & Pistachio Cake, and Raspberry & Rose Tartlets.
One of the main things we love about baking is that it's not just about "you" or "me". Let's be honest, we invariably bake more cupcakes or cookies than we could ever eat ourselves. It's a time to share with that new neighbour we are finally getting to know, or the girl in the apartment downstairs who is quarantining herself with COVID-19 symptoms, or the elderly man whose relatives can't visit him until this is all over.
If you have a lot of time on your hands and know your way around the kitchen very well (and only if are able to comply with the FSA's Food Standards & Food Hygiene regulations within your home), you could also help on a larger scale including through COOK-19 which is helping to get food to people within the community (whether isolated, vulnerable and/or elderly) or supporting your local NHS workers with meals after their shifts.
All in all, it seems like baking is EXACTLY what we need right now - for you, for me, and for our communities. Happy baking!