There’s something healing about baking. Yes, sweet treats are nourishing and pull on our nostalgic heart strings, but there’s something about the act of baking that is nice too. It’s meditative. The environment and ingredients are somewhat controlled and the outcome is somewhat predictable. My friend, Matt Hershberger, once wrote about how cooking helped with his depression and I can relate — cooking and baking is a creative outlet, and with its step by step instructions, you feel a sense of progression. At the end of the process, you have something delicious to enjoy. Even my mom, Bunny Lyons, who works as a nurse, always says that baking is her therapy. She must have been extremely stressed out though, because she took her baking therapy and turned it into Bunnycakes, a brick and mortar bakery in Berlin, New Jersey.
Needless to say, there is a lot of pressure placed on tomorrow, Election Day. For some, that pressure is a build up of everything from this year, for others it might be pressure that has been built up over the past four years. But please understand that for so many, this pressure has been building for 400 years (please read more about Black Lives Matter). It is tiring and it will likely be a long and tiring road ahead. But rest can be a form of resistance (check out the Nap Ministry and their philosophy on how rest is resistance and how sleep deprivation is a form of social injustice) and baking can be a radical tool for social justice (definitely support Bakers Against Racism if you can).
Baking can also be seen as a celebration, which also seems pretty important at this moment. Recipes passed down through the generations are proof that family histories and traditions persist — proof that, despite all those who try to erase our cultures, we are resilient. We bake for milestones, we bake for comfort, we bake for those we love and every time we bake those tried and true recipes, all of those moments come to life again. Food is a living and breathing history. And that is something worth celebrating.
For anyone looking for a baking break over the next week or so, I’ve got you covered. Below are some of my favorite sweet treats, my recipes as well as links to recipes I like, and tips and tricks to try out in your kitchen. Some of these feature summer fruits, but what are seasonal ingredients in a globalized society with large-scale industrialized farming making everything available all the time amiright?? I’m all for local and seasonal cooking. I even have a newsletter all about sustainable food supply chains coming out soon, but in times like these, when stress is high, if you find comfort in having a peach in November — then have a damn peach in November.
Let me know your thoughts on these recipes. If you try them, tell me what you think! And if you have a favorite recipe of your own, certainly share it in the comments below.
This one is a Depression Era recipe from my Great-Grandmother. All you do is cut pie crust in squares, fill them with blueberries, add sugar and place in a baking dish with water, sugar and cinnamon! Bake for 40 minutes at 350!
The cream sauce is just 1 cup milk, 2 tbsp cornstarch, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Heat it up on the stove, but keep stirring as it’s very easy to burn!
Fruit tea cakes
Another one from my Great-Grandmother’s Depression Era kitchen.
For the cake:
2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg unbeaten
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fruit
For the crumb topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
1.) Sift together dry ingredients.
2.) Cream butter and sugar.
3.) Add egg and milk.
4.) Beat until smooth.
5.) Add dry ingredients.
6.) Fold in blueberries.
7.) Spread batter in greased and floured 9 inch square or round pan.
8.) Sprinkle with crumb topping.
The “Best Damn Cookies in the Land”
This is a recipe I wrote in high school. It is for classic chocolate chip cookies, however, it is the EXACT way that I love chocolate chip cookies. The recipe is written specifically for my preferences, with proportions for the perfect amount of gooey-ness, cakey-ness, chocolatey-ness, and sugary molassesy-ness (thanks to using more brown sugar than granulated s sugar). Pro tip: when you’re done making the dough, put it in the fridge for a bit. If the dough is too warm, the cookies will fall flat. But, if the dough is too cool, the cookies will bake around the edges, but not in the middle.
2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 cup of salted butter
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
and however many chocolate chips you want
Ice Box Cake
I went on a blueberry blitz this summer after going blueberry picking. I still have some frozen Jersey Fresh blueberries in my freezer! This one was inspired by Aaron Hutcherson (@TheHungryHutch on Twitter and Instagram) and his recipe for a strawberry icebox cake with chocolate cookies and balsamic whipped cream. I used blueberries, vanilla cookies, and made a mascarpone whipped cream (which Hutcherson mentioned in his blog post).
Yes, it’s a summertime recipe, but it’s an easy no-bake treat. If you can’t decide between cake and ice cream, the icebox cake is the best of both worlds.
Peaches and Cream Muffins
These might be the best muffins I’ve ever had/baked. This recipe is from Ashley from Baker by Nature. I’m thinking about trying these with other fruits — like blueberries (my personal fav), apples, cherries, or even pumpkin. What fruit would you bake into these muffins?
Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake
If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a blueberry fan. In this recipe, the acidity of lemon brings out the blueberry flavor and the ricotta makes the pound cake creamy and dense. This has been one of my favorite Eating Well recipes and it seemed to be a hit on the internet! Nikki Miller-Ka also made some of this glorious pound cake over the summer and she really NAILED IT with the icing! Give her a follow on Instagram and Twitter because she is always cooking up something fun in her kitchen. Plus, every Saturday she shares a creative Sangria recipe, like her latest Black Girl Magic Sangria with cold brew coffee, citrus, and red wine.
For more distractions, here are a couple of things that have been taking my mind off of the world.
I know Halloween is over, but I am a huge fan of all things horror, psycho-thriller, and mystery. Amazon Prime just dropped a show called Truth Seekers. It stars Hot Fuzz’s, Nick Frost, and comedian, Samson Kayo, who are two broadband installers who travel the English countryside fixing people’s internet. But every site they go to seems to have a ghost lurking within its walls. Luckily, Frost’s character also happens to be a ghost hunting YouTuber who knows a lot about all things spooky. The show is very funny but also has some pretty solid jump scares.
I might love blueberries as much as I love the horror genre. Because Fringe Arts had to pivot to a virtual environment this year, the group, Lightning Rod Special, created an audio experience called SUPERHOST. The show lets audiences eavesdrop on voicemails from guests at an Airbnb in a remote part of Maine. The calls become more and more urgent as the creepiness of their stays begin to slowly escalate.
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Kae Lani Palmisano is the Emmy nominated host of WHYY's Check, Please! Philly, a television show that explores dining throughout the Philadelphia region. She is a Maker with KitchenAid as well as a food and travel writer who enjoys exploring the history and culture of cuisine.