Pandemic baking has spread across the country, and Colorado, at the speed of stay-at-home orders.
You need only look at the shortages of flour and sugar at your local grocery store to know this is true. Along with Zoom parties and all-day sweatpants, baking has become part of this new, indoor culture for many.
The last time that Julie Baker (no pun intended), a stay-at-home mom in Grand Junction, made bread was “two kids ago.” Now, with four restless children stuck at home, she’s borrowed her friend’s mixer and has started to pre-heat her oven more. But first, she's got to do something about the old milk "about to explode in my fridge," she said.
“So I'm going to do that today cause I keep saying I'm going to do it tomorrow,” she declared. “It has to happen. It's happening today. We are making biscuits.”
And by “we,” she meant her and all the kids, ages 3 through 9. When they look back on this weird time, she hopes they don’t remember being afraid. She wants them to remember being together and learning how measuring cups work.
“Two birds with one stone, right? Love and happiness and math,” she gushed.
Gov. Jared Polis first issued his stay-at-home order on March 25. Originally, it was to last until April 11 but the order was recently extended till April 26. The new projected end date, which isn't set in stone, mounting cases and the call for masks when out in public on essential needs has left Colorado anxious and antsy.
The need for quarantine-themed cakes and cookies makes a whole lot of sense with that stress, and blogs and YouTube have swept in to fill our hearts, bellies and ovens. As a woman who goes by Simply Misti on YouTube said about her giant keto cookie, “It’s OK to have a treat now and then when you are feeling all the emotions.”
Rose Petralia, another Grand Junction-ite, documents her journey toward the perfect loaf of sourdough on her blog, Junktown Cooking.
Her sourdough starter, known as a “mother,” even has a name, Mavis. As Mavis has grown, Petralia has given portions away to friends — with proper social distancing, of course.
“I put it in a jar, then I bleach the outside of the jar and put it on my porch,” she said. “Yeah, we have hands-free transactions on the front porch.”
This pandemic inspired Diana Rose Yellow, of Fruita, to do something she never would have otherwise: walk people through making fry bread on Facebook Live.
The video has thousands of views so far and lots of comments, mainly from people who aren’t Navajo, grateful to learn how to make the golden, glistening Navajo staple. Yellow, who learned how to make fry bread from the women in her family as she grew up, has a public health degree and is a bit chagrined that the treat has 700 calories per serving.
“But since we're in a pandemic, it's all OK because we will have to survive on what we've got, you know?” she quipped.
Yellow also feels lucky she bought a big bag of flour before all the restrictions set in. A well-stocked kitchen is now the difference between your own in-home version of the “The Great British Bake Off” and multiple visits to the supermarket. Katie Langford, who writes for the Boulder Daily Camera, has gone from baking a few times a month to baking daily, “if not, like, multiple times a day,” she said.
And she’s discovered one of the hazards of pandemic baking. When you make too much you can’t just take it to work. She and her roommate have yet to make it through a tasty but way-too-big pie made with pounds of strawberries and rhubarb.
“It’s a lot of pie,” she said with a laugh.
But that’s not going to keep Langford away from the oven. Baking is a comfort, a link to a time before the novel coronavirus. Now, like in the past, she can mix flour, water and yeast and make bread.
“And I can still combine butter and sugar and flour and chocolate chips and it’s going to become cookies,” she said. “So I think there’s just kind of a certain stability in knowing that everything feels kind of crazy and uncertain right now, those things are still the same. And they still taste delicious.”
And since many baked treats freeze well, too, she can save them and maybe even share them with her co-workers.