What My First Year of Baking Taught Me About Life In and Out of the Kitchen

Focused young African American man rolls cookie dough in home kitchenI’m a college student with a busy schedule, and I enjoy all the free time I can get. I started baking early in my first semester of college because I needed something to do that got me off of my phone but didn’t break the bank. I was already an avid amateur chef so home baking felt like the next logical step. 

Baking is a relaxing and satisfying creative outlet and a great Saturday afternoon activity. I would recommend it to anyone with a kitchen and a little bit of time on their hands. Not only do you get some sweet (or savory) treats at the end of the day, but also you can learn a lot about yourself during the baking process.

I have had quite a baking journey. When I first embarked, I had to look up the difference between baking soda and powder, and I couldn’t tell you how to temper eggs for a custard, but I had a passion for food and an open mind. My first year of college has tested me in the classroom and the kitchen, and I’ve definitely learned from both. Here are some of the most important life lessons I’ve learned from baking. 

Mistakes will happen!

You’re going to forget to set a timer, or (true story) you won’t put butter in your cookie dough. It happens, and the resulting burnt-to-a-crisp brick or pool of raw batter that comes out of the oven isn’t what you anticipated, but it’s still an opportunity to reflect on what went wrong and correct it in the future.

This is true in life as well. I’ve been rejected from job and college applications, and while it’s frustrating, I’ve done my best to learn from the rejections and improve on my weaknesses. As much as we want to be in control, things will go haywire sometimes. What is most important is how we react: with resilience and a willingness to grow from our mishaps. 

One of the author’s creations. He knows his stuff!

Patience, patience, patience

Baking is about the journey, not the destination. Your creations will take time. Yeast needs to rise, batter needs to bake, and dough needs to be kneaded. If you rush your bakes, like when I baked cookies for Halloween and thought I could get away with taking a batch out of the oven a few minutes early (spoiler: I couldn’t), you end up with a gloopy mess, and all of your hard work is ruined.

Sometimes, the only thing to do is wait. When I applied to colleges at the end of 2020, I was super anxious to hear back from them. I couldn’t find peace until I realized that waiting was a part of the process, and that period was an opportunity to focus on other things, like writing for the school newspaper or volunteering with a local substance abuse prevention organization. Just because you’re not moving doesn’t mean you aren’t progressing.

Sharing is caring

No matter what I’m making, it’s always better when I can share it with others. Whenever I finish a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies, I tell my friends so they can get a bite, and when my family visited me, I made fruit tarts that we could all enjoy after lunch.

It feels great to be able to share my accomplishments with others, whether it’s a bake I’m proud of, a project I made for school, or even just a fun trick I learned, like juggling! Having people in your life who you can share with is a treat that never gets old.

Try something new. You might surprise yourself!

The author in his natural habitat.

The first time I made fruit tarts was messy. I got custard everywhere, I spilled fresh fruit on the floor and I somehow got dried rice in half of my tart crust! In the end, however, the tarts turned out delicious, and everyone who taste-tested them enjoyed them.

I surprised myself, and I felt more confident after that to try out new recipes and take risks, in and out of the kitchen. This last semester I gained small-scale notoriety from a Tik Tok of a street interviewer asking me about my baking. While I’m a naturally outgoing person, all of the encouragement from the comments definitely gave me some more confidence to meet new people. I even got recognized in my local grocery store as “the baking guy from the Tik Tok!” (I’m still reeling from my newfound fame.)

I encourage everyone to give baking a go. It’s a therapeutic and relaxing way to spend an afternoon and then treat some friends. You might (scratch that, you will) make some mistakes, but trust me, in the end, it will all be worth it.

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