I’m Baking My Way Through Quarantine—And Here’s Why You Should Too

One of the best prescriptions for easing anxiety can be found right in your kitchen.

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baking quarantine pieCourtesy Karla Walsh

Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Welp, as of a few weeks ago, not even taxes are certain.

These are unusual and very uncertain times. But in the wise words of Oprah, I know a few things for sure, even during the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Anything Mr. Rogers–related is sure to spark a smile

  • Reese’s Eggs have been, and always will be, better than even the best regular peanut butter cups (stress-eating “experiment” results can confirm this to be true)

  • Flour + butter + sugar = a sort of soothing magic

From pies to cakes to cookies, I’ve been baking my way through self-isolation, and it’s most certainly been a huge sanity saver. Here’s why I can’t imagine being quarantined without my mixer, spatula, and oven—and why you might want to start preheating your oven now, too. Plus, check out more less-common supplies you’ll want while stuck inside.

Baking takes me back to childhood

Every Christmas and Easter smelled like homemade cinnamon rolls. Each long weekend was scented with the yeasty goodness of fresh-baked bread. For the first 18 years of my life, I watched at my mom’s hip as she kneaded, rolled, and shaped baked goods for any and every family gathering.

Since then, whenever I’m feeling a bit lonely (say, during solo quarantine or post-breakup), I instantly find a sense of peace as soon as I bust out my measuring cups and spoons. So, on that Sunday when things started to get real—like cities-shut-down, Tom-Hanks-is-sick, my-ER-doc-sister-called-into-work real—I found a dose of serenity in mixing up a big batch of my mom’s Snickerdoodles.

It forces me to take a break from the news

cookies baking quarantine coronavirusCourtesy Karla Walsh

Since I report on health, food, and more for my job as a freelance writer and editor, it’s helpful to stay current on the news. There reaches a point, though, when enough is too much—where staying informed becomes a downward spiral into feelings of anxiety and helplessness. Research backs this up: Repeated media exposure to traumatic scenes is actually more traumatic than actually witnessing the tragedy once in real life, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If I’ve checked in once in the morning and once in the afternoon and am tempted to dive into a news binge again, I instead dig out a new pie recipe on my continued quest to perfect a buttery, flaky pastry crust. Need some baking inspiration? Here are 50 pie recipes for 50 states.

The repetition is about as zen as a yoga flow

An hour of daily at-home yoga using the Down Dog app has really helped throughout these first few weeks of quarantine. But woman cannot survive on sun salutation alone. After walking from mat to mixing bowl one day and kneading my Mom’s “famous” whole-wheat bread dough by hand, I realized that the process inspires a similar sense of flow. Fold, press, turn, repeat. After doing the same process about ten times, outside thoughts began to float away as I tuned into the stickiness of the dough, the tiny additions of flour, and the quiet peace found in just flour, honey, yeast, and salt. Here are some more fun and productive things to do while you’re stuck inside.

It’s a way to connect with friends and family from afar

baking pie coronavirus quarantine activitesCourtesy Karla Walsh

While I can’t host my parents or pals for a dinner party at my table for the next few months, I can drop off a no-contact delivery care package of their favorite kind of cookies. Even in steady-as-she-goes times of little stress, it’s become a bit of a signature for me to arrive at a coffee or cocktail hour outing with my rendition of that person’s favorite baked good to share. (I have a strong feeling that “acts of service” is my preferred love language.) So, I’ve become hyper-vigilant about hygiene and hand washing, then shared my baked goods via porch drop-offs and postal delivery. Check out more inspiring ways people are helping one another right now.

It gives me a sense of control over something

One of the more challenging parts of the pandemic to process (besides the fact that it can feel quite helpless to only be able to contribute to a solution by supporting small businesses, donating to nonprofits in need, and, most importantly, staying home) has been no sight of a finish line. When I’m taking a spin class, I know that at minute 45, a breath of fresh air outside awaits. At the end of a 60-minute cake recipe, my bundt will be ready to cool.

But no one is sure when things will be a bit more “normal”—or what this new normal will look like when we start inching toward a more regular routine. When we get there, though, I know this for sure: When that first group dinner party is allowed and safe, I’ll be there with a lot of gratitude for genuine human connection, for health, and for community. I’ll have some really big hugs ready. And lots of pie. You can’t deny that baking is a great thing to do when your whole life gets canceled.

Next, take a look at our Coronavirus Guide to discover more ways to stay sane, keep your family safe, and make the most of together time.

Karla Walsh
Karla Walsh is a freelance writer, editor and restaurant brand manager based in Des Moines, Iowa, where she reports on fitness trends, wellness research, psychology, and healthy recipes. She is a level one sommelier and is certified by AFAA for group fitness and NASM for personal training. Her writing has been published on ReadersDigest.com, Shape.com, EatThis.com, WomensHealthMag.com, EatingWell.com, BHG.com as well as in Runner’s World, Better Homes & Gardens, AllRecipes and more. Find her on Instagram @karlaswalsh.