Stress Baking

surviving midterms with pumpkin bread

Everyone has their own ways of dealing with stress: exercise, herbal tea, chatting with mom on the phone. Me, I like to bake. This isn’t a new development. As a child, whenever my brother and I had an argument, I would bust out the EZ Bake oven and make some cupcakes to wave in front of his stupid jerk face. In middle school, after I had been fitted with braces, I baked blueberry muffins out of a box almost every weekend—they were one of the only foods I could eat without pain, and something about rinsing the can of syrupy blueberries and watching the purple stain whirl down the sink gave me a deep satisfaction.

And then there was the baking process itself. The whisk scraping the bottom of my mother’s metal mixing bowls, the cracking of the eggs (with one hand, like Alton Brown had taught me on TV), and the folding of the wet ingredients into the dry, my trusty blue plastic spatula scooping the flour up from the bottom of the bowl with a crunch. Or, if I was really upset, plunging my bare hands into the mix and squishing it around with my fingers. When I was done, I would lick the batter off my clubby hands with glee, my anxiety lost somewhere in the mix.

After putting my concoction in the oven, I would sit on the kitchen floor and let the smell of baked goods wash over me. The timer would ding, drawing my family out of their corners of the house, and we would wait by the stove together until I finally deemed the food cool enough to eat. We served up big slabs of whatever it was and munched together at the kitchen table, each of us ruining our dinners with sweets.

My favorite thing to bake, then and now, is pumpkin bread. Not only because it’s so delicious, but because the pumpkin turns the batter a freaky orange color, producing an alien-like goo that begs to be mixed with your fingers. Although my brother isn’t here for me to chase around the house with my hands covered in pumpkin gunk, the process brings back those wonderful memories along with the soothing feeling of mixing and measuring, knowing the bread will turn out okay if I follow the directions.

It is simply impossible to be stressed out when you have pumpkin bread baking in the oven.

1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9×5 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.