I’m a stress baker, not a stress eater. So when I’m staring down tough decisions, hard deadlines, and stacks of ungraded papers, I don’t reach for a cake mix. The more freaked out I am, the more elaborate and weird my creations become.
Pudding —You are not stressed. You just want the sweet, simple comfort of homemade pudding. You’re feeling so good that you don’t care if anyone knows that you really love tapioca even if that one friend still insists on pointing out all the gross things it looks like.
You Are Hungry (and Frugal)
Quick Breads —All of your friends are working hard and could use a snack. Plus, you probably have some extra ripe bananas, canned pumpkin, or flat beer to use up. On a related note, you should really try my banana-pumpkin-beer bread.
You Need a Morale Boost
Cookies — Everyone could use a treat, but there’s no rush. You can make the dough and stick it in fridge until you’re ready (cookie dough bakes up better after a day or so anyway).
Note: if the cookies do not actually make it to the oven then there is another issue at play here. See: You Are Actually Stress Eating.
You Really Need a Morale Boost
Cupcakes — Sure, people will assume that it’s your birthday or that you are trying a little too hard to get people to like you. But cupcakes are for the days when you kind of wish you were five years old again and you could give all the biggest, prettiest cupcakes to your real friends before the teacher made you distribute the rejects to the rest of the class. Watch out for clowns (I always watch out for clowns).
You Are Actually Stress Eating
– Just because you don’t bake primarily to eat doesn’t mean you never do it. There is no better baked metaphor for concentrated melancholy than a slab of chocolate, butter, and sugar mixed with whatever ill-advised additions you have on hand. You can add ice cream, candy, salt, and alcohol and still remain within the completely acceptable parameters of this dessert. And let’s not forget that brownies are what frequently put the “baked” in baked goods. Personally, I imagine that would simply distract from the taste.
You Need An Outlet For Some Serious Anger
Yeast Breads —You’re irritated and you want to take it out on some dough. You want to punch it in its stupid dough face. You let whole civilizations of micro-organisms rise and then send them to their fiery deaths. You are the absolute monarch of your kitchen.
Things Are Definitely Getting Out of Hand and You Need a Change.
Layer Cakes —Life is really getting tough, and you want to see the transformative power of baking. Today, you are a mad scientist. You have the power to turn a liquid into a solid. You bring harmony to layers of seemingly disparate flavors. Out of chaos comes cake. You can create something beautiful and then cut it to pieces. For a moment, you are a god.
You Are Going a Little Insane
— At this point, you don’t want to go with the classics (apple, pumpkin) or try something fun and crowd-pleasing (s’mores pie, chocolate pretzel pie).
What you really want is to take something simple and classic and make it complicated and strange. You create unholy marriages between fillings, crusts, toppings, and garnishes. You put cardamom in your chess pie and Earl Grey tea in your pecan. You add balsamic vinegar to a strawberry filling and walnuts to the crust. You start taking bigger and bigger risks — grapefruit tart with a brown sugar crust, passionfruit custard in a dark chocolate shell, lemon meringue with pistachios and lavender. You understand the laws of baking but don’t think they should apply to you. All ingredients are your ingredients, you don’t care what is in season, and you don’t even bother to preheat your oven.
You no longer care who eats what you make. You put the pie down on a table and leave.
Jessica Bates shares her name with Debra Winger’s character’s undercover persona in the 1987 neo-noir thriller Black Widow. However, she doesn’t really recommend that movie.