It used to be that whenever I needed to get out of my head, I’d lie in bed for hours, phone on silent with the screen facing down while I stared up at the ceiling if I wasn’t lost in a book.
Then 2020 happened, and that was basically life every single day for the past five months. What was a sanctuary to keep me sane is now breeding ground for a plethora of mental issues, new and recurring alike brought to you by extreme isolation, everyday anxiety about life on hold, the lack of sunlight, and probably the fact that I haven’t done anything new to my hair in a long time.
Mostly I get by—and, really, I can only say that because I’ve been feeling so devoid of emotion I actually haven’t had a breakdown in months. So my days have been divvied up between just lying in bed and being absolutely useless at worst, and just lying in bed doing absolutely useless stuff at best.
(I’d start calling myself a robot, but I think that’s an insult to them—at least they have purpose.)
Then there are days in between I actually feel the need to escape from bed—steadily growing lumpy with daily use—and my head. On those days, when inspiration strikes and the pantry is stocked enough, I turn to baking.
I never really baked, much more actually approach a stove, when I was younger. But there’s something so mindless yet so comforting about the process, the way you follow precise measurements and a specific set of instructions, and the ending result is exactly what you’d expect (well, at least hopefully).
Some people like to lose themselves in art. I can’t do that, not for lack of trying—I’m too rigid to ‘let go’ and not know what comes out of it. It’s not relaxing for me, the trial and error of mixing paint to get the shade I want, a brushstroke not coming out right. Digital art is better but only slightly so, sending my perfectionist tendencies into overdrive.
With baking, sure, there’s room for experimentation and improvement, but if you stick to the recipe you still achieve something—and if your cookies end up a bit flat, well, they’re still cookies, aren’t they?
It’s no surprise that what continues to be the favorite thing I’ve made throughout the quarantine period is the Burnt Basque Cheesecake.
Ooey and gooey La Viña Cheesecake with charred edges giving a dark, caramel-like contrasting flavor, inspired by the San Sebastián specialty. Most importantly, it’s very forgiving to bake and near-impossible to screw up, the burnt edges only adding to the rustic charm. You simply mix all the ingredients together, throw it into a pre-heated oven, and satisfy your inner Daenerys by burning it all to pieces. Baking!
Imagine having some semblance of control—for once—and have it result in something beautiful, something that you actually want to happen. That’s not something that happens every day, every time, not in this current world we live in and all the socio-political issues we have to deal with and the pandemic.
So when the opportunity is there, I’ll take what I can get. And it’s so fucking satisfying.
The cheesecake tastes amazing too.
Recipe from Bon Appétit (a moment of silence for that quarantine casualty).