When I have the time, I really enjoy baking. Something about focusing on a recipe, mixing dough and batter, dropping it or rolling it out or filling my fancy Bundt pans to make cookies and cakes to share makes me happy. If left alone in the kitchen to bake, I can almost enter a zen state, moving through the triangle of counter-oven-cooling racks.
My mother was a baker, especially around the holidays. She would bake all kinds of cookies, and they became hostess gifts, party goodies, and treats for unmarried soldiers in my father's unit to ease their homesickness. I have friends who fondly remember certain cookies she made, will ask if I've baked any lately.
I picked up the habit after college. My baking season lasted August through May, with an occasional firing up of the oven during the sweltering Texas summer months if an event called for it. Cookies for my school colleagues and children's teachers, cakes for birthdays, special cut-outs to say thank you to the crossing guards at Thanksgiving.
And then there was Christmas time. In a really organized year, I start making the chilled dough the weekend after Thanksgiving, and bake each week through New Year's. My holiday season record is 1500 cookies. They went to neighbors, friends, teachers, and shipped to faraway relatives.
Over the last few years, for various reasons, the number of batches have dwindled down to a paltry few. I didn't even make cutout gingerboys or sugar cookies with royal icing this past year, and they have always, always been Christmas staples. No heart cookies on Valentine's Day, and St. Patrick's Day went by without the orange zest-with-mint-icing shamrocks.
At Easter, I will make an effort to bake my usual lemon pound cake in the rose-shaped Bundt pan (the yellow rose of Texas!) with homemade lemon curd. Maybe I'll pull out the egg-shaped cookie cutter, whip up a batch of royal icing, and we'll have cookies instead of hard-boiled eggs, since my family doesn't eat many of the latter.
Maybe for a few moments, I'll find that zen state again in the golden triangle in our small galley kitchen.