Mix it up!

Kim Ode baking. Photo by Tracy Walsh
Photo by Tracy Walsh

Oh, how I love to bake!

When I was little, my mother taught me how to make chocolate chip cookies — and I’ve loved it ever since! (I’m still using the same cookie recipe she gave me, photocopied many times over, though I now use butter instead of margarine.)

Of course, I don’t bake at the expert level: Have you seen the things the amateurs make on the Great British Baking Show? But I always find the process therapeutic. Whisking the dry ingredients, prepping the wet elements and then mixing them together with a hand mixer — no Kitchen Aid stand mixer for me — feels meditative, satisfying and a bit creative, too. Bringing my experiments to my coworkers is the best part. It’s a way to show them affection, but it’s also a chance to find an audience.

And, in fact, researchers have found that baking, especially when it’s done for others, can be accompanied by a host of lasting psychological benefi ts, including stress relief, mindfulness and a feeling of overall wellbeing.

None of this is news, of course, for our very own Twin Cities guru of baking — and this month’s fascinating Cover Star — Kim Ode!

In this issue, she shares not only one of her favorite recipes — as she’s done for so many years as the Star Tribune’s Baking Central writer — but also the tale of her midlife crisis in which she built a giant brick bread oven in her Edina backyard.

Over the years, Ode, who also writes feature stories for the newspaper, has taken countless bakers on adventures in the kitchen as she’s explored different baked goods. Then, with her books, such as Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club and Rhubarb Renaissance, she’s gone ever deeper.

Despite all her knowledge and skills, Ode is quite humble about the art of baking: “It’s my contention,” she argues, “that baking is just a series of steps.”

As I watched her whip up a batch of breakfast scones in her beautiful but simple kitchen (all the ingredients were premeasured and ready to go), it really seemed to be true, too.

This month Ode retires from the Star Tribune. But fear not, you’ll still find her stories in the Taste section, as she’ll be freelancing her Baking Central column. And she’ll be teaching classes to home cooks, too. (Stay tuned.)

I, for one, can’t wait to see what she makes next!