Amateur baking is a feat that few Americans choose to embark on, although our interest in it isn’t entirely lacking. With retail bakery sales on a continuous rise and given the popularity of food-related TV shows like the Great British Baking Show, it’s become clear that overall, Americans value the importance of baking and are reverting back to quality, home-baked goods, even if we do not always choose to bake them ourselves.

As a child, my mother, grandmother, and sister rarely bought anything that was store-baked. Anything the grocery store could make, these three women could make better—for a fraction of the price. It wasn’t until I got into my early teens that I started joining them in the kitchen, and discovered the many other, non-monetary benefits of baking for oneself. 


Sydney Hanzalik

Baking teaches you to be more cognizant of what you put into your body on a daily basis. Once you start baking regularly, you come to learn the actions of certain ingredients or why one recipe worked while another failed miserably. Since it’s mainly a waiting process, you are forced to become aware of everything that goes into your bake. Making your own pie crust, for example, takes a lot more thought than buying pre-made dough; you have to be conscious of how much butter you’ve put in, how much to knead the dough, the temperature of all the ingredients, and so forth.

Sydney Hanzalik

After I started baking, this deliberate control and precision was reflected in every other food I prepared. I became conscious of how the freshness or ripeness of the fruit may have affected my dessert or whether it was the heat of the pan or an inattentive eye that curdled my milk. Now, I think about every ingredient I buy and don’t simply purchase whatever version is the cheapest or the first I see (well, most of the time). Baking for yourself causes you to pay attention to the small details, and truly think about everything you consume. 


Sydney Hanzalik

Along with the level of knowledge that comes with baking, you will also find yourself having more gratitude towards food in general. Though Americans are generally concerned with where their food comes, there is still a strong disconnect between food production and the consumer. Not only had I never really thought about where certain items, like pasta sauces and salad dressings, were created, but I had also never wondered where the fresh fruit and vegetables in my mom's baked goods came from until I started baking.

Someone had purposefully planted, cultivated, and harvested the apples that I was slicing for my pie, in the same way that someone had labored over the store-bought puff pastry I used to make pigs in a blanket. Once I started baking for myself and did the physical act of picking out the perfect ingredients, I became much more thankful of how they arrived on my plate.

strawberry, cake, cream, slice of cake, slice, fork, berries, red white and blue
Sam Jesner

There are some baked goods that I still haven’t tackled and have to buy in store. However, my experience in the kitchen has created a greater appreciation for food. Next time you pick up a loaf of sourdough at the bakery, think about the hands that made it and you’ll feel this same sense of awe and importance of baking that I did when I started out in the kitchen. 

Rooted in Tradition

Sydney Hanzalik

Baking with friends and family roots you in traditions—be it new or old—and brings people closer. For some, such as in this sweet potato recipe-story, it's about linking the past and the present and connecting with your family on a deeper, culturally-rooted level. For others, baking serves as a way to bring loved ones together and start new traditions.

Working in the kitchen with my family forged a bond over food that we wouldn’t otherwise have. Not only have we struggled through bakes together—like the many times that I messed up frosting a cake—but I have also learned things about my family’s history that I would not have known without this culinary connection. Even if you don’t have family recipes to share, baking with friends or any loved one creates this same sense of closeness and long-lasting memories. 

Sydney Hanzalik

To bring it altogether, hopefully this article serves as an inspiration to start using that oven for more than just the occasional pizza or Pillsbury Holiday cookie. Baking is a somewhat-forgotten joy that many people overlook or disregard. Though it may seem too effortful or time-consuming, the real importance of baking is found in its ability to turn us into more gracious, thoughtful people—one recipe at a time.