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Bread is the closest thing to culinary meditation.
Bread baking is not technically a religion, no—but when you're in the kitchen, knuckle-deep in a pile of dough, and aren't able to reach for your phone when you get a text, there's a certain serenity that you can allow yourself, even if for just 30 minutes. And that's a good feeling, the unplugging bit (or maybe you also have a thing for sticky, buttery fingers. No shame.).
Once you've put your bread in the oven, grab a book, make yourself some tea, or practice a couple of headstands—but don't go too far down the zen rabbit hole (you'll still need to take the loaf out and eat it, too). Here are the five breads to make when you're looking to reach baking bliss:
Never underestimate the importance of just flexing your digits. Focaccia dough needs to be patted and spread out with great care to ensure optimal fluffiness—to create this bread's signature dimpling, slow and steady is the key.
If you're familiar with The Karate Kid, you get the sentiment "wax on, wax off." These grilled flatbreads benefit from the same calm approach, right up to the moment you toss them on the grill (or grill pan). They're just crisp on the outside and a little squidgy on the inside, especially if you stuff them with some cheese (à la Micki).
If you enjoy the meditative qualities of braiding things (like friendship bracelets or hair), then this is the bread for you. The technique for Jessica's challah is elongated but simple, and will keep you in a relaxed state of mind.
Rolling out dough does wonders for the soul. For these croissants, you fold layers of pastry and butter on top of one another and roll, chill, repeat.
Sometimes less is best. This is the case when making ciabatta: The less you fuss over it, the airier it is. You'll find that both you and your loaves will instantly lighten up!
Photos of focaccia dough and finished focaccia by Eric Moran; photo of croissants by Yossy Arefi; photo of challah by Bobbi Lin; photo of flatbreads and ciabatta by Sarah Stone.
What's the dish you cook to mellow out with? Tell us in the comments below!