Making the World Taste Good
I like baking. When I'm stressed, I like the challenge of creaming and beating (by hand) to get out some of my anxiety. (My old, awesome roommates used to come home to freshly baked cookies and immediately ask what was wrong.) And I like sharing baked goods with people I like.
It's true that baking is time-consuming, but there's something to be said for the ability to produce something tangible and useful and delicious in an hour or so (plus clean-up time). When so much of what I spend my time doing is a lot less tangible and a lot less useful on the surface (obviously, in the long run, saving newspapers is hugely useful), it's nice to spend some time doing something that so quickly yields results—and ones that are appreciated.
(One of my professors said that baking is one of the only socially acceptable hobbies for an academic because colleagues will always want you to publish more and work more, but they will never question whether you were wasting time on your hobby if you hand them food.)
Anyhow, I don't intend to quit my Ph.D. program to open a bakery and luckily now that my apartment isn't stressful and the kashrut of my kitchen isn't dubious, I can bake more often, and fresh baked goods do make everyone happy. (This is my new favorite recipe—even with non-dairy substitutions, it was delicious.) Thus ends my ode to baking.