The Art and Science of Baking (and Investments)
I love to travel, but when that wasn’t possible during the pandemic, baking became an alternative interest and allowed me to experience different cultures through food. I baked occasionally before shelter-in-place, but it wasn’t until last year, when I first baked bread, that I became so fascinated. Learning the processes and cultural contexts of different breads, cookies and cakes has been rewarding during a time when cultivating well-being has been a challenge for me.
As I deepened my understanding of baking, I noticed similarities between this culinary pursuit and investing. I believe that investing, just like baking, is both an art and a science. Each is most successful when there is balance; a methodical formula paired with flexibility and experience. Perhaps this is why, as a Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) charterholder with a special interest in behavioral finance and emotion, I feel so passionate about both.
To achieve an ideal outcome, one might adjust some ingredients and seasonings to personal taste; analogous to how we seek to customize a client’s investment approach based on their specific values and goals. I see it as an art to be able to effectively put all of these pieces together and create a unique portfolio so clients can achieve life milestones, invest in their values, give back, and reach their goals.
Both as a portfolio analyst and a baker, I get great satisfaction from applying rigor to my work, while also allowing for flexibility based on evolving realities. It’s a dance between sticking to the plan, while questioning and testing the plan as variables evolve. For me, this two-minded approach is challenging and rewarding.
Below are my top three favorite creations from the past year. Reach out and let me know if you try one of these or have a recipe to recommend – I’d love to hear from you!
Tangerine “Lookalike” Bao (Chinese Steamed Bun): These steamed buns are the most fun to make – and eat! I decorated the buns with real citrus leaves. They have a peelable skin and pumpkin puree filling. The baked tangerines almost look indistinguishable from the real clementines on the table here. I made these in celebration of the Lunar New Year in February, as tangerines symbolize fortune and wealth in Chinese culture. The Chinese words for “tangerine” and “gold” are homophones, meaning they sound the same. Here is the recipe.
Pain d’Epi (French Wheat Stalk Bread): This is a twist on the classic French baguette, but formed into the shape of a wheat stalk, or a wreath in my photo. Those who have visited the Bouchon Bistro and Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, Napa may recognize this bread. I followed the recipe in the Bouchon cookbook and, to my surprise, it tasted just as good (actually, even better!) than at the famed restaurant. Perhaps a near-perfect bakery bread can only be topped when made in your own kitchen, by your own hands. You can try the recipe here.
Fougasse (French Flatbread) Popular in Provençe, in the south of France, fougasse is essentially a flatbread shaped into a leaf or an ear of wheat. Aside from the eye-catching shape, this bread is often flavored in unique ways with a variety of herbs and spices. I enjoyed an aromatic version that incorporated orange zest, rosemary and thyme that I found in this recipe.