Baking is underrated as a mode of time travel. Our olfactory organs—stimulated by smells wafting from rising dough—can transport us years into the past. One moment we’re walking by a bustling patisserie from which emanates air redolent of sugary delights. The next, in our mind’s eye, we’re standing in Grandma’s kitchen as her oven-mitted hands place a peach pie on the counter to cool. Our bellies feel strangely warm without us having taken a bite.

Even if you weren’t blessed with a pastry chef in your family, you’ve surely encountered at least one transcendent tart or croissant or muffin or cupcake. (If you haven’t, seek one out, posthaste.) Perhaps the most American of such experiences is the joyful expectation that arrives with a tray of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

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