Imagine a chocolate chip cookie that is chewy with crunchy walnuts. Imagine a brownie that is fudgy and melts in your mouth. Think of a vanilla cupcake that is moist and with icing that is sweet and tangy. Delicious, right? Satisfying?
I don’t only experience this kind of satisfaction when I eat baked goods. I feel this when I do the baking itself. For several years now, I have benefited a lot from baking and I would like to share with you what are these benefits.
First benefit of baking, I get to try, fail and reflect.
My mom introduced me to baking when I was at a young age. She would let me help in separating cupcake liners. She would let me sift the flour to remove the lumps and allowed me to mix them with other ingredients.
I’m amazed when I see her make beautiful cakes of all shapes and sizes. With different flavors, chocolate, vanilla, mocha… For me, it was like magic – transforming dissimilar ingredients in to one delectable item.
Unfortunately, my mom didn’t allow me to do a full baking experience because I was doing it wrong and I slow her down. 10 years have passed. I decided that I want to try baking. Since I’m earning my own money, I can buy the ingredients that I need and my mom will not get mad that I’m using her ingredients for my baking experiment.
I browsed the internet for a cupcake recipe. Search, read, search, read and then I came across the red velvet cupcake. I never had red velvet cupcake. All I know is that it is red. I downloaded the recipe, went to the grocery store and bought the things I need. In the kitchen, I started to prep-up what I’ll use; follow the instructions; beat the butter while gradually incorporating the sugar; then mix the next ingredient as stated in the recipe. After all the measuring, sifting, beating, mixing and waiting, I pulled out of the oven my baking pan… and I saw my velvet cupcakes… but it wasn’t red… it was black velvet cupcakes. It was burnt. I was more amazed when it was overcooked on the outside and undercook in the inside. Talk about magic. I ruined 12 cupcakes right on my first try. I assessed why I failed on my first attempt. I bought quality ingredients, measured everything, mixed in one direction, used the right speed, etc. Then, I realized I missed the very first step indicated in the recipe when baking. Pre-heat your oven at 325 degrees Celsius. Now, I know why they place it before the prep-up.
Second benefit, baking for me is meditative. Any activity which takes your whole attention – especially if it’s simple and repetitive – can have a calming, meditative quality. The process of weighing out butter and sugar, whisking eggs, beating and folding creates space in the mind, and eases negative thinking processes. For a certain period of time in a day, I separate myself from all the worries, the arguments and the stress. I’m actually forced to think of baking only.
Baking didn’t allow me to do multi-tasking. A skill which I think is somehow abused because we have utilized it on every aspect of our lives – work, relationships and daily activities. In baking, I have to be focused. One time, I was thinking of something else while I baking and I lost count of how many cups of flour I have sifted which ended for me to repeat the process.
We’ve all been hearing a lot about mindfulness lately, which can help reduce stress and increase happiness. If you don’t have time to meditate, though, baking can be a substitute. “Baking actually requires a lot of full attention. You have to measure, focus physically on rolling out dough. If you’re focusing on smell and taste, on being present with what you’re creating, that act of mindfulness in that present moment can also have a result in stress reduction,”
The third benefit of baking and I would say one of the best things about it is that you can give away your creations and make other people feel happy – which in turn puts a smile on your dial. It’s a win-win.
One recipe can make 24 cupcakes, one whole cake or 32 pieces of cookies, which I don’t intend to consume all by myself. Baked goods are intended to be shared and to make others feel good.
It is also a way of communicating. It can be helpful for people who have difficulty expressing their feelings in words to show thanks, appreciation or sympathy with baked goods.
Cooking can be a doorway to connection. Food brings people together, there’s no question about this. It brings about discussion and curiosity between any two people. The adulation that you get from making tasty baked goods and just seeing someone else enjoy, appreciate and value your creation has major implications for rebuilding one’s self of worth and value.
I ruined more than 12 cupcakes but it didn’t stop me to explore baking. I tried again to bake the same cupcake and I’m glad I continued. Now, I can bake with a certain level of confidence and I get to enjoy the benefits.
Next time you receive home-made baked goods remember that it is not ONLY a piece of cake.