Bake yourself happy

Instead of getting drunk when we’re stressed, we’re baking

Credit: Gillicious

Credit: Gillicious

When the going gets tough, whether that be exams approaching, or essay deadlines starting to stack up, some people find the best way to cope is to go out and get recklessly and disgracefully drunk. Now far be it from me to denounce the relaxation power of a nice glass of red wine, but I prefer an alternative, foolproof method of stress relief. Baking. After all, nothing sooths the senses like the smell of fresh bread cooking, or beating the hell out of a couple of eggs.

Can baking really make you happy? Surely icing tiny cupcakes or creaming together butter and sugar cannot have a profound effect on a person’s emotional wellbeing? Well, yes it can. During my latest exams, I often felt like I was drowning beneath the workload, and with all the usual complications of relationships and family life thrown into the mix, baking provided a relaxing and therapeutic escape route. I don’t know whether it is channeling the pent-up stress and energy into something active and productive which provides the sense of release, or whether the aroma of freshly-baked goodies interferes with the chemical impulses in our brains, but, simply put, nothing seems as bad when there’s a plate of homemade cookies on the table.

This leads me to the obvious advantage of good baking session: you have the tasty results of your endeavors to eat for the rest of the afternoon! What could motivate you better to get that essay finished, or textbook read, than the promise of a lemon cupcake or double chocolate brownie waiting at the end? There’s just one problem with ‘baking therapy’; a typical side effect is the possibility of weight gain. But elastic waists were made for a reason…

Compared to therapy, baking is also extremely good value. For us hard-up students, you can source the basic ingredients for most recipes pretty cheaply in your local supermarket: a packet of self-raising flour, some caster sugar and a block of butter can produce tens of cupcakes, platefuls of scones or a stack of biscuits.

But what about when it all goes wrong? There have been many times when, after toiling for hours in a hot kitchen, I have opened the oven door to discover that my cake hasn’t risen and resembles a flat pancake more than a fluffy Victoria sponge. Then you are left with no goodies at all. And lo, your sense of achievement and accomplishment which was to sooth away the last strains of stress does not materialize. You may be tempted to smash the bowls or throw mixture at the walls, but please resist. Practice makes perfect, and after a few attempts, you could be a worthy candidate for the GBBO 2014…

So next time you are having a bad day, are a bit stressed out or just a bit mis, dig out that recipe book and try your hand at baking. On a wet Sunday afternoon it is a much more appealing method of stress-relief than exercise and meditation, and you may well discover a hidden talent that will make you an extremely popular flatmate.

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