Feb 20, 2019

Baking - Far More Than Getting Food on the Table! - Annie West

Do you ever find yourself attracted to simple hands-on chores in the middle of particularly busy times? Strangely, often when I feel like I don't have enough time to get everything done is when I most often want to take time out to cook. By cook, I don't mean cook a meal - that's a job that just keeps coming around. I mean cook something extra - like a sweet treat.

I've been thinking about this recently as life in the West house has been pretty full and I've found myself thinking about taking time out to cook a treat. Years ago when there were more people in the house, including children and adolescents who could vacuum up snacks in no time, I did a lot more of that sort of cooking. Now it's an irregular thing, and I've discovered that I enjoy the making almost as much as I enjoy the results!

By the way, in the interests of honesty, I have to mention that this lovely mixed grain loaf was made by Mr West, not me. He's a whizz at nice bread!

I've come to the conclusion that baking can be therapeutic. There's something relaxing and reassuring about the down to earth, simple processes of measuring, mixing, kneading and baking. I'm sure the fact it involves using your hands is part of that, just like a little time gardening can be great for clearing the head and putting worries in perspective. Or painting, woodworking, sitting at a potter's wheel, sewing or, yes, maybe even tidying cupboards!

Sometimes I find myself wanting to cook comfort food I remember from years ago. Like this chocolate ring cake with coconut, which was a staple of my mother's when I was growing up, or the raspberry muffins - the first muffin recipe I ever made and still my favourite.

At other times it just seems the time of year to cook particular treats. Like German cinnamon stars for Christmas (and they always remind me of the German friend who gave me the recipe). Actually, quite often using favourite recipes, I think cooking is an act of love and connection, not just between you and the people you're cooking for, but you and the people from your past. 

Christmas means Christmas cake, made to an old family recipe.

It also means the joy of cooking with the family. In our house the Christmas shortbread is as likely to be in the form of pigs or rabbits as stars or bells. My kids still like to help make the Christmas goodies.

Or maybe it's just an excuse to smile and celebrate that it's the weekend and life is good. What could be better than raspberry sponge cake with a glass of bubbly with someone special?

Or individual birthday cup cakes?

Often as not the urge to bake comes upon me when the weather turns cool. I love the sighs of appreciation when I take a cheese souffle out of the oven, and the feeling of achievement that yes, it DID rise! Always makes me feel competent.

Or maybe the cooking is for a visit by a special friend. Something light to have with a cuppa.

 Contrary to what you might think, I don't bake very much these days. Too busy writing books and doing other things, but when I do it feels so good. Maybe because it means I'm getting together with some special friends or family, or just because the peaceful process of putting ingredients together is a satisfying way to spend a little down time. I feel pleased that I've accomplished something and more relaxed.

How about you? Are you a baker? Do you have any go-to activities to help you unwind?


  1. I have been working on a paid job for several weeks now. During that time, I have cooked roasts; baked cookies, muffins, tarts, and even cakes; decluttered most shelves in my kitchen, most cabinets in my living room, and most drawers in my bedroom; walked every night I'm not playing badminton, despite slippery/dangerous sidewalks; and kept current on my blogging (hence this response). I KNOW I should be working, like last night when I had a roast in the oven at 300F, so I baked shortbread cookies on the other side of the oven at the same time; if there are crumbs on the floor, the living/dining rooms should be dusted before they are vacuumed; and last night I also came up with going to bed 2 hours earlier than usual rather than working (and I DID sleep that entire time, so I must have needed it, LOL).
    I'm Laney4 and I'm a procrastinator. I still have 2 weeks before this work project is due, and there is no doubt in my mind that it will be completed by deadline, but I'm determined to get other things done around here too.
    As for other go-to activities to help me unwind, I play games on my computer. That is my Achilles heel. And don't get me going about snacking when I shouldn't be doing so (and that's why I go to bed instead of eating).

    1. Laney,I am procrastinator also.

    2. Laney, you should be a writer! All those procrastination activities sound like a number of writers I know, doing other stuff instead of writing. But if you feel less cluttered and more relaxed, maybe all that other work will help you be more efficient? You have such energy!

    3. Laurie, that makes several of us! :)

  2. Hi Annie

    You have made me hungry and it is too early for most of those lovely treats, I used to bake and cook a lot when my kids were young and often with the grandkids we would bake cupcakes and decorate them these days not so much standing is hard for me but I hope soon that will be better and then maybe I can try some diet type baking :)

    Have Fun


    1. Well, it's not the sort of thing you want to do every day, is it, Helen? Hope you feel much better soon! Diet baking - something I've yet to discover. Maybe if you find a good recipe you can share.

  3. I don't bake a lot these days, just no time. At Christmas I do make several types of fudge, and lots of cookies. And Annie, I think you'll have to start baking your own puppy treats!

    1. Puppy treats? No. Not just yet! Oh, I love the sound of fudge but I try to avoid it as it's too moreish. I think the days before Christmas are a perfect time for baking.

    2. Whoopsie! I confused you with Annie O'Neill, she just got the cutest puppy!!!

  4. What a lovely post, Annie! And that raspberry sponge is making my mouth water big time! Baking can be fun, though I generally prefer it when it's low key and no pressure and just for fun. I think you're right, though. I think that there's something really relaxing about measuring and stirring and using your hands to create something that's ready relatively quickly (as opposed to writing a book). Hmm, Baking for Therapy-- that could become a thing. :-)

  5. Glad you enjoyed it, Michelle. I sure enjoyed eating the sponge, though I only had a little - really! I think almost anything can be therapy if it gives you a break from the book you're writing. :)