Nikki, mum to four children and also to one ‘absolutely perfect’ granddaughter, tells us how baking at home helps her to relax and unwind.
I have to say baking is a hobby I’d neglected for quite a while, but since working at home more during lockdown I’ve ‘rediscovered’ the joy of baking. Not having to commute long distances each day has meant I’ve had more time – and certainly more energy – to do a spot of baking in the evenings or at weekends.
After a busy and stressful day at work there’s nothing better than kneading or rolling out dough (very energetically) to make biscuits or pastry to help you relax and unwind. When you’re measuring and mixing ingredients you really have to concentrate – which helps you calm down, and stops you thinking about your (long) to do lists at work. Instead, you simply focus on the task at hand and forget everything else! And – unlike a long to do list which never seems to end – after baking you get a finished product, which gives you a real sense of achievement!
At first I’d follow a recipe to the letter, but as the months have gone on I’ve become more comfortable and confident about experimenting – like changing some of the ingredients or using different spices or toppings. For example, I’ve enjoyed making healthier versions of favourite treats like adding grated courgette, carrot or apple to muffins.
“Knowing I’ve made other people happy with my baking makes me happy!”
I’ve certainly become more creative. Who’d have thought a few months ago that I’d now be branching out into homemade dog biscuits?! (The dog LOVES them by the way and I’m now the proud owner of paw and bone-shaped biscuit cutters!)
During the current crisis when we can’t always visit family and friends baking can be a way of showing we’re thinking of them – baking a neighbour’s favourite treats, knocking on the door and leaving them on their doorstep can be a real boost to their spirits. I love to use local produce where possible and spent many happy hours in late summer/early autumn picking blackberries close to home. One of my elderly neighbours also invited me to take as many apples as I could from her numerous trees. Most have been frozen alongside the blackberries ready for a year of apple and blackberry treats, but now and again I take her a tart or a crumble to check in on her and remind her that I’m grateful to her for sharing the abundant fruit in her garden. The best use for the blackberries so far has to be as a coulis to accompany a very easy lemon posset.
Despite the challenges and changes of the recent months, some things haven’t changed – and that’s birthday traditions, which for our family involves cake! I decided to take a day off work this year to bake and decorate a birthday cake for my daughter’s birthday, carefully choosing the recipe, the decorations and the flavours to make it just for her! It was so lovely seeing her big smile when it was unveiled, and even better to enjoy a slice (or two) with the family together. Knowing I’ve made other people happy with my baking makes me happy too!
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