Baking: A recipe for relaxation

Joseph Caddick shares the wonders of baking as an enjoyable pastime to distract from the stresses of uni

Joseph Caddick
25th March 2020
Image: Taylor Grote on Unsplash

Uni life is hard. Between the deadlines, grades and social pressures, you don’t get to relax a lot. Combine that with having anxiety and it can add even more to that constant pile of stress. There’s one thing I’ve found that’s really helped me when I’ve been at my most stressed; baking.

There’s a reason why baking is so popular. You get food at the end of it, which is always great. You can put on your favourite playlist and sing along whilst you’re mixing some batter, which is great too. And, even if only for a little while, it takes your mind off everything else you can stress about, which is also great. Second year’s been pretty tough on me and many others, so that brief moment where I don’t have to worry about academia or my social life is bliss.

The difference is that it’s even easier to move on from your mistakes when you’re baking

Sure, baking brings with it its own brand of stress. Have I put the right amount of ingredients in? Will I end up burning my cookies? Are those cupcakes going to sink? They’re some of the questions I’ll ask myself on repeat until I’ve reached the end product. Believe me, it’s easy to make a mistake, and I’ve made all of those mistakes before. The difference is that it’s even easier to move on from those mistakes when you’re baking.

Of course, there are some pitfalls that you can fall into when it comes to using baking to cope with the pressure of uni life. Stress eating is a major worry, and something I’ve indulged in during exam periods when it seems like everything is going to go wrong and failing is inevitable. There’s a way around this though. Sharing your bakes with your friends, flatmates and course-mates is a good way to avoid eating everything, and it’s always nice to see people’s faces when you offer them something you’ve made.

Another problem that can come up when you bake often is money. Ingredients (like everything else) aren’t cheap

It's also an easy conversation starter; everyone wants to talk to the person carrying a box of bakes. Just don’t get downtrodden if they don't take one, because sometimes it’s not hard to see why someone will turn down your latest batch of jelly bean cookies, be it dietary or just because they’re not hungry.

Another problem that can come up when you bake often is money. Ingredients (like everything else) aren’t cheap. You can always try and ask any of your flatmates if they have spare flour or icing sugar, and more often than not I’ve been lucky enough in that regard and they’ve let me use them. Usually this is in return for some of what I’ve baked, of course; everyone becomes a shrewd businessperson if there’s food involved.

One of the great things about baking is that it encourages you to be a little adventurous as well

One of the great things about baking is that it encourages you to be a little adventurous as well. You can always try and slightly alter the recipe. As you’d expect it’s a gamble, and things can go wrong very easily (and often do), but then it gives you more to keep in mind for the next time. It’s surprisingly scientific that way.

This is something that is true for cooking as well. Just last weekend I tried altering a pizza recipe I’d used a couple of weeks before to make a stuffed crust one. Miraculously, it worked, and I couldn’t have been more proud. Pride definitely comes from making food as well, and again even if it’s temporary you feel great for that moment. The pride never goes away though, which is nice.

There is also a social component to baking that can make it even more fun, and an excuse to throw yourself out there and meet more new people. Obviously that’s scary when you’re anxious, because there’s a worry that they might not like you or that things will be awkward, but everyone bonds over their baking, regardless of whether it goes right or wrong. It brings people together.

Teamwork is really helpful in baking , and I’ve learned some really valuable tips from friends who have way more experience than me

I’ve been a member of the Baking Society this year and it’s been brilliant for helping me be more social, everyone is so friendly and you get rewarded in food, which is never a bad thing. Teamwork is really helpful in baking too, and I’ve learned some really valuable tips (mostly regarding decoration) from friends of mine who have way more experience than I could ever hope to have.

Baking is something I’ve always enjoyed, but only recently I’ve realised just how important it’s been in making me feel more confident and happier overall. It’s a learning curve that can feel as intense as uni in the heat of the moment, but there’s no pressure and even when things go wrong you don’t feel like your world is falling down, at least not long term anyway. Throughout uni, baking has definitely helped me keep calm(ish) during the more stressful moments, and that's something I'm very grateful for. And the food it's generated, I'm grateful for that too.

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