The magic of baking
Ican still remember the first time I watched my mother make meringues – never imagining that when the gloopy egg whites went into the trusty Kenwood with some sugar, a cloud-like sweetness would emerge. It was pure magic. If you have ever watched a kid lick the raw meringue from the beater for the first time, I’m sure you will also remember that dawning moment of joy in discovering this melt-in-the-mouth pleasure – and a sense of awe that something so good could be created out of two simple, everyday ingredients. In such moments, happy memories are made.
It might sound far-fetched if I were to say that the therapeutic powers of baking can be lifechanging. But in this high-pressured world, baking is such a great way to feel useful and successful. In the rush of endless deadlines and demands that consume daily life, just taking a little time out to bake offers an easy sense of empowerment. The process of mixing and kneading, whisking and folding, engages all your senses and forces you to be in the moment. It’s almost like a meditation.
I was lucky to discover this easy pleasure early, learning quickly that the oohs and ahhs of delight from my family and my mother’s friends could be achieved simply by following a recipe. People love it when you bake.
Having a son who is a (recently diagnosed) coeliac, a vegetarian daughter and a husband who is in “my body is a temple” mode, as well as a number of vegan friends, means that I am now baking with lots of different ingredients. Aren’t we all? But whether it is coconut oil, spelt or rice flour that goes into the mix, the results still show that you care. Life might be too busy to invite friends over for dinner, but whisk up a cake or a slice and invite friends for coffee or afternoon tea and you can get that same sense of connection for a lot less effort.
There’s such a feel-good factor to baking that makes it so rewarding. It’s such a simple ritual that brings people together and says “I care”. Whether it’s taking a cake to the office for a colleague’s birthday, dropping in on a new neighbour with a tin of homemade biscuits or making toffee apples or fluffy marshmallows for the school fair, baking is the essence of kindness, and it makes life feel safe and comforting. With the tins filled, your house feels like a home.
That’s why I’m so excited to bring you my new book of sweet recipes, ESSENTIAL Volume Two: Sweet Treats for Every Occasion (Annabel Langbein Media, $65). Out in the shops on Monday, it’s the second volume in the ESSENTIAL duo that started last year with my bestselling book of savoury recipes. Now I bring you a beautiful compendium of than 450 sweet recipes, including some of my favourite and most popular recipes from 30 years of kitchen experimentation, retested and revised for today’s appetites and dietary needs, plus lots of exciting new ideas. Just about every cake, biscuit, muffin, slice, tart, dessert, ice, preserve or sauce that you could ever want to make is in here – I like to think it’s the only sweet book you’ll ever need!
This week’s Canvas recipes are a quick peek inside the covers of my new book. Enjoy!