There have been discussions online recently about whether baking can be good for your mental health.
A few of us at the office love to bake – the measuring, the precision, the science, the waiting game and the sense of achievement – all of which can help concentration and take the mind off more stressful thoughts.
So, can baking be good for the soul?
One project that centres itself around this ethos is The Depressed Cake Shop. This pop-up shop fills its stand with grey and dark coloured cakes, bucking the trend of bright and colourful decorations. Everything there is themed around mental illness, to raise awareness of something that isn’t as readily talked about as, say, heart disease.
From ‘Black Dog’ macaroons to ‘Misfortune’ cookies, these sweet treats are extremely creative and get people talking about their own experiences. Many of the bakers who contribute to the stand (which has popped up across the UK and is now taking on the US), use baking as a way to cope with stress and unhappiness.
Eric Lanlard, the talented patissier, celebrity chef and owner of cake boutique Cake Boy in London, is also a believer in baking being good for the soul. He regularly runs cupcake decorating classes and cookery master classes at Cake Boy, to spread the joy and relaxation that he gets from cooking and baking. It’s creative as well as methodical and the results put a smile on people’s faces. Eric has kindly shared a brownie recipe with us, so if you’re feeling a little down and could do with a distraction or a project to concentrate on, why not give this delicious treat a try…
Eric Lanlard’s Devilish Chocolate Brownies
I know there are plenty of brownie recipes around, but this is my favourite dark chocolate version, and, of course, you can add nuts or dried fruits if you like. Remember, don’t overcook them.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
200g (7oz) dark chocolate,
150g (5oz) unsalted butter,
plus extra for greasing
2 tsp vanilla paste or extract
150g (5oz) golden caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
75g (3oz) plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
100g (3½oz) dark chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan 160°C) / 350°F / gas mark 4
- Grease a 19cm (7½ inch) square shallow baking tin and line the base with baking paper
- Melt the chopped chocolate, butter and vanilla together in a heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the surface of the water does not touch the bowl. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, then leave to cool for a few minutes
- Beat in the eggs, then sift in the flour, cocoa and salt and fold in until the mixture is smooth and glossy
- Stir in the chocolate chips
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top
- Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the top starts to crack but the centre remains gooey
- Turn off the oven and leave the brownies inside for a further 5 minutes before removing
- Leave to cool completely in the tin
- Cut the brownies into 16 small squares and remove from the tin
- Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days
Does baking help you de-stress?
RECIPE: from Chocolat by Eric Lanlard published by Mitchell Beazley (c) Photography Kate Whitaker.