by Veronique Wojcik
Going home for spring break is like an exhale after holding your breath for too long. The familiarity of your kitchen, seeing your family, and even laying in your own bed provides a feeling of comfort. So what better way to de-stress during break than to try some new baking projects. Baking is shown to improve mental health – and you also get a sweet outcome as a result.
After midterm week and all those exams and papers, our stress level is at an all time high. It seems like nothing can help but sleep and time, but baking has been shown to help lower stress levels in individuals. The repetition, rhythm, and even the creative strides you can take while baking has been shown to reduce levels of stress and anxiety. Dr. Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a clinical psychologist, says there are multiple reasons why this is. The smells of vanilla and cinnamon comfort us, reminding us of happy memories. The creativity that baking allows for, such as decorating, cutting and forming shaping, and even adding flavors that we want, eases our mind and it gives us an aspect of control in our life. The consistency and knowing the outcome of a baking project also consoles us because there are so many other things in our daily lives that don’t have set outcomes.
Cinnamon Buns/Sticky Buns
The fluffy bread, the sticky cinnamon filling, and the creamy but tangy cream cheese frosting- everything about this bun screams comfort. Though this bun may take some time with all the rising from making the yeasted dough, it’s not a complicated process; it’s the perfect recipe to experiment with while catching up with your favorite Netflix show. The hardest part is making sure the yeast dough is activated, but once you pass that stage (and it’s right at the beginning) you’re good to go. The kneading of dough and aroma of cinnamon in the air will feel therapeutic, and that first bite will feel even better. The pride you feel once you’re done is amazing; baking is such a rewarding hobby.
Once you have your dough proofed, roll it out in a rectangle and spread the cinnamon butter mixture evenly. Then slowly roll the dough, making sure the roll is even in size, and cut it in about 1 inch pieces across (pro tip: dental floss works the best to cut the roll because it doesn’t smush the dough). Once it’s cut, arrange the slices in a metal baking pan, with room between each piece, because the buns spread a lot. Cover the pan with a damp towel and allow to rise for about half an hour. After thirty minutes, the buns should have grown to be noticeably larger. Pop in your oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and make the frosting while you wait.
Cinnamon rolls are a baking basic that should be found in any cookbook, but if you can’t find one, don’t worry. Sally’s Baking Addiction has the perfect recipe, and Butternut Bakery’s Blog has a recipe that is almost identical to Cinnbon’s with their silky frosting and melt-in-your-mouth buns.
After developing a bit of a coffee addiction in college with all those late night papers, tiramisu is the perfect dessert to make. The balance of espresso and mascarpone creates a perfect flavor balance, and the recipe is not too time consuming. There isn’t an actual baking component – unless you’re interested in swapping lady fingers for home-made sponge cake – just lady fingers, espresso, a creamy mascarpone filling, and a dusting of cocoa powder on top. The creamy filling has a couple of versions, one which is just whipped with sugar, and another mixed with the italian custard zabaione. The zabaione adds prep time because it involves a double boiler as well as the careful incorporation of eggs to heat, so if you’re looking for a shortcut, feel free to leave the zabaione out.
Tiramisu is a classic desert with a mellow flavor and creamy filling that’ll satisfy your caffeine addiction as well as your sweet tooth. There’s tons of versions on the internet but some of the best are by the New York Times and Anna Maria. If you’re looking for a more traditional recipe with the incorporation of zabaione, Anna Maria has the perfect recipe for you. If you’re looking for a more simple, but just as tasty cake, New York Time’s would be the recipe to use.
This classic French dessert is almost as easy as it sounds. Baking is a minimal part of the project; once the tart is golden brown, all that’s left to do is add the custard filling and decorate with fruit. The custard is the trickiest part of this recipe, but the best tip is to keep stirring and keep the heat low to prevent the eggs from curdling.
Spring is the perfect time to make this desert. It’s not too hot to use your ovens, but warm enough that the fresh spring produce is reaching your local grocers. From raspberries to plums, strawberries, and even nectarines, you are free to fill up the tart with fruit to your heart’s content. The fruit and the design is all up to you – that’s the best part of this recipe, your creativity has no limits.
If a fruit tart still seems like a forgein concept and none of these words are making sense, don’t panic! Claire Saffitz, an expert baker, explains and demonstrates her recipe on her YouTube channel. She walks you through every step of the way and her confidence in the kitchen is contagious, after watching her video you’ll be ready to jump back into the kitchen.
Some of the best recipes for a classic fruit tart come from Martha Stewart and Dominique Ansel’s masterclass collection of recipes. However, before you get any farther in your recipe search, make sure you have a tart pan handy. Try out one of these desserts to destress and enjoy a treat this spring break, and share your creations with us on Instagram @bakedmagazine.