Letter of Recommendation: Baking as Therapy | Teen Ink

Letter of Recommendation: Baking as Therapy

January 9, 2022
By elawrence123 BRONZE, New York, New York
elawrence123 BRONZE, New York, New York
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

It’s late—almost 11—and you’re hunched over homework, too tired to keep going, and on the verge of tears over a math problem that doesn’t make sense, no matter how many different ways you try to solve it. What do you do now? Take a shower, maybe scroll through TikTok, or just go to bed, right? Not for me. At this moment, I rush to the kitchen and set the oven to 350. As the oven preheats, I quickly round up all the ingredients and tools and get to work, depending on what I’m in the mood for. Sweet or savory, flaky or crunchy, chewy or crispy—it’s all in my control. Whether it’s cookies, brownies, or an intricately laced pie, baking is the most reliable stress reliever there is.

Today, I’m thinking banana muffins—a classic. As I scoop flour, measure baking powder, and cream butter and sugar, I instantly fall into the rhythm of baking that I know so well. Before long, I have a batter (taste testing is always necessary) and my stresses of solving an equation are long gone. Mixing ingredients and pouring batter into loaf pans calms me like a lullaby: even if only for an hour, my sole focus is getting muffins in the oven, and everything else in my life pauses.

As I put my creation into the oven, I can’t help but feel a little bit nostalgic for my younger self. Baking (and stress) seem like two things that have always been present in my life. Since birth, I’ve been a person who doesn’t like change or going out of my comfort zone. Though it seemed like a daunting task at age 5, the simplicity of mixing ingredients soon became a calming activity for me. When I first started baking, I was my mom’s helper—I would scoop flour or crack an egg and watch in awe as she did the rest. I was too young (and too nervous) to use measuring tools, a hand held mixer, or an oven. Our signature recipe, banana nut muffins, was the first recipe I learned to make on my own: I made them so often that I now have the exact measurements memorized.

 As I moved through middle school, baking became an obsession: I was convinced owning a bakery was my calling (with a slime side hustle, of course) and even asked for a KitchenAid stand mixer for my 13th birthday. I constantly tried new recipes and flavor combinations; my kitchen was always filled with desserts for my family, doormen, or neighbors. All of my stress—overly intense study habits, fights with my sister, or friendship drama—could be relieved by baking, an escape for me during my middle school years. 

As a junior in high school, I need the outlet of baking more than ever, but between school, sports, and ACT prep, it’s hard to fit it into my schedule. My dreams of owning a bakery may have faded away, but my love for baking definitely hasn’t. If anything, I cherish it more now, and understand why it has been so important in my life. Though there are thousands of different possibilities within baking, when it comes down to it, baking is a science. It has rules (don’t ever switch out baking soda for baking powder) that must be followed and are crucial to a recipe’s success. The science aspect of baking is why I love it so much; not because I’m a chemistry whiz, but because I’m an anxious and indecisive rule follower. I like to have things laid out for me, with the exact steps and ingredients I need to succeed. 

Baking is grounding in the same way as meditation or going on a walk: it shows you the importance of stopping, even if only for a second, and taking a break. This is arguably the most important aspect of stress relief as a whole. Even if you’re not a rule follower like me (hello to the no recipe bakers out there) I promise you that baking can help you like it has helped me. Life—school, friends, family, and everything in between—is constantly evolving at such a fast rate that it’s hard to stop and catch a breath. Our day-to-day life is sometimes impossible to predict (whether it be an unexpected test or a global pandemic) and incorporating constants like baking into our lives is necessary to break up all of the good, bad, and ugly happening around us. Find something like baking and use it as a shoulder to cry on—you might be surprised at how much you’ll use it. 

The author's comments:

I'm a 16 year old girl living in NYC!

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