There's nothing I like more than stirring up a quick cake batter, rolling out pastry for a tart, or getting my hands sticky kneading a sweet dough.
The process of baking is so therapeutic – mixing, whisking and folding engages the senses and forces you to be right in the moment. I really do think that it's good for the soul, and sharing the fruits of your kitchen creativity with others helps build, strengthen and connect families and communities.
Baking brings people together and creates a sense of home and comfort. It’s something you do to show you care, in moments like taking The Ultimate Chocolate Cake to the office for a colleague’s birthday, dropping in on a new neighbour with a tin of Chocolate Chippies or making Toffee Apples or Tropical Marshmallows for the school fair.
There’s a feel-good factor to baking, and such a sense of satisfaction when you bring a magnificent New York Maple Cheesecake or Tarte Tatin to the table at the end of a dinner party, offer a visitor a Date and Orange Scone straight from the oven, or pop a home-baked Banana Bran Muffin into the school lunchboxes.
Classic Kiwi recipes like Anzac Biscuits, Pavlova and Melting Moments connect us with our country's heritage, and remind those of us who grew up here of our childhoods and our forebears, while learning recipes like Churros, Baklava and Mango Lassi from other cultures builds bridges between us and the rest of the world.
Baking together is such a wonderful way to connect with our kids – what kid doesn’t love cutting cookie dough and decorating Gingerbread Families? And at the same time they're learning essential life skills, developing their motor skills and, as they grow older, practising their reading and learning about maths and measurements.
Of course we all know it's not good for us to eat too much sugar, but the reason the sugar issue has come to the forefront recently is that these days we're exposed to so many industrial processed foods that contain so much of it. A few decades ago there was very little sugar in our everyday diets, so there was no harm in the occasional homebaked biscuit, piece of cake or dessert.
These days I believe we can still enjoy a little bit of sweetness, as long as it's part of a balanced diet that's primarily built around vegetables, fruit and whole foods.
Home cooked is infinitely preferable to storebought because you know exactly what's in it, and it doesn’t contain preservatives for extended shelf life. It's bound to be better for you than industrialised food bought on the run and consumed without care.
Whether you're planning the week's lunchboxes, a fancy dinner party or even a weddiing, this comprehensive compendium is the only book you’ll ever need to bring a little sweetness to your life.
ESSENTIAL Volume Two: Sweet Treats for Every Occasion, by Annabel Langbein (Annabel Langbein Media, RRP $65) is available at Paper Plus, Whitcoulls, The Warehouse and all good bookstores nationwide and makes a timeless Mother’s Day, wedding, anniversary or birthday gift or treat for yourself or someone leaving home. It can also be ordered from annabel-langbein.com/shop/books/ for local or overseas delivery. Buy now and enter to win a trip for two to Provence with L’Occitane!