Annabel Langbein's baking magic (+ recipes)
Leaving behind the freedom of the summer holidays for the routines of a new year back at work and school is never easy. But coming home and baking brings a collective feel-good mood to the house, and makes people feel reassured that home is home.
And, even better, there will be treats for the lunchbox and after-school snacking that are made with ingredients you know, and that taste better and cost a lot less than anything store-bought.
My entry to the kitchen as a preschooler started with baking. Actually it was all about waiting for that moment when the mixture had been dispatched to tins and trays and I got to lick the beater.
I'm sure that's how it starts for many a child who has a parent, grandparent or older sibling who likes to bake. Before you know it, you're in there, mixing dough, rolling biscuits and putting things into the oven. The house fills with warming, lip-smacking aromas and voila! Just like that you're cooking and everyone thinks you're incredibly clever.
At heart I'm still a baker. It's the smell more than anything, a warm, toasty, sweet aroma that makes you feel safe and grounded. I'm not alone here. Research has shown that the aroma of baked goods is the number-one smell that makes people nostalgic for their childhood.
There is certainly something calming and reassuring about working with simple ingredients and engaging in the easy rhythms of whisking, beating and folding. Many of us spend much of our working day occupied with our left brain, so baking provides a balance, activating our right brain and our creativity.
When things feel like they aren't going my way or if I'm feeling fragmented, I get into the kitchen and bake. In this simplest of ways I can stay present and focused, and at the end there is something delicious to share that makes everyone feel good.
A tender shortcrust base topped with a layer of rich berry tang and a crisp coconut meringue topping - this is one slice that never goes out of fashion. Get the recipe
What kid doesn't love animal biscuits? The homemade ones are such fun to create - let the kids have a go at decorating them if you dare. Get the recipe
This recipe is so simple my kids have been making it since they were toddlers. You can change the flavours - instead of cocoa add chopped dried apricots and ice with lemon icing. Get the recipe
For more great Annabel Langbein recipes see her new winter annual Annabel Langbein A Free Range Life: Share the Love (Annabel Langbein Media, $24.95) or visit annabel-langbein.com.