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A Spoonful of Sugar

A spoonful of sugar may, as the song says, help the medicine go down – but it can also combine with other key ingredients to make delicious pies, cookies, cakes, breads and other items to satisfy a sweet – or savory – tooth. 

A hands-on activity that requires focus and concentration, baking offers the perfect recipe for stress relief – and a delicious, generally predictable end result to look forward to. Most baking recipes offer clear directions to follow, spelling out exactly how much to add of each ingredient – though most of us probably have at least one index card at home in the handwriting of a cherished friend or relative exhorting the baker to add a “pinch of flour” or “dash of salt.” That’s not to say there isn’t also room for creativity and experimentation, though. With a plethora of recipes available online, avid bakers can easily find new recipes to spice up their repertoire, from dulce de leche banana icebox cake to tomato soup cake (yes, really). Those with specific dietary needs can also find the perfect recipes to satisfy a sweet (or savory) tooth, whether they are looking for gluten-free bread, keto-friendly desserts or dairy-free cupcakes.  

Baking also offers a generation-spanning opportunity for children or young adults to spend quality time with an older relative eager to pass down a favorite family recipe. The grandchild who can look back fondly on memories of standing next to a grandparent while carefully kneading bread dough, placing it into a loaf pan, peeking through the oven door to watch it rise as if by magic, proudly setting it on the counter, then spreading butter or jelly on a slice they crafted with their own hands – well, that is a very lucky grandchild indeed. Many people enjoy baking as adults because of the positive emotional associations formed when they were children; studies have found that baking aromas are strongly connected with memory, and there’s certainly no denying the nostalgic power of the scent of freshly baked bread or cookies.  

Baked goods can also be a wonderful way to show you care. Whether one is bringing a festively frosted dinosaur cake to a nephew’s first birthday party, dropping off a plate of chocolate chip cookies to a loved one who is going through a difficult time, or serving fresh-out-of-the-oven scones at a book club gathering, there’s a secret ingredient in treats made for others: love.

With these numerous positive associations, it’s no wonder the residents of Monarch Landing’s memory care assisted living are finding a heaping helping of joy, laughter and camaraderie in their very own baking group – and they are in good company. As people looked for ways to keep busy during the pandemic, the popularity of baking rose like a perfectly crafted loaf of bread, with sales of baking-related products jumping by nearly 25% in 2020 over 2019 and nearly one-third of adults reporting in January that they were baking more often than before. Baking companies are taking steps to ensure this trend continues, such as launching new recipe collections, and pastry chefs worldwide added new ingredients to their recipe for success by offering virtual classes, putting together baking kits, and selling pre-made treats for customers to pop in the oven at home. 

Looking to spice up – or sweeten – your life by trying your hand at baking? With so many resources available, there’s never been a better time to get started. Check out some cookbooks from the Naperville Public Library to find recipes that please your palate; there are also plenty of video tutorials online if you’d rather bake along while someone else demonstrates each step. As the pandemic has given rise to an increase in baking (and bakers), social media can be a wonderful place to find recipes that friends and family have tried – and enjoyed enough to share. You may also find inspiration from the numerous baking shows that are available to watch on various streaming platforms. 

Baking can offer the perfect blend of nostalgia, stress relief, connections with others, and more – so if the pandemic didn’t send you into the kitchen to whip up a pie, cookies, cake or bread, why not mix things up now and give it a try? Your taste buds – and your nose – will thank you.