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Mindfulness

The benefits of baking Christmas cookies

This is the time of year when you can bake loads of cookies and nobody finds it awkward. On the contrary, people might even expect you to do it/have done it/will be doing it.

Baking cookies can be rewarding in different ways. Sure, you will be having self-baked cookies, which will always be a benefit. But baking cookies can also be a marvelous chance to get away from your screen, take a short break, and practise some awareness.

For me, baking is definitely part of the Advent season. I enjoy doing it, but it used to have a tendency to turn into weekends of marathon baking, almost on auto-pilot. No fun anymore, really. But it does not need to be like that, at least if you are in the fortunate situation to be able to work from home or from somewhere with a fridge and an oven.

So why not just make it part of your awareness practice during Advent?

First things first: Prepare well

Just make sure you have the basic ingredients around, that is butter, flower, a few eggs, sugar, ground almonds (or hazelnuts, depending on your preference). Maybe confectioners sugar and some lemon juice. Lemon zest is a benefit.

In order to avoid that baking cookies morphs from joy to yet another chore try not to be over-eager. Prepare a smaller amount of dough. Otherwise that big lump of dough will loom in your fridge and give you that nasty look of reproach every time you open the door.

I want to get started!

First, kneading the dough. For me, it’s joyful to work with my hands. Quickly mixing together all the ingredients and getting it to form a nice dough. Give it a try: Use your senses! Smell the lemon, feel the butter. Let your hands do the work. Don’t forget to breathe.
After a little while, your dough will be ready to be wrapped and get some rest in the fridge. Most cookie dough can stay there for a day or two if necessary. But it should get at least one or two hours.
And you can get back to whatever awaits you at your desk.

Cutting and baking

Once you are back from your desk, get some of your dough and a rolling pin and your favorite cookie cutter(s). Put a sheet of pan parchment on your baking sheet and start rolling and cutting. Again, it feels good to allow your senses to do the work. Your brain can busy itself with whatever it needs to work out now.

Be present. Is the dough nice and thin? How does it smell? (I know, you are not supposed to taste, but if you are like me… Well… Delicious!) Place your cookies on your baking sheet and baste with some beaten egg or decorate as you like.

Place your baking sheet in the oven. One other good thing about cookies: They don’t take long to bake, 10 minutes, maybe, and they are done. Make sure they don’t get too dark! Enough time to prepare a nice cup of tea or maybe fill a second sheet with cookies.

Meanwhile everything should just smell deliciously. Close your eyes. Breathe. Smell.
When the cookies are done, let them sit on the baking sheet for a little while, then remove them to let them cool. Try.

Or, get back to work and look forward to your next break… Then, grab a cup of coffee and a couple of cookies. Enjoy!