Baking for Stress Relief (and procrastination) by Antonia Aquilante
Baking has been one of my favorite hobbies for as long as I can remember, though it was only when I was in law school and later when I was practicing law that it also began to be a favorite form of stress relief. You can imagine why. Law school was a stressful time and not so much fun at all, though I made some of the best friends I have during those years. (I don’t think I made those friends by bringing plates of cookies and brownies to class, but it could have been a contributing factor…?) I baked all the time, and sometimes at strange times of the day and night. My stand mixer became one of my favorite possessions. I bought cookbooks and regularly looked at baking blogs for new recipe ideas, and then I distributed much of the products of my baking out to friends and classmates and coworkers.
Because baking for me isn’t only about whatever I decided to bake (though I will not deny a fondness for all kinds of baked goods…), it’s also or sometimes even more about clearing my head and calming myself down when things get stressful. There’s something about pulling out my ingredients and measuring each and mixing them together just right that is a soothing experience. And I just love when I put the pan in the oven to bake and the scent of something wonderful fills the apartment. It makes me smile as I go back to my computer to write while I wait for it to finish baking. Because, yes, baking can absolutely also be about procrastination. Scene not working? Having trouble putting words down or getting started? Well, I should just make some muffins, shouldn’t I? Or maybe even mini-cheesecakes? (Don’t answer that.) Sometimes it even helps me figure out what comes next in the story by focusing my mind on something else entirely.
I would love to tell you that every time I bake something, the act of meticulously measuring and mixing ingredients and watching some yummy baked good come together gets my story ideas flowing (I would also love to tell you that every time I try a new recipe it comes together into a perfect yummy baked good too), but sometimes it’s purely stress relief. And, yes, a bit of procrastination. But that can be really necessary too, right? (Please tell me I’m right.)
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen some of my baking tweets and pictures, and you may have noticed that my baking tends to be a bit seasonal. Autumn began and I immediately baked pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, and sooner than I want to think about, I’ll be baking all my family’s Italian Christmas cookie recipes and a few newer ones of my own. If you’d like to join me in some stress-relieving baking, here’s one of my favorite autumn recipes: oatmeal pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. They’re pretty easy to make, and they’re a very yummy cookie that’s perfect for the season.
Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (you can use pumpkin pie spice instead if you prefer)
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup chocolate chips
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, followed by the pumpkin and the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture and the oats until just combined and no streaks of flour remain. Stir in the chocolate chips.
If you have time, refrigerate the dough for 12 to 24 hours, or freeze it for a few hours. Chilling the dough will make for puffier cookies when they’re baked. If you’re going to freeze the dough, separate it into rounded tablespoonfuls before you freeze it, so you can just bake them without defrosting. (It’ll keep frozen for a while. I make batches of different kinds of cookie dough and freeze them, so I can bake a few cookies whenever I need/want to.)
Preheat the oven to 350F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Bake for 11 to 13 minutes. The cookies will be lightly browned at the edges when they’re done. They can dry out if you over bake them, so don’t try to brown them more than that. Allow the cookies to cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then move them to a wire rack to cool completely (or not, if you’re feeling impatient and want warm cookies!).
Makes about two dozen.
If you try them, let me know how they turn out!
Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.
She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.
Other books by Antonia Aquilante
The Dragon’s Devotion