I remember someone telling me that the purpose of meditation was to give us a break from our daily lives. While meditating we are focused on other things, our breath, our body, the present moment. Anything but what has been consuming us and occupying our thoughts. At the end of our meditation time we step back into our lives. But we do so refreshed. We’ve had a break from all our worries, duties and roles. And now we return recharged and the time away has, hopefully, given us a new perspective. A more detached and objective way to see our lives, and with fresh eyes, we can tackle our concerns with new ideas that were hidden from us while we were caught up in the story that was our life! I honestly cannot remember where I picked up this broad definition of meditation, but it’s stuck with me.
That’s what I love about cooking and in particular, baking. My way of being in the world can be very much in my mind and not much happening in the body! My mind can be a hive of activity, sometimes it feels like it’s home to a loud, chaotic, formula 1 race track. You’d never know what’s going in there by watching me, my body goes through the day doing it’s thing and not getting in the mind’s way. Actually it’s learnt to stay out of the mind’s way! And that’s where baking and cooking come into play.
Doing something that is physical and new requires me to focus fully on the activity at hand. My mind tries to gloss over instructions so it can get back to solving the latest drama, but I’ve learnt the more active my mind, the more complex the recipe I need to pick needs to be. I have to concentrate on what I am doing and force myself to take a break from the tapes playing in my head. And when the business and dramas are big, like at Christmas time, doing anything complex is the last thing I want to do! That’s how I new it was time to undertake a challenge. I have been wanting to make a Gingerbread House, but I have been sick with the latest bug the boys brought home and when I saw Gingerbread Christmas Trees I was sold! They looked amazing and somehow not as daunting as the houses, to me.
I made the dough using the recipe below from Gourmet Traveller. I also had five 11-year old boys in the house having a sleepover, friends dropping in and still feeling weak from the bug. The combination wasn’t great. After many hiccups, I took my first batch out of the oven and then dropped them!
At this point my 14-year old decided to step in. My goal was to spend some mother daughter time while the boys were destroying the house. She was reluctant to begin with, but I stepped back fully and other than making the dough and destroying the first batch of stars, she did everything.
She is also an “in her head” sort of person.
So it was great to sit back and watch the meditative process of baking in action.
She was in “flow”.
She had purpose and an incredible sense of achievement at the end of it all.
And while she took pics of her creation to post on facebook and tumblr, I took pics of her to post here.
Remember to take a break from the busy-ness of the season, whatever form your ‘meditation’ takes, take time to do it and you will be rewarded with a renewed sense of perspective, love and joy!
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!
Gingerbread Recipe (as it appears in Gourmet Traveller for their gingerbread house recipe)
700g plain flour
190g each light brown sugar and dark muscovado sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
220g cold butter, cubed
180g golden syrup
1. Process half of each of the flour, sugars, baking powder and spices in a food processor to combine well. Add half the butter, process to combine, then add half the golden syrup and 1 egg and process until mixture comes together (3-4 minutes). Turn onto a work surface, knead until mixture comes together, wrap in plastic wrap and repeat with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate to rest for at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Roll our each piece of gingerbread on a lightly floured surface to 3mm thick. Cut decorative shapes out and place on trays lined with baking paper and bake in batches until darkened around the edges. About 10 minutes. Cool on trays for 5 minutes then cool on wire racks.
Royal Icing Recipe (as it appears in Gourmet Traveller for their gingerbread house recipe)
2 egg whites
450g pure icing sugar
Whisk egg-whites in a bowl, gradually adding icing sugar to the mixture until it is smooth holds a stiff peak. Leave white or colour what ever shade your desire the spoon into piping bags fitted with desired piping tubes.
Pipe icing onto each star in whatever pattern you fancy and we dabbed icing in the middle of each star to stick the tree together.