Mind over Bat­ter: 75 Recipes for Bak­ing as Therapy

  • Review
By – March 20, 2023

Knead the dough. Mash the bananas. Whip the cream. And so Jack Hazan’s new cook­book guides us through the cadence of con­nec­tion, release, recen­ter­ing, and, of course, through the process of mak­ing deli­cious baked goods. 

A study in the virtues of bak­ing and eat­ing as restora­tive prac­tice, Mind Over Bat­ter is a charmed propo­si­tion that encour­ages read­ers to engage in bak­ing ther­a­py”— which, accord­ing to Haz­an, a licensed psy­chother­a­pist, is a heal­ing process, bro­ken down into bite-size, nour­ish­ing con­tent.” Mak­ing food, he says, is about more than com­bin­ing deli­cious ingre­di­ents. It is about using the rit­u­als of bak­ing to cen­ter one­self, to let go of frus­tra­tion, and to med­i­tate on the joys of sus­tain­ing one­self both phys­i­cal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly. If this seems like a weighty res­o­lu­tion to coax from a one-bowl quick bread, pick up Hazan’s book any­way, and allow him to con­vince you. If you remain uncon­vinced, rest assured that you are now in pos­ses­sion of a chal­lah recipe that, as Haz­an notes through­out the book, is Madonna-approved. 

Mind Over Bat­ter begins with the sto­ry of Hazan’s life and the moments that would lead to his con­cep­tion of bak­ing as ther­a­py. Born with Syr­i­an Jew­ish her­itage, the author reflects on a boy­hood in which he both pushed against and deeply admired his com­mu­ni­ty. He inter­weaves this nar­ra­tive with recipes like cumin-scent­ed ka’ak and Syr­i­an car­rot cake with dates. Read­ers will take delight in his tongue-in-cheek lan­guage and potent warmth. 

In every chap­ter, Haz­an pairs his recipes with a spe­cif­ic goal of his ther­a­py. In Self-Care,” for exam­ple, he offers us a sim­ple and fast mug cake recipe, then urges us to take moments for our­selves each day, no mat­ter how busy we are — even if the moment is just bare­ly long enough to pop a cake in the microwave and sneak a bite. In Mind­ful­ness,” Haz­an encour­ages read­ers to deeply engage in the process of bak­ing. As you knead the dough for mar­bled rye bread­sticks, he writes, check in with your whole body. And so his book rep­re­sents more than fare with flare (although, of course, that is a wel­come perk); it encour­ages us to nour­ish our minds and bodies.

Han­nah Kres­sel is a cur­rent fel­low at the Pardes Insti­tute of Jew­ish Stud­ies in Jerusalem. She holds a Mas­ters in Art His­to­ry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford and a Bach­e­lors in Art His­to­ry and Stu­dio Art from Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty. Her research exam­ines the inter­sec­tion of con­tem­po­rary art, food, and reli­gion. She is an avid bak­er and cook.

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