Ahh ... baking.

For many people, getting into a baking project helps them get out of their own head, creating an in-the-moment zone of relaxation. And when the final product is tasty, the satisfaction is even greater.

What home and professional cooks have known for a long time is also the buzz in psychology circles.

“People are really using baking as therapy,” said Sarah Hintze, marketing director for Nielsen-Massey. “Therapists are saying that baking is good as a way to relieve stress — being mindful as a way to relax.”

“There is definitely a zen moment with baking,” said Matt Nielsen, co-owner of his family’s vanilla production plant.

Award-winning Food Network cake baker Chef Marina Sousa also noted how cooking, and baking in particular, acts as de-stressing therapy for many home and professional cooks alike.

“Baking is about nostalgia and family baking memories,” said Sousa, who conducted a baking demonstration at the plant last week. “It’s a zen-happiness thing.”

Because one ingredient often associated with feel-good baking is vanilla, Nielsen-Massey has just launched “Better Your Bake,” an initiative designed to help home cooks get more confidence in the kitchen.

“If you’re going to get that endorphin release, you’re going to have a better experience if you have some proficiency in the kitchen,” said Gardi Wilks, vice president of marketing at Nielsen-Massey.

Online videos and other instructional materials offer cooking tips, techniques and “myth busting” information from how to separate eggs using your fingers to the best way to whisk (side-to-side rather than in a circular motion).

Demonstrating how to make Brown Butter Shortbread cookies, Sousa presented several cooking tips to be showcased during the company’s campaign in coming months. She walked attendees through the process of browning butter and separating eggs and explained that vanilla is best added in the middle of baking recipes so it can bind to fatty ingredients like butter.

Sousa also impressed those already well-acquainted with baking, such as Taste of Home deputy editor James Schend.

“It was great to hear Marina tell people to add the vanilla along with the fat,” he said. “I tried this when I got home. ...The vanilla really shone in the cookies where the vanilla had a chance to bond with the fat and really come forward. I will do this from now on with all my baking.”

“Baking increases happiness, and we want to help people with that,” Hintze said.

For more information about Better Your Bake, visit #BetterYourBake or https://nielsenmassey.com/betteryourbake/.

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