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.