Baking

Feel stressed? Baking shows are the TV meditation you need

Welcome to your daily meditation. This is a time to reset, refocus, and form the foundation for a weeklong pina colada pavlova craving.

For those who benefit from a visual stimulus, flick for The Great British Bake Off on your nearest Wi-Fi device. Today we’re going to explore the innate peace and dopamine rush of baking shows. Find your center and find out what a dacquoise is.

Inhale, two, three, four. Exhale, two, three, four.

From Nigella Lawson, left, to Claire Hooper on Great Australian Bake Off, the meditative power of baking shows is on tap.

Conflict is the engine of the human experience. From survival (browsing IKEA’s basement on a Saturday with someone you just started dating) to self-improvement (ranking second on the scoreboard during spin); from emotions (seeing your ugly friend cry and resisting the urge to laugh at them) to entertainment (the man in shorts chases the other man in shorts who has the ball; the man without the ball receives the ball; the man with the ball wins), there’s nothing more satisfying than taking on a challenge, whether you’re a participant or a spectator.

The urge to triumph is what keeps us at the top of the food chain. But think of the cost: the energy expended hiding your ugliest habits from your new partner, the pain in your crotch from collapsing a little too hard on the spin bike. Sometimes it is wonderful, even necessary, to avoid our practical nature and enjoy the momentary respite of peace. Get into baking shows.

Please note: the pastry fair and the cooking competition are not the same beast. Their differences aren’t just in the ingredients, but in the tone, format, and how much cortisol they evoke in their viewers.

Cool people baking delicious treats on a sunny afternoon: The Great Australian Bake Off.

Cool people baking delicious treats on a sunny afternoon: The Great Australian Bake Off.Credit:Geoff Magee Photography

Consider the heavy score of the Chefthe sand Nightmares in the kitchen. The drama, lightly scripted to anchor you to the edge of your seat waiting to find out if so-and-so’s bordelaise sauce will diminish over time, if someone else can make an edible birthday cake out of mustard at the old, edamame and deodorant stick. The quarrels between the candidates, the infuriating partiality of a judge. Your pulse races from the safety of your living room. You’re so invested that you only double screen throughout the episode, rather than triple. The suspense rises. The tension tightens. The stakes go up, up, up, then — let up. Your favorite chef wins a six-figure prize and comes face-to-face with a basic pot of rendang meals.

Compare that with the serenity of your Pastry shops, Nigella specials, the strange episode of Jamie Oliver. The color palette is a soothing pastel. The soundtrack: upbeat. The stakes are so low that they have penetrated the earth’s crust. There’s no deathmatch, no rivalry, no sarcastic talking head breaking through the fourth wall. They’re just nice people making lovely treats on a sunny afternoon. You could remove the competition altogether and it wouldn’t change the structure of the show or our enjoyment.