We all have days that just feel off. Maybe you were expecting sun only to wake up to gray skies, or your morning cup of coffee spilled everywhere. Or perhaps you’re carrying something more burdensome — something that makes your heart heavy. We get it. Life isn’t always a box of chocolates.

We’re here to bring you some lightness in the form of recipes that soothe the soul.

Baking can be your therapy; let it be a salve for difficult days and trying times. Kneading becomes meditation. Clear instructions give a sense of order. And that first bite rewards a job well done. Baking brings out the inherent joy within all of us, even on the darkest days. 

A selection of cinnamon scones on a kitchen table, surrounded by mugs of frothy coffee

7 recipes for stressed-out times

We’ve compiled seven recipes that'll allow you to breathe a little deeper and forget the outside world, even if it’s just for a few hours. These are low-stress, high-reward recipes that we turn to again and again. Find your new favorite based on exactly what you’re looking for.

If you find it hard to slow down, make Mom’s Caramels.

I’m guilty of being a busy body. I rush from one thing to the next while making to-do lists and writing blog posts in my head. It’s exhausting.

Sometimes we need an excuse to slow down. To pause. To breathe.

If you need a break from a fast-paced schedule, do yourself a favor and pencil in 2 hours to make Mom’s Caramels.

A block of homemade caramels with sea salt sprinkled on top

Aside from this recipe producing the most lovely, richly flavored, perfectly-textured caramels, you’ll also get 2 hours of peaceful stirring all to yourself. (Tell the kids this is a one-person job.) Tending to a hot pot of bubbling caramel on the stove might not sound dreamy at first — but trust me, it is. Mindfully stirring the caramel, watching it bubble and turn a deep shade of golden brown is relaxing and downright mesmerizing. 

Enjoy your caramel-scented steam facial and let your mind quiet. You deserve this, and you most certainly deserve Mom’s Caramels, too.

If you like working with your hands, make Big Batch Quick Dinner Rolls.

When some people are stressed, they feel antsy. Restless. They wrestle the need to move with the desire to also get things done. 

If this sounds all too familiar, the comforting recipe that's right up your alley is Big Batch Quick Dinner Rolls.

A half-sheet pan filled with golden dinner rolls
This recipe makes a generous batch of dough reminiscent of the soft, tender white bread you might have eaten as a child. 

When it comes to making the recipe, any restless baker should knead this giant pillow of dough by hand: kneading, rocking, turning, folding until it’s beautifully smooth and bouncy. 

Then enjoy another tactile experience: divide the dough into 24 portions. (If the idea of making them all exactly the same — down to gram — is weirdly satisfying, go for it! Alternately, if the thought of measuring out dough on a scale stresses you out, skip it. Make your rolls a variety of sizes.)

Lastly, put your fidgety hands to good use and shape all the rolls. If you’re letting your perfectionist flag fly, preshape the rolls into little dumplings, pulling all the seams towards the center as a first step. Then use a circular motion with your hand cupped over the dough to turn it into a tight little ball, the beautiful final shape.

It truly is relaxing — here's a sneak peek to prove it: How to shape dinner rolls.

Working with this lovely soft dough is therapeutic. Repeating the shaping process (tuck edges, seal seam, turn over, circular motion; repeat) is blissfully simple yet utterly rewarding. 

If you wish life were just a little bit easier, make Instant Gratification Cinnamon Rolls.

The idea of surprising your family with freshly baked cinnamon rolls sounds utopic, doesn’t it? But it can feel like there are a lot of steps (and waiting around for dough to rise) standing in your way. 

Make your vision of a relaxed weekend breakfast, complete with cinnamon rolls and hot cups of coffee reality with our Instant Gratification Cinnamon Rolls recipe.

A batch of Instant-Gratification Cinnamon Buns with a few on plates and a coffee carafe in the background

The secret? There’s no yeast in this dough. Leaveners like baking power or baking soda do all the heavy lifting and give these cinnamon rolls a unique, biscuit-like texture.

While most cinnamon rolls take at least a few hours to prepare, this dreamy breakfast dish can be out of the oven in under an hour. Take a deep breath and let that sink in: not every bake has to be a battle. 

If you like the idea of meditation, make Famous Department Store Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Our largest cookie recipe in terms of yield, our Famous Department Store Chocolate Chip Cookies makes a serious amount of dough. All that deliciousness needs to be scooped and placed on trays before being baked or frozen.

A half sheet pan covered in balls of cookie dough, ready to be frozen

It’s the perfect opportunity to pull out your trusty cookie scoop or favorite spoon. Roll up your sleeves, take a deep breath, and start scooping. Listen to the sound of your spoon as it scrapes the side of the bowl or the click of the scoop as you release the dough onto the tray. Look closely at the beautiful, craggy texture of the dough, studded with chips and chunks.

This is what mindfulness meditation is all about — taking time to appreciate the nuances of daily life that often go overlooked. Notice how you feel after having a few minutes of quiet with just you and the cookie dough. Let the action of scooping dough become the focus of your meditation. Enjoy each scoop. 

A batch of chocolate chip and chunk cookies on a kitchen table with small paper bags for gifting

The best part is the built-in reward for taking time to be mindful: a whole bunch of freshly baked Famous Department Store Chocolate Chip Cookies.

If you like to get cozy with a hot drink and a good book, make Cream Tea Scones.

If your ideal Friday night includes some quiet music or a good book (and not many other people), your spirit recipe just might be Cream Tea Scones.

A pile of Cream Tea Scones on a kitchen table with a glass bottle of cream in the background

These delicate and rich treats come together easily and require only one bowl. Plus, you can personalize your scones by adding whatever mix-ins you please — dried fruit, dark chocolate, toasted nuts, and more. These scones are about you and you alone.

In under a half-hour, you can be hunkered down with a cup of tea and a freshly baked scone. They beg to be enjoyed by a fireplace or at the very least while wearing your favorite fuzzy socks. Use this batch of scones to indulge in the small pleasures of life and truly relish them. 

A cream tea scone on a plate next to a schmear of jam

If you’re looking for something soft, squishy, and familiar, make Pillowy White Bread.

If a loaf of bread could give you a hug, Pillowy White Bread would squeeze you tight. The texture of the interior crumb is tender, light, and of course, pillowy. It's the thing that storebought, sliced white bread dreams about becoming, and baking it for yourself is truly a gift.

It's a delight from the very start: the dough is warm (thanks to the tangzhong starter, which is cooked on the stove), making it pleasant to knead by hand. After it rises, the dough is divided and rolled up in an orderly fashion, before being tucked into a loaf pan in a neat row. (A sense of satisfaction is sure to ensue.)

A loaf of golden brown Pillowy White Bread fresh from the oven

The aroma of fresh bread that comes from the oven will reassure you that baking is indeed the best form of therapy.

A loaf of Japanese Milk Bread cut into slices on a bread board
Treat yourself to a warm slice with a pat of butter on top, or use it to make the best grilled cheese you've ever had.

Extend your bread bliss by using it to make French toast the next morning, guaranteeing it'll be a great day.

If you want something indulgent without having to think, make Quick and Easy Fudge Brownies

Infamous King Arthur blogger and recipe editor, PJ Hamel, seems to run on an endless source of energy. To her peers, she seems to work round the clock. 

You wouldn’t believe my surprise when she told me that sometimes, even she needs to turn off her brain. (Alas, she’s human!) Her go-to form of baking therapy when her brain needs a quiet moment and her heart needs chocolate? Quick and Easy Fudge Brownies.

A batch of brownies cut into squares next to a mixing bowl of brownie batter

Making this simple recipe can easily become a ritual without much effort: add the ingredients all to one bowl and mindlessly mix them together. Let your hands do the work. Bake the brownies until they’re just as fudgy as you like, taking in the smell of chocolate for the 30 minutes or so that the brownies are in the oven. 

The result? An amazing chocolate dessert that feels indulgent but arrives fast and without thinking too much. It’s just what PJ needs after a long week, and it might also do you some good too.

Bake your heart out 

There’s something special about baking that delivers just what you’re looking for. We promise: you can find comfort in the kitchen.

A platter of gluten-free quick and easy fudge brownies
Gluten-free bakers can join in on self-care baking. Use recipes like our Gluten-Free Quick and Easy Fudge Brownies to unwind.

Whether it’s a moment to slow down, the simple pleasure of smelling bread in the oven, or the opportunity to indulge, baking is there for you. And we’re here for you, too. 

What recipes do you bake when you’re looking for a little kitchen therapy? Tell us about your favorite relaxing recipes in the comments, below.

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Kye Ameden
The Author

About Kye Ameden

Kye Ameden grew up in Fairlee, Vermont and has always loved food, farms, and family. She spent her teenage years working by her chef/uncle’s side in an industrial kitchen, cracking hundreds of eggs, slicing cheesecakes into 13 perfect slices, and developing her passion for precision and baking.After...
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