THE happiness of baking is only real when shared. There is nothing sadder than a stale batch of scones, removed hot and buttery from the oven only to languish on the kitchen counter before they are tossed away.

Home-baked loaves should be torn into as the last dregs of heat ebb from the crust and cookies should be snatched greedily from the baking sheet as soon as they are cool enough to handle.

There are many things in life that can be relished alone, the likes of long baths, good chocolate and quiet evenings to name a few, but the magic and reward of baking multiplies tenfold when shared.

Whether you bake for friends and family or colleagues and neighbours, any home-baker will be familiar with the glow of giving. Even if your batch of muffins are destined for the village fete or school bake sale, there is a satisfaction in providing sustenance and, the case of chocolate brownies, emotional comfort to those in need.

When it’s cold outside my giving spirit is amplified. January and February can be long, sad months marooned in winter and lacking in sunlight. By this time, I’ve usually recovered from my festive sugar binge and can begin cobbling treats together with the aim of lifting a few moods and cracking a couple of smiles.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit to any personal gain from this venture, after all it’s no particular hardship to spend an afternoon sharing freshly baked cake and coffee with familiar faces.

Next month is, for commercial reasons, the month of love. Whether you live a log cabin and candlelit dinner sort of life or you get your safe, cosy feelings from friends and family, there is certainly no harm in sharing a little love.

I can’t think of many better ways to state my affections than presenting something warm and chocolaty.

These melting chocolate cookies (see recipe) are an offering of the deepest sentiments; soft inside with a brownie-like crumb and a toasty, hazelnut chew.

I challenge anyone who bites into one of these not to feel warm and fuzzy inside.