I had a stress dream last night. The finer details elude me, but I know that I was trying to escape from something/somewhere/someone. This may be attributable to all the Walking Dead I’ve been watching lately, or the impending job interviews on the horizon. Either way, it’s not a great way to get your nightly rest.
Breakfast and a shower are sometimes all it takes to set things right. Not today. Today called for more intense therapy.
Baking for me is kind of a double-edged sword. I should mention that I have zero natural flair for cooking. I have no sense of how long to cook things, which flavours will go together (although this is improving with time), and the combination/ratio of ingredients required to ‘just wing’ a dish. I like recipes. No, that’s not true. I love recipes. I love that recipes are freely available on the internet. I love that I can type ‘paleo desserts’ (the diet name that covers all of my intolerances, despite my not actually being paleo) into Google, and get pages upon pages of delicious and bizarre creations to drool over.
I really enjoy baking. When it works. When it doesn’t work, and I have rock-hard pancakes, soggy brownies, or wrong-tasting raw chocolate, it’s not good to be around me. There are knives in the kitchen, and you know…
The funny thing is that my failures never put me off. I just resolve to find a better recipe, to trust my gut (taste-buds) more, and get back on that horse.
The real therapy comes in the final stages, where your ingredients have met in the bowl, and you pour that delicious goop into a tray/tin/mould and watch it become something else in the oven (or fridge – the raw stuff inspires the same kind of awe despite the lack of viewing window). It’s out of my hands at that stage, and all I can do is trust that the recipe is a winner, that my oven is consistent, and that I remember to set the timer.
Part two of the baking therapy (and this is the part that actually kind of feeds into my obsessive nature and probably isn’t therapy at all) is the clean-up. This is what oven time is for, people. Sure, you’re going to want to spend at least five minutes staring into the oven, enjoying/hating the waves of heat, and wondering if it’s possible to speed this shit up in any way. What you should be doing instead is putting away all the ingredients, washing up the mixing bowl and measuring equipment, and wiping the benches until they sparkle. There’s something satisfying about a clean kitchen. Especially when you pull that baked treat out of the oven. You do not want to place that beauty to cool next to an explosion of flour and a pile of dishes, do you? (If yes, you’re a monster, and you don’t deserve baked-goods-babies.)
Part three is the hardest part: waiting for that sucker to cool. Since you’ve already cleaned the kitchen, you deserve some relaxing time. Of course, there’s nothing relaxing about resisting the scent of baked goods wafting through your house. You’ll be telling yourself that third degree burns are worth it to experience the flavour just five minutes earlier.
Part four is bittersweet. Sometimes your baked goods are also bittersweet; this is a success. Mmmm bittersweet. But I digress. The final stage of the therapy is the most nerve-wracking. You’re finally going to taste the thing that occupied the last hour (usually more) of your time. Will it be worth it? Will your baking dreams be validated? Did you use enough sweetener? The first cut is the deepest. Or, like, the most important. This usually determines the inner texture of a baked good, and whether it cooked all the way through. It’s like on Masterchef, except there’s no irritating ad break, and the only fat judge in your kitchen is you. (Not that you’re fat, but when it comes to food it’s surprising that you’re not enormous.) A failure is disappointing. It leaves you wondering where you went wrong, and who the hell is going to want to eat weird-tasting chocolate sludge. (If you have a brother, that one’s not so hard to answer.) A failure makes you hungry, not only for better-tasting goods, but also for redemption. You will try this again, and you will succeed! Yeah, cook power!
A success? Well… Have you ever made love to an angel on top of a mountain while Elton John plays Your Song on a chocolate-coated piano? I haven’t either. But I imagine the two are similar. Baking successes are those therapy sessions where you walk out smiling and fist pump the air like you’re in a romantic comedy. “I think I’m gonna be alllllll right, Doc,” you tell your bemused therapist through a mouthful of molten chocolate (your therapist in this case being your oven).
Today’s therapy was sweet potato brownies from Eat Drink Paleo (http://eatdrinkpaleo.com.au/chocolate-brownies-that-blew-me-away/). And they are good. See? I already took a bite. (Excuse the terrible photography. Not so pro at food blogging. I was going to stack them on a plate all artistic-like, but I don’t want to wash a plate.)
If you now feel like some baking therapy, I would encourage you to get onto this. Brownies have double therapy points because, well, brownies. And these ones are healthy, too.
(If you’re interested, I subbed coconut oil for the olive oil, only used a tsp of baking powder and half a tsp of baking soda, and just over half a cup of raw cacao – tasting after each quarter cup. Cue bittersweet, fluffy brownies. Look at me, trusting my gut over here.)
Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go “clean” the brownie pan.