Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Therapy or Torture?

I'm writing this entry while waiting for my brother to finish making a mess in the kitchen; he's making risotto, I think, but I want to get in there to make a couple of things myself. This is because I decided before Christmas that I was going to indulge in some baking experimentation. But was that really such a good idea...?

I'm a lousy cook. I generally avoid doing anything much cooking-wise because frankly, I suck at it. My baking is generally more palatable, but it's not really saying much. However, I go through phases of wanting to bake things. Generally it's just to assure myself that I can, which isn't always the case (obviously). But between Gordon Ramsay, certain friends and a blog entry about brioche-pastry quail sausage rolls, I ended up with some recipes I really wanted to try. And the fact that a couple of them were leavened bread was just the icing on the dare; I've never made leavened bread in my life. I've exploded yeast in high school chemistry experiments, sure, but bread? Seemed a bit practical for my airhead mind.

So, yesterday I got up early and started on a long learning curve of making brioche. That probably strikes most people as an odd first choice for bread-making, but what can I say, I like French bread and I'm an idiot. My main problem was the yeast, in that it's supposedly summer here but it's freezing. So, the three rises of the dough proved a fascinating experiment in finding conditions the yeast liked enough to grow in (in the end, they got stuck in a vaguely warmed oven before we were all happy about the situation). But I baked the brioche -- Lazy Man's Brioche, if you're wondering; I think you could also cheerfully refer to it as Brioche For Dummies, because I am a really dummy at this -- and...well. I think the fact that the failboat sailed on the first rise meant it was a bit denser than intended, but it smelled wonderful. In fact, it reminded me of buying pain au chocolat early on my first morning in Paris, and eating it down by the Seine. So, I count it as a victory? Ha. My brother was forced to try some for me, and he pronounced it "Good." As he's a man of few words, I suppose I ought to assume this was some sort of compliment.

So, with semi-successful brioche under my belt, I set about preparing the cinnamon rolls. With only one rise of the dough to contend with, I ended up with some very happy rolls proving in the oven by early evening. And then I bunged them in the fridge overnight and got up ridiculously early this morning to bake them. I then glazed then and proudly took them to work, which...was a bit of a disappointment in that the drama of opening with a major computer problem meant no-one was much interested in them while they were warm and fresh out of the oven. However, I was told they were delicious, and after some dubious looks the brioche also ended up mostly eaten. So...victory?

It's just odd. I have some idea of what they tasted like; I ate a tiny sliver of brioche from what stuck to the pan (mostly as I was concerned about my salt accident), and I also tried a tiny sliver of cinnamon roll. And I mean tiny. Still, deviation, I know. It wasn't that I wanted to eat them, mind you; I was testing them to make sure they didn't taste bullshit. But it's interesting because while I was musing aloud about going to Briscoes in the weekend sales to look for some interesting cake or bread pans, she said: "God, it's like you're torturing yourself!" And I looked at her and protested: "No, it's my therapy!" But it?

I just don't know, really. I mean, this all got started because of my bullshit excuse for self-esteem; I dare myself to do things just to prove I can. Obviously this was me getting wound up about making leavened bread. I made pavlova for the first time about ten years ago for a similar reason; I just wanted to prove that I could. (Side note: I am planning on making another one to prove that I still can; if that's not messed up, I don't know what is!) But then...I can't eat this stuff. And aside from having to make sure it's not bitter, I don't really want to eat these things. I mean, it would be nice. But I don't have to shove them in my gob just because I made them. So, in a way, it's teaching myself to be more responsible around food. I mean, in the second or third week of this diet I got so angry about my mother and brother leaving a huge amount of cake on the bench for five days and then leaving town for the weekend without disposing of it, that I took it all outside and threw it at the birds in a fit of pique. I did something similar this morning when I threw the leftover trifle my brother was too lazy to get rid of down the garbage disposal. I just...I don't need to eat these things.

But for some reason I want other people to.

I don't know. In a way it is torturous because much as I don't need to eat these things, there is always that vague yearning. It's an emotional thing, though. And I think it's something I need to become accustomed to. Wanting something, and not getting it. I am a creature accustomed to instant gratification -- but if I am ever going to get thin and stay that way, I need to learn to say no. And in that way, my baking experiments are my therapy. And on that note, I am going to now go downstairs and make coconut chocolate slice as it has no flour and I feel guilty because my gluten-intolerant workmate couldn't eat the brioche or rolls today. I also seem to have decided that making scones would be a laugh. Again, it's because I've never made them and I've convinced myself that I need to.

...yes, I am going through some weird things right now. But I have been back on the diet since Boxing Day and although there have been these tiny slip-ups, I am muddling along. I suppose the truth will out on Sunday's scales, but in the end...I deviated on Christmas Day because I wanted to. And I am tired of feeling guilty about food. I want to learn to live with it. So, watch me learn.

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