I have a confession to make: I am not actually naturally a great baker.
I’m not patient or particularly careful when I cook. I tend to improvise instead of sticking with a plan. And I hate, hate, hate reading and following instructions.
Seriously, I was a party pariah in the late 90s because I decided Cranium, which was all the rage at the time, had Too Many Rules.
This is also partly why it took me so long to learn to drive, but I digress…
All of these personality traits might be considered personality flaws, but for the most part, I have decided to embrace them, and as a result, I have not historically been very successful at baking.
That being the case, it is sort of mind blowing how much time I’ve spent baking recently, and how much I’ve enjoyed it.
The day I lost my job, I stayed up all night. I couldn’t sleep with all of the various financial scenarios and “I wish I’d said”-type thoughts running through my head. Work has been so much a part of how I define myself for so long, and this job – the one I took a big risk and a big pay cut for, the one that I thought would be an amazing learning experience, the one that was supposed to be all about work/life balance – had been a complete disaster almost from day one. I was regretting not just the layoff but the hours I put in round the clock, the effort I made in good faith, and the complete BS I convinced myself to swallow in order to try to make a terrible situation work.
I was, in short, Freaking Out and feeling pretty spectacularly useless. I needed a project, something accomplish-able but challenging, or I was going to sink into some serious wallowing.
I’m a big fan of the musical Waitress, which is about a woman who bakes pies that express her feelings. (Um, that is a terrible summary of a great show – please dig deeper if you’re interested!) So, I thought I would bake a cake in honor of my layoff.
Around 3:30am the following morning, I found myself on Pinterest, where I stumbled on a cake that looked like a big cake donut with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles. That’s Ella’s favorite donut, and by the time she was up the next morning, I had the ingredients ready to go.
I spent my first jobless morning making a donut cake with my daughter, and it was awesome.
So I’ve kept it up. When you’re home all day and most of your duties are kid-related, it can be hard to quantify just what you’ve accomplished.
But with baking, I can point to the thing I made that day and know for sure I did it. It’s incredibly comforting, and I think I’m getting better at it, too.
This is basically why it seemed like a good idea to designate today “Dough Day,” and to spend eight or so hours making dough for next weekend’s open house.
Guys. It was a great day.
I queued up some recordings of old voice lessons so I could sing while I worked. I’m getting ready for an audition in a couple of weeks, and I find it much easier to vocalize while I’m moving around. Plus, Ella wasn’t home to tell me, “Too loud, mumma!”
And then I whipped up all of the dough I need for four flatbreads, two tarts, a big batch of hand pies, and a few dozen fall-spiced sugar cookies. It’s all there, lined up neatly in my freezer, so I can just thaw and roll it out when I need it. It’ll take the pressure off next week, and in the meantime, it’s so satisfying to see it all bagged and labeled. It’s the little things, really.
Thank you, God, for the little things: the smell of pizza dough rising, the taste of sugar and butter creamed until fluffy, the texture of pate brisee just before you add the water to make it all come together. Thank you for a day spent making things. And thank you for my husband, who always helps with the dishes.