I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but when I’m stressed out, I bake. Sometimes cookies or bread, but more often than not, I bake complex items that take on lives of their own. Dishes with several well-timed steps that take hours to bake, chill, whip and beat into submission. It’s like choosing a geometric theorem over simple addition; it takes every ounce of concentration, so there’s no room in my brain to fret and run my worries over and over like a hamster wheel.
So, when I’m stressed out, I bake. This is why I have a platter of chocolate mousse in my refrigerator, why I have a tiny mountain of scones in Tupperware on my counter, why I have a bowl full of clotted cream on the shelf above the mousses.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: chocolate mousse? That’s not so hard to make. Fold Cool-Whip and meringue into melted chocolate. Voilá. But this assumption is false.
If you know me at all, you know that I did not Google “chocolate mousse recipes” and make a simple one from Cooking Light or Allrecipes. If you know me at all, you know I pulled out my French cookbook (I always bake French pastries when I’m exceptionally frazzled, because they are fantastically complicated and exceptionally delicious – plus, then I can pretend I’m in a Parisian cafe instead of my overly-warm Los Angeles bungalow) and entangled myself in a two hour frenzy of chocolate-infused pastry cream, whipping cream, freshly-shaved chocolate curls and complicated meringue.
I admit it. I’m a bit of a food snob. I can’t help it: I took baking classes, which automatically raises the level of my palate’s expectations. Also, I think the month I spent in France ruined me for life. All these factors work against me when it comes to gustatory preference. I’m just the victim here.
So anyway, I have a fridge full of chocolate mousse. Once I finished the mousse, I took the clotted cream I accidentally made (I whipped the first batch of cream too much, and that is the fascinating science behind clotted cream) and instead of throwing it away, I decided to make scones for breakfast. This was a great idea! I could keep baking, putting off the negative thinking patterns, and also have food other than oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow.
This is how I spent my Friday night; sweating in my poorly-ventilated kitchen, wallpapered in alternating layers of flour, sugar crust and lumps of chocolate pastry cream. This is how I forgot about my broken-down car, my joblessness, bills I cannot pay, houses I cannot afford, a career I still yearn for but can’t have, and a glass of Cabernet I also yearn for but cannot have. Unlike 99.9% of my writing, with baking at least there’s a result on which I can rely.
Take that, universe.