Today I got in touch with my fear of screwing up – otherwise known as anxiety. Why, you may ask? Am I working on a huge project for a difficult client?
Well. no – I was baking a German Christmas stollen. Now this may not seem like a big deal, but this is my first attempt at baking one from scratch. When I was a child my grandmother and then my mother baked these sweet Christmas breads. On occasion, we would make a trip to the German bakery and buy one. Truthfully, I’m really not all that fond of stollen. I mean, if you’re going to bake bread, why make it sweet? And at Christmas time, my theory was always to load up on the really good stuff: cookies and chocolate, for instance – why fill your stomach with bread when you can eat butter cookies dipped in dark chocolate?
But this year, I am doing Christmas for the first time in ages and I admit that I’m rather excited – so, I decided to revive old traditions, and that involves stollen. So I looked at a dozen recipes and combined a few to approximate what I remember as our family’s stollen. I’m not sure if it ever involved cognac, but I thought I really ought to add a touch of my own as well.
Now, seeing as Simon has never eaten stollen, I naturally want it to be the best ever and perfectly perfect and delicious and awesome. In other words, I am setting myself up for anxiety.
I got to work first thing this morning – these yeast cakes take time!
First, I worried that the cardamon I was using wasn’t fresh enough. then I worried that the yeast wasn’t viable enough. And had I kneaded the dough as thoroughly as I should? Was it rising enough?
Once it was in the oven, I worried about the accuracy of the heat (not very). And finally, when I peeked in, akkk! My stollen had risen to about twice the size it “should” be. Oh well, so it’s a really large stollen! But is it well and truly cooked? Is it too moist? Too dry? Is it any good at all?
Will Simon take a test bite and spit it out? Worse, will he put on a brave face and say it’s just F.I.N.E.
Yes, I know that worrying about a bread is the height of ridiculousness – I am very conscious of this. I mean, it’s only a loaf of bread! So, to clear out my head, I walked in the back 40 during a gorgeous break in the weather and took my camera with me and got thoroughly grounded.
Sometimes I think I have utterly lost my mind. But I’m human – painfully human. I want to please – I want to give wonderful gifts. I don’t ever want to disappoint. And sometimes I will disappoint – myself and others. It’s what we call life.
And I always have the mountains and forests to bring me back to myself and what is truly important.