So, I really love baking. Big shock I'm sure. It probably won't count for much, but I actually liked it well before the Bake Off and often used to bake in the summer holidays from school (even though I never did get those scones quite right.)
When I bake, I do it for the enjoyment of the process. Yes I like to eat cakes too, but I don't do it for the end product. Honestly, I find baking fun, therapeutic, satisfying and relaxing. However, when I came to make the pictured cinnamon pecan buns on Saturday, it quickly hit me that I was more than a little out of practice.
Relearning what you love
You see, while I love baking, by the end of my Saturday session I was tired, a little drained and facing the prospect of biting into what I was almost certain would be beautiful-looking-but-rock-hard buns. Why? Because I hadn't baked in ages.
What was once natural to me, like judging the amount of liquid to add to a dough, had receded back to measuring jugs and failed experiments. I'd lost a little instinct. And that made me sad.
Like any hobby, interest or activity - however much you enjoy it - if you haven't done it for a while it's going to be hard and a bit frustrating. And the less you practise, the more it feels like a chore. And that's a real shame considering we're talking about something we do for pleasure.
Prioritising won't help
At first I was frustrated. I'd been really looking forward to getting down to some baking at long last and it turned into a disaster that ate up my entire evening. Humph.
Then I thought, no, you did enjoy doing it, and while the buns aren't exactly overly edible, they have taught you something about a new kind of dough and how your oven bakes. You just need to do it a little more often and it will get better.
Then of course, I leapt into the planning, prioritising and, ultimately, pointless stage. It's no good imposing requirements and demands on yourself for something that's meant to be your downtime. You'll just come to resent it and feel like a failure when you choose to do something else instead.
No. I had a bit of a think, and came up instead with the idea of prominence.
The promise of prominence
With other things going on, baking had slipped from my mind as an obvious diversion. It was no longer a go-to way to while away an hour or two. Getting back into the swing wasn't about scheduling in more baking, it was about making it more obvious and accessible.
Sometimes you need a deadline; a calendar date; a recurring reminder to jog you to do something, get better and avoid procrastination. That's for things you want to get better at with a purpose though. Things that perhaps are harder or at least take more of your energy and concentration, for longer, to show signs of improvement.
Activities that will likely never be your one true passion - your calling or devotion - can afford to be a little less structured. At the same time, it's easy to neglect them, since they aren't part of that big plan or drive. But without them you lose balance, and the things you should do get harder and less rewarding.
So instead of spoiling something that is there to balance focus with frivolity, just take note, and put something in front of you to make that activity more prominent. For me, that's going to be leaving out the beautiful baking book my friend bought me for Christmas, to remind me that trying a recipe is an option when I have some spare time.
And so to bread...
After a long Monday, knowing I still had a blog post to write, I tried out a simple soda bread recipe. I haven't cut into it or tried it yet. So who knows if baking round two has gone any better. But it feels good to have remembered there was something I could do, away from a screen, and without (many) words, that still brings me joy.
And in turn, that little loaf has made these words a little more rewarding to write.