Oh my word, did I get a shock the other morning! We were given a surprise assessment and had to make fruit tarts, apple pies, favourite biscuits, lemon merangues and quiches. If I had known beforehand I would have practiced (and practiced) and probably stayed up late worrying about it. But there’s something to be said for being put on the spot!
I found out a whole lot of things about baking (and myself) in those few hours.
Firstly, working under pressure is a blessing in disguise. It short-circuits your inner critic and allows you to let go and trust yourself completely (there’s no time for second guessing and there’s no calling a friend). Secondly, you can often do so much more than you think you can and when you prove this to yourself it’s a huge confidence booster. Thirdly, time flies when you’re fully engaged – you’re nowhere else but in the moment which brings about a sense of calm.
Finally, I realized that baking isn’t (always) as scientific as it’s made out to be – mistakes don’t (always) lead to flops and there is space for experimentation. Hooray for that. I put the short pastry’s water into the sweet pastry dough… oh horror of horrors… it became sticky and soft and GOOEY which sent me into a 5 second panic. I just didn’t have the time to worry about it so I threw in a whole lot more flour and put it into the freezer. And it came out…um, rather well.
I finished later than most because I’d never made a meringue before… and HAD to call a friend. So when Chef Gretel did my crit, her words ‘very good, very good’ were music to my hip hop ears.