There is a certain magic on pressing a button, feeling the whir of the food processor, and watching light breadcrumb pastry dough form before you eyes in moments. It’s all the more disappointing therefore when it doesn’t work out. The other day, I watched instead as a pale golden play dough formed in the bowl. I was my own fault – I knew immediately that it had been foolish to throw Lurpak into the mix when I ran out of real butter. But it is my instinct to make do when I am cooking and work it out as I go. Normally pitfalls like this would not throw me in the least but this time it was important that I got it right; I was cooking for my first ever supper club. I would host an evening for 12 family friends, serving 3 courses with all profits going toward my fundraising for Raleigh International.
For a moment I contemplated restarting my dough but for that I would need new ingredients, would spend more money, would take less profit for charity. Instead I threw in some extra flour, pulsed the processor, and hoped for the best. There must be other moments like this where getting it right counted but you couldn’t perfect it. The Great British Bake Off, a UK baking show, sprang to mind. “Would Paul Hollywood be proud of this pastry?” I pondered. So often, the stressed bakers are forced by their time limit, simply to make do. Paul Hollywood’s piercing blue eyes hold their gaze as he judges them. He will comment on their failings. The new series began on Wednesday. In the first episode alone, two bakers came close to tears. Any contemplation of applying for the show were washed away; I could not imagine placing myself under such pressure. My cooking is about throwing in whatever ingredients I find lying around in arbitrary amounts until I hit on something beautiful. My cooking is inspired by a quotation on the back of a sketchbook my grandma gave me many years ago: “The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything”. We seem to be living in a culture of shame. Mistakes mean resignation when they should mean reform. Unless we are encouraged when we make mistakes, we won’t have the motivation to grow and learn from them. It seems wrong.
And how was the tart? The filling was rich and divine. The pastry was the most crumbling, melt-in-the-mouth that I had ever baked. Would Paul have been proud? Who gives a shit? I was proud.