I had always wanted to make brioche.
Since my student days, wandering the cobbled side streets of Aix-en-Provence, breathing in buttery baked aromas from the brioche stands and bakeries, I had hankered after trying them out.
Back then, brioche was still a foreign world, nigh on exotic in my Surrey hometown, and unaccustomed to gracing the shelves of Sainsbury’s.
For a long time, I didn’t even consider it possible, assuming I would need to have been born French or have some secret magic ingredient. But even after being disabused of such notions and despite being a fairly intrepid baker, I just never quite got around to it.
Until this January. Taking my newly acquired Christmas gift cook book, I flipped to the brioche page and went for the kill.
I had given the ingredients list only the most cursory glance – milk, flour, butter, eggs.
Yup, got those.
It was only when I’d added half the items that I realised perhaps I could have made my maiden voyage into the seas of enriched doughs with half quantities. As I poured in an entire block of melted butter, I gulped in alarm, noting that the next ingredient was practically a whole kilo of flour.
It dawned on me that I was quite possibly making enough brioche to feed the whole of France. Never mind my nostalgia about brioche stands – I could probably set one up!
It was then that a familiar sick feeling crept across my stomach. What have I done? What if this doesn’t work? What a waste! It’s a familiar feeling because I feel it about so many things in life. What if I mess it up? What a waste of precious time, resources, money...
Before I knew it, I’d put on my overthinking shoes and embarked on a full-blown guilt trip into the land of World Hunger and the Wasteful Over-privileged West (of which I, with my kilo of flour, was the chief offender).
However, the mountain of dough wasn’t going away. Nervously, I transferred it to my biggest bowl and left it to “double in size” overnight. I’m not sure if I was disappointed or relieved the next morning to find that it hadn’t.
But because it didn’t, I only had a slight surplus of delicious cinnamon rolls and brioche loaf (no need to set up a street food van in the front garden after all). We breakfasted happily on brioche and all was well.
But that feeling of extravagant risk, that guilty worry about waste... it sums up how I often feel about my ad hoc, freelance working life.
And yet, life is about risks. It’s about gulping slightly at the cost, the investment of time, energy and resources, swallowing the fear of losing face...and trying anyway.
So do it! You may end up with enough brioche to feed France, a dried-up oversweet biscuit or perhaps the perfect in-between result. But if you don’t try, you’ll still be hungry, looking longingly at the glossy picture in your recipe book and wondering about all those possibilities you were too scared to reach for.
As for me, I have made brioche and I have started this blog. Perhaps both will only be enjoyed by a few, but I think I’ll risk that ‘waste’.