Self doubt, self confidence, resilience and persistence - if I can bake a brioche, I can do anything, I reckon!

As I was reaching the last legs of book three in my vampire series I realised a number of things. One was that I really wanted brioche - hence this post! Two was that my series was probably not going to be a trilogy, unless I was ready to have book three go beyond the thousand page count. Three was that I had a few chapters that really belonged in book two, instead of book three. It was a number of problems that needed tackling with, urgently. I baked the brioche, for starters. Then I sat down to eat it and analyse book three and all that was hinted at during book two and wasn't even being broached on book three. Then I made a decision. There was going to be a book four. There is going to be a book four. One that answers all those questions that rose up in book two. And so, book three had to change, and things at to be taken out from there and added to book two.

Seeing that my son was on a school break for the grand total of five days - and husband for four days as well - I knew there would be no writing done. I need silence so I can write. I need to be mostly on my own to write. Not for reading and revising, no. That I can do at will. So I knew I was going to spend all my free time during those five days doing an intense re-read and revision of book two so I could better place those chapters I felt belonged there. I went at it with gusto and managed to have the first edit complete in no time. Tweaked the long sentences, cut off the excess adverbs, replaced expressions and words, corrected grammatical errors. That was the easy part. The not so easy was the re-reading and revising of the whole narrative. But I plowed at it, and found the perfect spots for those chapters, and came out with a layout for the narrative that I was happy with. Added one final chapter that hadn't been written yet and jotted down The End with a huge sigh. And felt I had done a good job there. Felt elated with the story and the writing.

I came away from that feeling I had achieved something good, it was well written, it was a great story, it was compelling and imaginative and would make readers want to keep at it, curious for the outcome. I felt the characters were well thought of and had depth to them, were relatable and passionate, the kind of characters readers want to root for or want to hate. I felt really good about it, thought it almost ready for publishing. I even patted myself on the back for my good work. But then enter night and the high of having finished another novel disappears with sleep. I woke up next day feeling tired, depleted. Emotionally and physically. Writing does that to me, finishing up a novel does that to me. I feel like I invested so much of myself into it that once it's over, it's like I'm one of those balloons rapidly loosing air. And the doubts start to creep in.

I began second guessing myself: had I edited enough? Sure, there had been a few darlings nipped at the bud, but were they enough? Was it really good writing? Were the characters all that well constructed? Would audiences like it? Would anyone even buy it, let alone read it? I felt as if all my work was a load of crap, honestly. Self doubt always enters the scene whenever I finish something, be it a blog post, editing pictures or writing a novel. I looked at all my work and found it lacking, lacking terribly. Suddenly, my books were really bad, over emotional and filled with examples of lousy writing, the characters shallow and predictable, the story absurd and uninteresting. My blog was even worse. The recipes were bad, food that was unnapetising and frankly sad; the styling a joke, the photos terrible. I felt like the biggest fraud ever, one who had no right to share the shoddy work she did. And then, someone congratulated me on my work.

When someone who's art you admire and who's work has been an inspiration to you comes out publicly and praises y«what you do, it's a big surprise. And a good one, at that! Your mindset shifts, and you analyse what you do differently. Suddenly, you begin to actually believe in yourself a little bit more, even though your mind keeps telling you it's just platitudes of someone being polite. But you are looking at your art, your work in a new light now, and suddenly you don't want to give up anymore. I'm not very used to praise. I'm not very used to having people come out and say wow, that's one cool shit you did there. I'm not used to having people encouraging me and my dreams, my work. I'm mostly used to being ignored - I have felt invisible most of my life, it's a fact, I have felt invisible out there in the world, voiceless, faceless, non existant. I'm sure Freud and Jung would be happy to explain why, but they both kicked it a long time ago, so we'll leave at this. Whenever I get words of praise and encouragement for my work, whenever someone says they really like what I do, I'm always surprised. And tend to not really believe, but I always appreciate the comment.

So the praise did something good, yeah, getting me into a state of mind of perseverance and resilience. I was once told I was very resilient, I don't think I am. I always end up persevering, because, quite frankly, what else am I going to do? Besides being a full time mom and a homemaker, there is nothing out there for me but blogging and writing. It's the only two things, career and professionally wise, that get me out of bed in the morning. It's the only two things that I feel I wanna do, that put a smile on my face and speed up my heart rate. Work related, these are the only things that make me happy. What was I gonna do if I gave them up? So, I always end up back in the frame of mind where I know I'm gonna still do this, no matter how much of a fraud I feel I am. Even when I go and pinch a beautiful recipe from one of my favourite blogs and end up with something looking like this. Patricia's brioches look far better than mine, I grant you, and yet, I really loved cooking this one. The taste is deslicious, the texture heavenly. Thanks to Ana's spice mix she sent me from Sweden, the brioche was even better. My son was delirious with it, couldn't stop eating. If you toast it, lather it with butter and then add honey, you're in for a treat.

So here goes, Patricia's recipe for brioche that I tweaked just a tad. by adding spices. I baked only half the recipe, but feel free to cook the whole lot, the more the better, I reckon!!

  • 500 gr strong bread flour
  • 6 eggs (medium sized)
  • 80 gr sugar (light muscovado)
  • 9 gr salt
  • 20 gr fresh yeast
  • 220 gr unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk + dash of milk for brushing dough
On a stand up mixer with the hook implement, place the flour, the sugar and the salt into the bowl. Mix together, using the lowest speed, and add, little by little, the eggs beaten with the vanilla extract. Now add the yeast, breaking it up with your fingers and knead at medium speed, until the dough starts coming loose from the sides of the bowl. It should take 10 to 15 minutes. Add the butter little by little and keep kneading until it's well incorporated into the rest of the dough. This will take about 20 minutes, and by then the dough should be smooth and silky. When the dough starts to loosen from the side of the bowl again, roll it into a bowl and transfer it into another bowl, covering with cling film. Allow to rest at room temperature until it doubles in size or for an hour. After that time, take the air out of the dough and form into another ball. Place it back in the bowl, cover again with cling film and let it rest overnight inside the fridge, or at least for three hours. Once that amount of time has elapsed, take the air out of the dough again and divide it into two equal parts. Butter the tins you're planning to use, if individual ones, place a ball of dough inside it, if like me, you go for a rounded or loaf tin, divide the dough into small balls and place them in the tin, packing them up together so as to leave no space at all between them. Pack them real tight. Brush with the yolk and milk and cover, allowing the dough to rest and rise in a dark and warm place - I always put it inside a cupboard. Let it sit for a couple of hours. Turn on your oven at 180ยบ, once that time has elapsed, and bring out your tin. Uncover the dough and brush once more with eggwash. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, keeping an eye on the brioche. If at mid baking you find that it's becoming a bit too dark on top, either cover it with baking parchment or turn the oven on the underside cooking only, if you have one of those ovens that allow for it. Mine does, but I always forget to use it. Don't be me, please. Once the brioche is baked just do your best letting it cool enough time so you can dig in. It's hard business.