Wishful Baking Syndrome

I suffer from WBS. Am I alone?

I rashly promise that I will bake all manner of things. I state my intentions on the great forums I participate in. Then life comes along and something happens and I forget that promise, it slips gently from a definite to a ‘later today’ to a ‘maybe tonight’ to an ‘OK, tomorrow then’. From there it proceeds in a straight line to ‘the middle of the week’. Sometimes it skips all those and is lodged next to someone’s birthday, or a visit somewhere.

In the meantime the cook books pile up in the kitchen, the print-outs from my friends’ blogs, the writers I love and read in the daily papers whose recipes I carefully save. My wishful intentions stacked like planes waiting to get into Heathrow.

Sometimes it’s a miracle that anything gets baked at all. And seems like a dream. Did I really make panettone last year? Roll out baguettes and lift their fragile little bodies from couche to peel? Surely that wasn’t me who made an apricot kugelhopf? The great advantage of being a professional baker must be that you really get to practise and hone your craft; your hands eventually being able to read the dough and understand by feel and aroma just what is going on; whether to leave the dough a little longer to rest, to move it somewhere warmer or cooler, how to flick flour in the lightest of feathery sprays over the work surface…

There are no short cuts, reading and looking and observing will get you so far, but practice is all. It took me 22 hours of bashing away at a keyboard in an echoey room many years ago to be able to type without looking at the keyboard. I wonder how many hours it takes to make a baker?

24 thoughts on “Wishful Baking Syndrome

  1. Deeba @ PAB

    I’ve been bitten by the bug too… WBS is part of me too! Yes, indeed, practice is all it takes. I still need to look at the keyboard while I type.

  2. GillthePainter

    I love the snowflakes falling, Joanna.

    Never mind forgetting the things I haven’t baked, I was reminded in the week of a sourdough bread I would have sworn I’d never made before.
    But I had.

    We can only do our best, and remember – we can’t eat it all anyway, so some of our intentions HAVE to fall by the wayside.

  3. Tutak

    Your blog is snowing! How did you do that? My baking challenge yesterday was a cake suitable for children who don’t like chocolate, icing or jam. Weird infants. And related to us, so almost unbelievable. Made a lemon cake (from a Baker and Spice recipe) with a tiny bit of lemon icing, just enough to stick some jellied diamonds on. Big success, thank god. And by the way, my friend Liz (who shot my autism doc and lives in Bristol), has become one of your fans and is now baking bread at home. Must introduce you one of these days….xxx

  4. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    Hi Deeba, welcome back ! What’s on your list of wishful baking these days?

    Gill, back from London? Did you have a good time? You’re so right we can’t eat it all, but we can give it away….

    Morning Tutak! The snow it falls on the WordPress blogs of the world….though you are allowed to switch it off. Lemon cake sounds excellent! Would love to meet Liz :)

  5. heidiannie

    I am a semi-professional baker- and- since I bake by orders, only get to make what other’s are hankering after. So I can make up bread animals, but don’t get to play with other forms and styles that much.
    I have wish lists- they are mainly about crusty breads – I just can’t eat all that I want to make and my husband thinks I should be happy making his oatmeal cookies all the time.
    My husband really only likes white bread with a buttery soft crust.
    And typing? This is the best I’ve ever been- and I am so slow that I get out of sync if I’m trying to “chat” – end up with atrocious spelling errors and start laughing so hard I can’t keep up my end of the “conversation”.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Some things are really boring to learn and typing is one of them, but it has been very useful over the years so I consider those 22 hours well spent. I bet there are things your hand and brain co-ordinate to do in the same way, I like the flow feeling and the fact that I type faster than I write by hand is also a deciding factor in how I feel about it. I am a messy writer being a leftie ;)

  6. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Darling, this is one of the reasons why we blog! So that when we ask ourselves, “Was it really me who baked that loaf, did I really make that kugelhopf last year?” we can look back on our blogs and say, “YES!”. :)

    As for the hours spent becoming a decent baker – I know this is idealistic of me, but I get like that at this time of year – those are hours of pure joy! :)

  7. cityhippyfarmgirl

    I think I have a permanent case of wishful baking syndrome at the moment. I would love to have the time to dedicate to really, I mean really perfecting something. Time to completely read up, be shown, practise and then nail it. However time is not my friend, and slap and dash cooking is about all I can muster at the moment…but one day, one day… Baking is determined by how long it’s going to cut in to my day, so unfortunately those seriously beautiful pannetones you have there gracing your page will have to wait. (is the last picture the kugelhopf? Looks stunning.)
    …and I still can’t type despite doing a typing course many moons ago.

  8. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    I have this urge to become incredibly philosophical in reply to all your lovely comments, and I have edited this reply about three times now. So as I can’t quite figure out what I want to say back, I’ll just say thanks for now. Bless you all :)

  9. spiceandmore

    Oh my goodness…did you bake those incredibly impressive looking loaves in the oven…and that pannetone?!! Wow!
    See when I read your blog I think you are so creative…always experimenting with different loaves. And I feel like I am in a total rut with what I bake and cook.
    If we baked and cooked all that we wanted to, we would need much larger chairs to sit on as a standard size would not fit anymore, yes?
    Speaking of things we want to bake…should I search your blog for that pannetone recipe? :)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Yes, my Wallace & Gromit high rise toast loaves, hilarious aren’t they? I thought the answer might be to go and work/train as a baker, but I’m too old and lazy now to do those all nighters and early mornings. So I will just follow the ‘middle way’ as for my Tai Chi practice. Focus on the here and now. And now, is sweep snow, de ice car and walk dogs :)

      The other cakes are pre-blog, from last Christmas. The panettone recipe isn’t on there, and it’s not mine, it comes from Susan at Wild Yeast. It’s a marathon performance to make it and there are slightly easier versions around, though I haven’t tried them, only this one. Got to dash but will add some helpful links later….

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Well, it was a bit tongue in cheek to start with I must admit. I was feeling guilty about not getting in there with the Christmas baking stuff, so thought about it a little, and scribbled down this post, but it’s only a little frou-frou blog post, who wants to reveal their soul on a blog after all? x Joanna

  10. Anet

    Ah, yes, WBS, and now that the holidaze is coming I want to make all those beautiful pastries. Wishful intentions aside, my list for the next few weeks is: stollen full of almonds and fruits, cranberry quick bread with orange zest, cinnamon raisin loaf bread for toast, ciabatta for those long stewing soups, and a few cookies (they are my downfall – my weigh will rise as my will power slides!)
    I wish for falling snow all winter long.

  11. Choclette

    Joanna, you are a baker and a great one at that. I’m sure even professional baker’s have their never quite get around to wish list. I most certainly suffer from the syndrome. It’s a bit like parties – I’m always planning those too and what I’ll cook up. Haven’t had one of those for at least three years!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Choclette, I’ve just been reading a lovely cakebook sent to me by Minadott, full of beautiful cupcakes and chocolatey things and muffin variations and icing suggestions. I swear I’ve just put on a kilo reading the book. I’ve spread some of my sourdough starter out on parchment to dry and then I will crumble it up and put it in an airtight box in the freezer. It takes a while to get it going again but it does work if something happens to the starter. That’s as close as I got to bread today. Trouble is the freezer is full of all sorts of things, from seville oranges to blackberries to soups and crumbled up sponge cake and chicken stocks, bread fills the freezer really fast so I try not to bake too much unless I know it has a home to go to these days.

      1. firebeard

        Thats a relief, I am just starting to make plans for next year. I am heading up north for Christmas and the new year. I need to find a good cake idea for Milly’s birthday. Last year it was a Neapolitan heart, the three colours of sponge baked in heart shaped sandwich tins then covered in lashings of white butter icing.

        1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

          What about the challenge of a croque en bouche? I’ve always wanted to have/make one of those… or have you done one of those already? Or a kransekake? Towers of cake, Building blocks. A cake that looks like a pizza…. Or a good old fashioned black forest cake – I still miss those, when they were good they were outrageously delicious….. Whatever you decide I am sure it will be fab!

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