I have suffered for a long time of BAD (Baking Anxiety Disorder). Self-diagnosed.
Baking anxiety disorder (BAD) is a pattern of frequent, constant worry over anything involving actual baking. The main triggers include yeast foremost, but also any flour concoction that must rise with the aid of baking power and/or baking soda. Symptoms include difficulty concentrating on quantities of the triggering products; excessive sweating, palpitations, shortness of breath while preparing to bake; severe worrying over the rising of the baked good; muscle tension while kneading, rolling, or punching dough; sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep) if the item must rise overnight; restlessness when the product has been put in the oven.
Baking anxiety disorder (BAD) is a common condition, not a new and suspect ‘disease’ like restless leg syndrome or fibromyalgia. This is real and I have it. The cause is not known, but both biological and social factors play a role. People with a neurotic personality like mine and those who love to keep on trying, like me, are more prone to BAD. The disorder may start at any time in life, including childhood, with the first failed attempt at baking. Symptoms worsen with repeated failed attempts to bake. Compulsive cooking to avoid direct contact with baking may occur.
Treatment is desirable with the goal of helping the person function well while baking. Among ineffective techniques for curing BAD are good intentions, a solid sense of food, an extensive background in and knowledge of cooking, and an obsessive desire to succeed in baking.
My treatment includes sessions with seasoned bakers like Bob (who cured my scone-making phobia), buying and eating too many brioche loaves from In Season Market, chasing the perfect croissant available for purchase, and deep relaxation complete with visions of the warm yeast-flavored room at the Denver Bread Company. It also includes the pursuit of (very) small baking victories through the completing of BAD-approved recipes that include biscotti, clafouti, or crisps.
The disorder may continue and be difficult to treat, but most patients see great improvement with these small victories in baking and behavioral therapy lowering expectations for success.
Here’s the thing, those who can bake - truly and successfully bake - are a small and gifted percentage of the people who set foot in the kitchen. Some know they have the gift, many take it for granted. A lot of those who think they can bake are just fooling themselves- they don’t suffer from BAD, but rather delusions of actually being capable to bake.
The climax of true talent in baking is reflected in the making of a croissant. The croissant is a glorious pastry that combines art and science into a faultless, ideally sized, flawlessly shaped, unquestionably flaky, impeccably golden brown, unmistakably buttery delight of all senses. Delicate yet scrumptiously laminated layers of butter and flimsy dough come into perfection through constant and careful monitoring of every element surrounding its birth- the flavor of the butter, the temperature of the room, the timing of creating each layer. An impeccable equilibrium of flakiness, crust and body, butter and flour, weight and lightness.
Once you eat this croissant- the perfect croissant- you are doomed to always seek for it, most times in vain. The chagrins of eating mediocre croissants are as harsh as the sin of baking such an item. I have not found a croissant that matches the description above in the greater Denver metro area. Some come close, some believe they got it, most fail miserably. Making croissants is a crazy and beautiful adventure, one someone with BAD is not advised to embark in, but it is certainly the supreme measure of baking skills.
The treatment for BAD specifically prohibits engaging in behaviors that challenge the baking skills to the max because failure damages any progress. It is however recommended that small steps in baking be taken. I took mine with this Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp, a recipe by Teri Rippeto of Potager included in my favorite cookbook, Jen’s creation, the Colorado Organic Cookbook.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp, a Potager recipe
Topping: 1 cup organic flour; 1 cup oats; 1 1/2 cups brown sugar; 1 cup sliced almonds; 1 lbs butter; 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes crumbled with your hands into smaller pieces.
Fruit filling: 5 cups rhubarb cut into ¾ inch chunks; 5 cups strawberries stemmed, cut in half to match the size of the rhubarb pieces; 1/2 cup cornstarch; 2 cups sugar.
Mix dry ingredients together in a food processor or mixer equipped with a whisk. Add the cubed butter while your machine is still running (on a low speed in the mixer). Pulse until the butter is incorporated the size of peas. Blend the coconut in with your hands.
The mixture should be crumbly, which is pretty appropriate when you think you are make… a crumble.
Preheat oven to 375F. Toss the ingredients together.
Butter up a 9 inch square baking dish. Add the fruit to the baking dish then top with the crisp mixture as evenly as possible, a generous 1/2 inch layer will likely result. To avoid the fruit bubbling up out straight into your oven, place the baking dish on a cookie sheet that will be much easier to clean.
Bake for 45 minutes. The topping should be golden brown and the fruit should be bubbling.
The result will amaze you- flavorful from the coconut, crunchy from the almonds, sour from the rhubarb and sweet from that deadly mixture of strawberries and brown sugar. Oh, and let’s not forget the butter!
Serve warm with ice or without! And enjoy your first step of the BAD treatment, if you have it that is.
Photography by Jennifer Olson.