Whenever I am feeling a little bit sad, stressed or worried, I bake. I find the process incredibly therapeutic, not to mention that there will be something delicious at the end of it to beat the blues.
But with my recent frame of mind, I knew the usual mindless batch of cupcakes simply wouldn’t be good enough. You see, I seem to have hurtled headfirst into a quarter-life crisis. Before now, I never really believed that such a thing existed. Two years ago, in the summer I turned 22, I thought I had it all figured out. I had just graduated from university with a languages degree and had been accepted onto a year-long postgrad course to become a teacher. I was about to move in with my boyfriend of almost three years. My life was pretty damn near perfect.
But then everything unravelled. I broke up with my boyfriend, and just a few weeks into my teaching course, I got ill. I had to stop and move back in with my parents. I felt like my life was in freefall. But I used the time to write; I started a travel blog and when I was better, I went off to South America for four months. I did more in that year than I ever dreamed I could.
When I came back, I completed my teaching course – working all hours of the day and night to get through it – and I started this blog, yet another thing I would have never predicted.
So many good things have come from that unravelling and I wouldn’t change any of the last two years, but now, at 24, I suddenly feel as though I have been cast adrift. I know that you can’t plan life, but now, romantically unattached and only just starting my career, I am quietly panicking. I always assumed I would be married around this age. Perhaps that was a crazy thing to assume, but now I am starting to have visions of me as a spinster with a lot of cats. I am surrounded by friends who are in settled relationships and who have been steadily climbing the career ladder for the last two or three years. I feel overwhelmingly behind and have a strange feeling of not belonging anywhere. I no longer belong in my parents’ house, but neither do I belong in the rented house-share I live in. Some former housemate has left a sign in the lounge bearing the cruel reminder: ‘A house is just a house; a family makes it a home’ – quite a strange thing to have in a house-share in the first place.
So there, in a nutshell, is my quarter-life crisis. And I decided, in my baking therapy session, that I needed cookies badly, to hell with how much sugar are in them. I needed the childhood comfort of a big, chewy cookie, but with a grown-up edge of beautiful, elegant ingredients. So, instead of standard choc chip cookies, I decided on a combination of cranberries and white chocolate.
As soon as I began mixing the ingredients, I felt much calmer, and once the cookies were in the oven, flooding the house with their irresistible smell, they were the only thing on my mind. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a quarter-life crisis. I’m pretty sure these cookies would solve most problems, even if just in the short term. So if there’s something worrying you, give these a try.
Also, if you have any recipes you make in times of trouble, or words advice for this cast-adrift quarter-lifer, I would love to hear from you!
Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 10
Preheat the oven to 190C. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
In one bowl, put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, a sprinkle of cinnamon and the pinch of salt. Set to one side.
Cream the butter and sugars together until smooth.
Slowly add the beaten egg, mixing after each addition.
Add a few drops of the vanilla essence and stir it in.
Fold in the dry ingredients to get a dough. Then gently stir in the cranberries and chocolate pieces.
A tablespoon of the dough is about the right amount; make sure there is lots of space between the portions on the baking trays as they spread while cooking.
Bake for about 10 mins – they should spread and go golden.
Remove from oven when still slightly squishy to the touch; they will harden on the outside whilst cooling but you will keep a nice soft and chewy centre. When they have cooled for about 5 mins on the trays, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
The white chocolate and cranberries is a simple but harmonious combination, while the cinnamon adds just a little bit of warmth and depth of flavour. They are gratifyingly easy to make and even better to eat, so relax and enjoy. I even ate one with a glass of milk, the ultimate happy combination.