Food can make us feel nostalgic for certain periods in our life, a smell or taste can bring back vivid memories or evoke feelings from days gone by. Our perception of events can alter dramatically over time. We may recall a holiday as being the best week of our life, despite our suitcase not turning up and sun-burning our back so badly we couldn’t wear a bra for most of the week. We’ll remember all the good bits, the laughter, fun, adventure and wish that we could do it all over again.
In contrast to nostalgia is our anxiety, when suffering with anxiety we often look forward, not with the rose tinted glasses that nostalgia lends us, instead with fear. We become afraid of what’s to come, a new job, new school, big project or perhaps even just the thought of meeting someone for a coffee. We start the process of negative forecasting:
“I’m really not looking forward to starting my new job, I’m still not sure how to get there and what if I get lost, or even worse have an accident on the way because I’m not sure where I’m going. That would be terrible because I can’t afford to get the car fixed, my excess is way too high and I wont be able to save any money towards my holiday. If I don’t have a holiday soon I really don’t know how I’ll get through the year, things have been so tough…”
I could easily continue and it may sound absurd but this kind of thinking is actually very common in those suffering with anxiety. Thoughts can spiral out of control and before we know it we’ve decided we hate our new job before we’ve even started! Often we don’t vocalise our worries or write them down as I have here and so we never fully realise how ridiculous we’re being. We become angry and get frustrated with others who we feel just don’t understand us. The foggy cloud of worry stays with us, getting a little darker each day. We collect more fears, more anxiety, our stress buckets filling dangerously high as we go.
It’s so important to try and stop these thoughts in their track, our thoughts have such a powerful influence on how we feel, it’s our thoughts and not our emotions that create our panic. If we can change our thoughts then we can change our feelings and deprive panic of its energy source. A good exercise to try next time you’re faced with a “what if” scenario like the one above is this, write down the question and worst case scenario, read it out loud a number of times, try reading it to a friend or family member you trust and you’ll see it start to lose it’s power. Once out of that loop in your mind it’s impact and fear is lost. Keep a journal of your worries, get to know them and soon you’ll be able to recognise them for what they are. They may not go away but they wont fill you with anxiety anymore.
I hope this recipe fills you with nostalgia, and as many fond memories of your teenage years as it does for me. Pop-tarts always used to be such a forbidden treat that we’d sneak in the house when Mum was away. Make them with a friend and have an afternoon recalling happy memories and funny anecdotes from the past. But most of all try and enjoy the present, the doing! Focus on the recipe, enjoy it and allow your mind to become filled with the pleasurable task of baking rather than letting it run over all your worries and concerns, have a few hours of escapism. Make this recipe and have fun, you’re making new memories for the future and that’s nothing to feel anxious about!
You can experiment with different fillings; try a cherry, raspberry or apricot jam instead or why not fill them with Nutella or cinnamon butter! Delicious.
Strawberry & Vanilla‘Pop-Tarts’
FOR THE SWEET PASTRY:
240g plain flour, plus extra for rolling.
200g cold butter, diced
1 tbsp icing sugar
2 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
A pinch of salt
FOR THE STRAWBERRY FILLING:
6 tbsp strawberry jam
1 tbsp cornflour
FOR THE TOPPING:
125g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
sprinkles, to decorate
BY FOOD PROCESSOR: Put the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Beat the egg and the milk in a small bowl, add this, a little at a time, to the food processor with the motor running. You will only need about 1 tbsp of the liquid the rest you’ll use later so keep it. Once the dough starts to come together then get your hands in and knead gently until you form a dough. Divide into two, shape each one into rough rectangles, wrap in cling film. Chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.
BY HAND: Put the flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl, add the butter and use two cutlery knifes to chop the flour and the butter together. Once the butter is in small clumps use your fingers to gently rub the butter and flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. Work quickly and lightly, the trick is not to warm the butter too much. Try and keep your hands cool. Add the liquid gradually (as directed in the step above) then continue as per the recipe above.
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Mix the cornflour with the jam stirring until you have an even consistency. Set aside. Remove the dough and roll both out in turn on a lightly floured surface until you have two rectangles, each roughly a4 size, about the thickness of a £1 coin thickness. Cut each into 9 even rectangles.
Take one of the rectangles, brush all over with a little of your eggy/milk mixture you saved from earlier. Spoon about 1 heaped tsp of jam onto another rectangle and then gently press to sandwich together. Transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment and use a fork to press the edges together to seal, don’t worry if a little of the jam escapes. Repeat with the remaining rectangles.
Brush them with more milk and egg mixture then prick all over with a fork or the steam to escape, transfer to the fridge to rest for 30 minutes, no need to cover as they’ll be sticky. Remove, then glaze again and cook for 18-22 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the glaze by mixing the icing sugar, vanilla bean paste and enough cold water (one drop at a time) until you have a icing that’s runny enough to paint onto the tarts. Brush with icing glaze and then scatter with hundreds and thousands, if you like. Will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.