Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bread Therapy

I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to learn how to make homemade bread from scratch. I thought it might be a good skill to have and I've always wanted to be able to "whip up some bread" whenever I felt like being housewifey. I had no idea what I was in for. No idea.

Round 1, Sunday night: I had some time and I really wanted to get started. I had everything that I needed except yeast and it being Sunday I couldn't go to the store to buy some. A few days before I had made some zucchini bread without yeast, so I didn't think it would be that different without it. I looked up a yeast-less recipe online and the people who wrote swore that it was delicious... The batter ended up really wet, the consistency of pancake batter, but I put it in the pan and baked it anyway thinking that the recipe must know something I didn't. It baked for over an hour and didn't even brown. It ended up about a half an inch high, a yellowey white color on the outside and mushy on the inside. I almost threw it away, but Ant hates to throw things away so I put it in a container and left it on the counter. (Fast forward 5 days later and I finally threw it away after it started culturing mold and feeding fruit flies)

Round 2, Monday night: On the way home from work I picked up some yeast and milk from the grocery store. I found a different recipe online and it looked so simple that it had to work, right? Wrong. I went through all of the steps and ended up with a fist sized lump of dough that never rose and baked into a thick half-inch brick of bread. After researching online I decided that I must have killed my yeast by using too hot water to dissolve it in. Rookie mistake.

Round 3, Tuesday night: I was sure my persistence would pay off. I tried again, same recipe but made sure to use only lukewarm water as well as to proof the yeast to make double sure that they were doing whatever it is little yeasties do. Check, everything all go. I didn't think that my counter would be a warm enough place to let the dough rise so I had the genius idea to place the dough in a glass dish and put it on a stove top burner on the lowest setting to let it rise. Fast forward to an hour later, I checked on the dough and the bottom was cooked, while the rest was an unrisen yeasty dough. Oops. To much direct heat.

Round 4, Friday night: I was not going to let this bread beat me. I stocked up on extra yeast at the grocery store, and I felt like I was appropriately chastened. I had not give this bread thing the respect it deserved and the bread was punishing me. So, I went through all of the steps AGAIN and put my dough to rise on the counter. I was assured by multiple people that it would be warm enough there as long as I covered the dough with a kitchen towel. After the first round of rising and it hadn't moved, I googled some more and decided to do the next round of rising in the oven on the "warm" setting. Finally my dough rose!!! Not very much though, but at least some measurable progress. This was definitely the most bread-like of loaves so far.

Round 5, Saturday night (tonight): I gambled today. I decided to change more than one thing at a time, yet another rookie mistake. I was kicking myself part of the way through for doing that, but fortunately it finally worked!! I used the same basic recipe, but I made more of it. I used highly active yeast instead of the regular kind, and I let the dough rise in the oven for the full time. I cannot tell you how excited I was to see how large those loaves got after the first hour!!!!! Here is the finished product:

After hearing about a few of my failed attempts, a friend of mine suggested that I develop a new therapy called "bread therapy" for relationships.
Insert your significant other's name when ever you see "bread":

*Bread loves it when you give it a massage. In fact, it demands it in order for it to be at its best.
*Life with bread takes commitment, perseverance, preparation, and most importantly a good sense of humor (think flour hand prints all over your hair, face, clothes, pets, children, etc..).
*Even with the most careful of plans, there will be times when bread will not cooperate and instead of getting mad and giving up you need to try to make it work, find the problem, and fix it.
*It is necessary to consistently give bread some space, or bread will rebel against you and no one will be happy.
*You must respect the finicky complexity of bread or it will not rise/bake right for you.
*You get back what you put into it.

There you have it. There's nothing like a good old fashioned throwdown with a centuries old recipe to give you a new perspective :)


Happy said...

That was seriously hilarious. Thanks for the laugh! And good job on not giving up and making some awesome looking bread! How'd you like it?

Phambabe said...

Yay!! You did it!! Pretty soon you'll be whipping out artisan breads like it was nothing. I'll have to make some tsoureki when you guys are here, it's a Greek braided bread with red hardboiled eggs (in the shell!) baked into it. I make it for my in-laws at Easter, but it's really good anytime. I just get a kick out of baking hardboiled eggs in a loaf of bread, I can't imagine eating the eggs after that! (Supposedly you can). Anyway, yay bread!!

Lucky Me said...

I loved reading that. There are days that I feel like I need a little bread therapy. I'll have to try it myself :0)