Monday, February 7, 2011

The Unbearable Lightness of Baking

I'm very particular about my domestic pursuits. Cleaning? You bet. Cooking? Not so much. I can do cookies. Brownies. The occasional cake. But I'm not much for actual food.

Two friends in our writers' group are collaborating on a bread baking book. Caleb and Melissa asked us all to try out a couple of their recipes to see how they work. We'd also need to take care of the live yeast starts they would provide for us. I wasn't sure about the whole yeast start thing. But then Melissa explained that a yeast start is kind of like a pet. You feed it, clean its container, generally keep track of it like you would a dog. I thought, cool! I love pets! I have several. What's one more? Even if it lives in my fridge.

Then I got my start.

Even so, no pet of mine will go without a name. Having recently acquired a Captain Kirk, I figured "Mr. Spock" was appropriate. As per the instructions, the first thing I did was transfer him into a more substantial home.

Mr. Spock is easily the most low-maintenance pet I've ever had. He eats flour and water. That's it. Cleaning his cage is super easy. I just scrape him out and drop him into a new jar. No problem. After a few days, he'd grown into the half-cup amount the bread recipe called for.

I'd never baked bread in my life. It's kind of intimidating. In other words, it's one of my Gnomes. I whipped out the recipe and prepared to challenge it. Step 1: Resist the urge to giggle every time I read "shaggy mass" in the directions. I mixed the ingredients, including all of Mr. Spock (poor Spock, we hardly knew thee . . .), until my dough looked sufficiently "shaggy."

Then it was time to knead. Clearly, Caleb and Melissa's book is geared for an audience that already knows what they're doing. I'm more like "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bread-Baking" crowd. Having never baked bread, I'd never kneaded either.

I google "bread kneading" and click on a result at random. It says the dough will look "shiny" and "silky" when it's been kneaded enough. I can handle this, I think. So I start kneading. And kneading. Time passes, I'm still kneading. But it's okay, because Hancock is on FX so I'm not bored or anything but man, this sure seems to be taking awhile . . .

My mom comes into the kitchen. "You're still kneading?"

"It's not silky yet," I say.

"I've never kneaded bread dough that long. Stop kneading already! It's fine," she says.
"Good enough for me," I say.

The next morning, I roll the dough out. I fold it over. I roll it again. I put the dough into loaf pans and leave them on the counter to rise while I procrastinate working on my book by playing on Facebook. I stick the pans in the oven and twenty-five minutes later, success!

Janiel is totally jealous ;)

I enjoyed the first slice with peanut butter and nutella. Really, is there any other way? Oh yeah, I got this bread baking thing down.


Robin said...

Yay Maegan! I recently have been thinking of baking bread, too. This is traditionally Eric's thing, which is way fine with me, but I'm getting the itch to experiment.

You give me courage!

Janiel Miller said...

Maegan, honey, I am beyond jealous. My loaves came out looking like albino slugs. Tasted good though . . .

Robin, you would LOVE baking bread. All that slamming the dough down and kneading it. Getting into the earthy tension-release of it. And it smells like heaven. Go Rob! Knead Rob! Bake Rob!

jjsundevil said...

Your a champ Russo and me failed at making bread.

Sara B. Larson said...

I hate making bread, unless it involves dumping ingredients into a bread machine, or unless it doesn't require yeast and kneading like zucchini bread. I'm just too lazy. So way to go you! :)

scott.densley said...

Tasteworthy. i like the name you came up with

Donna Banta said...

My stomach just growled.

densleybrandis said...

My bread never looks like that.

Russo said...

I adore this post- the bread looks divine. YUM, peanut butter and nuttella!

Ari2525 said...

Give us an update on the bread making, you have an ability in the kitchen.

Kortney said...

Hi Russo!! Your bread looks wonderful!! I bet it was soo good with the pb and nutella!! I love nutella! yummmmm Anyway, thanks for stopping by Kortneyskrazylife.com and for following and the kind words!! I only wish I were half the writer you are!! I've been smiling the whole time I've been here! ;D Feel free to come visit and say hey any time! Have a great week!!