Friday, July 09, 2010


And now, on a rare completely non-singing related rant: What the hell is the deal with baking a loaf of gosh darn bread? I mean, I totally get now why until the advent of store-bought bread, women couldn't have jobs outside the home. I mean I honestly think it had a lot to do with that. Oh, and having to wash clothes manually.

I have this bee in my bonnet now about wanting to learn how to make bread from scratch, because, well, I don't know why. I just want to. So, it was supposed to be my summer project to try some recipes and perfect one that we could use regularly and didn't seem to be too intense. It's the perfect summer project, because summer is warm, and therefore good for rising bread, and I am broke in the summer, and what could be cheaper than baking as a hobby, when all you have to buy is basically flour and yeast? I wanted to sew this summer too, but, well, Jo-Ann Fabrics isn't the huge bargain it used to be, I can tell you that. Seeing as I just found a Calvin Klein dress on E-Bay for $20 and free shipping.

I think that yeast and dough and the kneading process are all the most magical things. I love it. It really gets me going to knead a ball of dough for some weird reason. Because it's aLIVE! But any way...

So, I tried one recipe, the really "easy" low stress, no-knead one from the New York Times. Twice. It turned out like a flat, tough, though good-tasting, big mess basically. TWICE. I have a friend who makes it so beautifully that I just feel totally inadequate. My bread compared to Zoe's bread. Not even in the same league. Then, I tried another recipe this week, which calls for ten minutes of kneading in the stand mixer, and well, it turned out fine, but it had to rise two different times, and for hours, and I just don't have that kind of time! It is TOO labor intensive. Also, the recipe has 3 tablespoons of honey-- and I quickly discovered that the kind of honey you use matters. I was using a fresh, local, farmer's market kind of honey, and the bread ended up tasting gamey. Like you were eating bread that had actual bees in it. So, I guess that means I need to get really generic store bought honey, but that seems dumb. So I am at a loss.

The one yeast-based success I did have was making soft pretzels. I kneaded the thing for ten minutes by hand, and it was a joyous experience. How lovely and pioneerish I felt, and it is so cool to feel the dough changing as you knead it. Once the pretzels were baked, they tasted amazing, but looked puffy and more like rolls than pretzels, but I was not too concerned by this. They tasted amazing. I think I will serve them with mustard and drawn butter for dipping at my next get-together.

And I suppose I am good at pizza dough, but even my five year old cousin could make pizza dough, so I am not so proud of myself yet. I still have a long way to go to baking mastery, however. I am entirely convinced that it is a science at which only the smartest, most patient and precise of folk can succeed. My mother made all our bread when I was growing up. So I thought I had the gene. But I must soldier on. Maybe with years of practice.

And god knows, I am very good at practicing.

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