For those of you thinking I finally got the lottery numbers…sorry.
No, this isn’t about “bread”. It’s about bread. You know, staff of life, manna, builds bodies 12 ways…you know…bread.
I realize that for a lot of you this is generating a “Really? That’s it?” reaction, but up in the smoking section of heaven I know Nana is taking a long pull on her Chesterfield and saying, “About damn time you learned.”
My attempts at bread making have been few, far apart and disastrous. My first attempt was to scratch bake sourdough baguettes…for Thanksgiving.
Hey, why not try something new? Right?
To make sourdough one does not just run down to the market for an envelope of yeast – No Sir!
One needs a starter. A starter is a fermenting pot of goo. I have since learned that starters are passed down through families like treasured heirlooms. One of the biggest fights in Kim Kardashian’s first divorce was who gets the starter. There are starters that travelled across the country in wagon trains, crossed the oceans to foreign shores, travelled to the moon…well, maybe not the moon.
Anyway, if you listen to sourdough bakers a starter is the building block of the universe. So I’m thinkin’ “Big Woop” I can do this.
The recipe I tried (evidently from the Martha Stewart of baking) instructed me to dump grapes, flour and water into a glass jar and then hide it under the sink next to the Easy-Off and bug spray. It turned into a vicious bubbling mass that looked like the second cousin of the Blob. It overflowed the jar, stained the cabinet and probably violated one of the bottles of Windex.
What it didn’t do was make dough rise.
The sourdough bricks I ended up with were more useful for construction than consumption. No amount of gravy could soften them enough to be edible. The dog hated me that year.
And then, recently, these fine beauties came to my attention. They looked like the incredible rolls the cafeteria ladies used to crank out in high school. They cost a dime and came with a pat of butter in a little cardboard square. In those dark days of nutritional ignorance no one had told us of the evils of carbs, gluten and butter…what I still consider at least two of the main food groups.
And here was a “simple” recipe offered by none other than the royalty of baking, King Arthur Flour…
What could go wrong?
I made Play-Dough.
In reverse engineering the mess, I discovered – not enough water. I had added the exact amount of liquid called for in the recipe. Well it seems, like all rules, these were made to be broken. So with the iPad propped up on the counter I scrolled through pictures of “perfect dough”.
This seemed to be the look I was going for. It was accompanied by descriptors like “Soft but firm, smooth and elastic, sticky but not gummy, sensuous but not slutty”
Which told me nothing.
So I kept it banging away in the mixer bowl until I had an approximation of this photo.
Now came time for the first science experiment – where the mound of goo turns into dough. It seems that this bit of magic requires a tea towel. In literally every recipe I scanned the instructions were to place in a bowl covered by a tea towel.
What the hell is a tea towel?
I guessed it was one of those wimpy dish towels with cute embroidery that aren’t worth a damn for anything but hanging on the oven door. Got none of those.
As a culinary stand-in I substituted a good old fashioned bar towel. Tea towel my ass.
After the required hour it had bloated up to the approximate sixe of a pregnant puffer fish.
Now comes the weird part. You’re suppose to smoosh it down! After all the work of those tiny yeasty bubbles, the next step is to flatten it like a day old party balloon and (in my case) chop it up into roll sized pieces. I was told to “gently shape each piece into a smooth ball”.
Ever tried to shape a squishy mass into a recognizable sphere? Yeah…that’s about how bad that step went.
Seeing as winter has descended upon us, it was a challenge finding a warm spot in the house for the bread to go through it’s second yeast induced puberty. I finally ended up balancing my rolls on some boxes in the utility room where the boiler is. I don’t plan on telling Amy I did this.
Puffing up like a zit on prom night the rolls de jour were ready for some 350 degree heat.
Tick tock, tick tock…exactly enough time to drink two beers.
At last the finished product.
The final question is how did the rolls turn out?
It was like an episode of I Love Lucy where no matter how hard Lucy tried, the final result was a disaster with Desi saying, “Now doan cry Lucy…I’m sure dese will make great paperweights…”
Yup – they sucked.
At least I’ve got some gravy left over from Thanksgiving.