Breadmaking: The Afternoon Session

“Bitter was my cup

But no more will I be the mourner

For I’ve certainly turned the corner

Oh things are looking up

Since [bread] looked up at me!”

– From “Things Are Looking Up” by George and Ira Gershwin

“But she lost control I wouln’t take the bait.

I said chill baby baby chill baby baby wait.”

– From “Things That Make You Go Hmmm” by C&C Music Factory

Ok, so maybe I overreacted. Breadmaking can be emotional. I came back today and found that my dough had risen, right according to plan.

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I plopped it out on the counter:

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And I cut it in half:

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I slapped each half a few times against the counter to deflate it:

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The police came.

“Ma’am,” the officer asked the dough, “was he slapping you against the counter?”

“No officer,” said the dough, voice trembling. “He wasn’t. He loves me.”

“Ok,” said the officer, exiting as quickly as he came.

I covered the dough with a cloth and let it rest for 20 minutes; according to Nancy’s plan.

Then, I followed Nancy’s instructions for shaping the dough. You grip underneath it and turn it like you would a steering wheel, until the dough is round and tight.

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[The one on the left has been shaped; the one on the right, not yet.]

Then, after shaping the second one, you flour your baskets. If you don’t have a basket, you flour a cloth.

I had only one basket, so I did both.

You place the shaped dough in or atop each.

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Don’t they look pretty?

You cover with Saran Wrap and wait an hour, which is where we’re at now. After that, they get plopped in the fridge for retardation (please, no jokes people) which goes from 12 to 24 hours at my discretion. Which means that tomorrow, before my Sexuality class at 3:15, I’ll take it out of the fridge and give it the 3 hours of rising time. When I get back, into the oven it will go and I’ll have bread!

Here is what I have learned from the process:

1) Cooking on an empty stomach can be a fine thing if the gratification comes within a reaonsable time. So making a pot of tomato sauce from scratch, for example, is perfectly acceptable since you will eat that tomato sauce within the hour. Making two-day bread, however, requires a full stomach because otherwise your hunger will turn you bitter and you will write an angry post about inactive starter, busted electric mixers and the exploitation of migrant workers in Tibet.

2) Don’t put the cart before the horse! And to explain this point, I will now tell you a story that I like to call the middle school baseball story. My mom will corroborate this story. In middle school, my friends joined the school baseball team. “Adam,” they said, “Join us! We will frolic and be merry!” I came home and begged my mom to let me join.

“Remember soccer?” she answered. “Remember tennis? This isn’t going to be another one of those things you say you’re interested in, we spend a lot of money, and then you quit, is it?”

“No!” I assured her. “I really want to play!”

So we paid the $X registration fee, and then at Sports Authority we bought a baseball mitt, oil for the baseball mitt, baseballs, kleats and athletic socks. And then, of course, the uniform.

Do you see where this story’s going?

First day of practice, we’re out on the field and the coach tells us to have a catch. I team up with a youngster I’ll call Aggressive Thrower. Aggressive Thrower throws the ball and me, being the efficient athlete that I am, decided to catch it with my shoulder.

“Ow! Ow! Ow!” I yelped and promptly quit the team.

Such is the stuff of my breadbaking. Reading Nancy’s book, I immediately–and foolishly–put the cart before the horse, purchasing baskets, baking cloths, a baker’s peel, etc. Already my starter is in the fridge, in the process of becoming “dormant.” My loaves are on the rise but will they rise to glory? Or will this be my last venture with breadbaking? Man cannot write about bread alone.

Since my morning was so stressful and my afternoon so peaceful, my only reaction can be: “We’ll see.”

In the wise words of C&C Music Factory:

“Hey ladies

Have you ever had a man

Go away for business, come back with a tan

Comes home late at night from work

You cooked him dinner now you feel like a jerk

Sayin’ he didn’t have time to eat

And he’s not even hungry, he wants to RETREAT?”

Things that make you go hmmm.

5 comments

  1. Question: Aren’t you supposed to keep a little bit to use as the starter for the next batch? Or is that something I’m misremembering from a long-ago episode of a Julia Child teevee show…

  2. Congratulations on getting through a difficult morning. I hope it doesn’t discourage you from future baking. I would be tempted to find fault with the recipe, not with you. Breadbaking needn’t be so involved and traumatic, and while the specialized tools are fun, they are by no means necessary. After all, this is one of the simplest and most ancient of foods. Just remember that you, not the dough, are in charge.

    Master the dough!

  3. Brian W,

    I think that’s done for Pan Levain (sp?); this one, you just keep feeding the starter ad infinitum. If you want to save on flour, you can put the starter in the fridge (which I did) where it becomes dormant until you take it back out, get it to room temperature, and feed it for a day again.

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