Breadmaking: The Morning Session

I don’t want to talk about it.

No, really.

I’m emotionally drained.

Here’s what happened.

I woke up, I said: “Adam, don’t be silly. You’ve spent two weeks making a starter and it’s ready to go and you’re not going to go because your equipment hasn’t arrived? Hogwash. Just go buy wheat germ, borrow Josh and Katy’s bakers peel and don’t use a proofing basket for the second loaf.”

Sounded like a plan.

I walked down to Whole Foods and bought wheat germ and sea salt.

I came back and opened my starter.

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Nancy says you should see lots of activity. There was activity, but not lots.

Nancy says you should stick your hand in and it should feel like bubble wrap. I stuck my hand in. It felt like gooey mush.

Next, prepare your ingredients in the bowl of your electric mixer.

Water; Starter; 7 cups of Flour (a whole lot of flour); and Wheat Germ:

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“Mix it on a low speed,” says Nancy, “for 5 minutes.”

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Here’s where things went awry. (And now a “rye”–though that would have been infinitely better). I started smelling smoke.

“That’s funny,” I said, “does bread dough usually smell like smoke?”

And then I looked and saw smoke billowing out the back of my freestanding mixer. The dough was too tough for the hook; it was getting stuck and gears were grinding.

“Help! Help!” I screamed.

Lauren continued reading her homework.

I quickly turned the mixer off and unplugged it.

(This picture shows the smoke billowing out the back. Unfortunately, you can’t see any smoke or billowing.)

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“Phew,” I said. The dough, fortunately, had completed the majority of 5 minutes. I covered it with a cloth–as Nancy suggests–and let it rest for 20 minutes. (This is called autolyst, or something. It’s French. It means the resting period where it develops flavor. For me, it was an emotional recouping period. Please, God, don’t let my mixer be dead. It cost $300!)

(My mixer still works, but gets incredibly hot and smells like battery acid).

After 20 minutes, I decided–wisely, I’m sure–to knead the rest by hand. Nancy’s technique is unusual. No two handed Julia Child warbly voiced kneading. We’re talking a one-hand “slam dunk motion,” to quote Nancy.

But first, add sea salt to the dough:

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Then flour the counter:

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Plop the dough down:

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Fold it in half:

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Then slam dunk it on to the counter:

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Do this until, according to Nancy, the dough reaches 76 degrees or after 5 minutes. I stopped at 4 minutes because I was exhausted.

“The dough should feel like a baby’s bottom,” instructs Nancy. “You should be able to stretch out a tiny piece without breaking it.”

I tore off a tiny piece and it broke every time I stretched it. I didn’t care.

Now oil a non-metal bowl with vegetable oil and place your dough inside.

I don’t have any non-metal bowls. I have Tupperware. That’ll do.

I put the dough inside:

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Nancy says cover with plastic wrap; I covered with the Tupperware cover. Might it explode?

I’ll be at Starbucks crying myself into a stupor. And then I’ll return at 4 pm to continue this joyous breadmaking.

2 comments

  1. adam, it’s currently 2.45. i guess that means you’ll resume your activities in a little over an hour.

    may the force, as they say, be with you.

  2. Do what we do when the dough goes wacky: sit down and have a bit of very nice scotch. Coffee is only going to make you jumpy.

    And then remember: it’s just bread. You messed up? Who cares. It’s only flour. Just keep trying.

    (Did you not feed your starter in those 2 weeks? We feed ours with more regularity that our friends feed their new puppy.)

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