Sunday, December 3, 2006

Bread Failure No More

I’d read all about Jim Lahey's famed No-Knead Bread and ogled pictures of a recipe said to be fool-proof – the answer to everyone’s bread woes! Say goodbye to finicky yeast and that rising and punching down business, they said. I love to bake, but bread kind of scared me. This seemed like a nice challenge, so I ran out to get myself some rapid-rise yeast and set to work.

Not once, but twice, I managed to make myself some no-knead bread…soup. When I got to Step 2 and tried to fold my dough, it was like trying to fold oatmeal. It spilled all over my board and brief, panicked images of The Blob ran through my head. I sadly poured my so-called dough down the drain and then I felt a little sadder because I was able to pour it. It doesn’t feel good to be the fool against whom a recipe should be proof.

Downcast, I wrote an e-mail to Deb and Luisa in case they had time to troubleshoot my bread-making woes. Because they are lovely people (or perhaps because my plight was that pitiful), they both commiserated with me sympathetically and had two collective suggestions: try incorporating bread flour and add water gradually, even if I didn’t add the full listed amount.

I got myself some bread flour and waited until this weekend to try out the suggestions. I used half all-purpose flour and half bread flour, tentatively added water to the dry goods, and lo and behold! Dough! Shaggy and sticky, just like the recipe said! I gave a little whoop and stopped myself from compulsively adding the rest of the water, even though it makes my eye twitch a little bit to mess with baking recipes. I think it’s the chemistry person in me.

Twenty hours later, I pulled out my hand-me-down Corningware casserole dish from the oven containing a squat, square-ish loaf of bread. The bread made pleasant but unnerving popping noises as it cooled and when tapped, the crust echoed with a nice hollow sound. After letting it cool for a while (“I can hold it now; can I cut it?”), JG busted into it with the bread knife. He slathered his chunk with butter and pronounced it good. The request came quickly for two, no, three loaves to be baked for Christmas. I raised an eyebrow and crunched into my own piece of yummy bread. I did a little victory dance in the kitchen – success!


janet said...

Nice! I have made pizza dough and pie crusts...but not bread. Yet, at least!

Luisa said...

Look at you! Bread-baker extraordinaire. I knew it would work out!