Sunday, February 15, 2009

Adventures in Bread Making

A week ago or so, I turned to my roommate and said "next weekend, we're making bread." She, in turn, looked at me like I told her we were going to hop on the next flight to Alaska, but, used to my insanity, said okay. Actually she said "...oookaaaay..." (no lie, you could hear the ellipses) I'm not sure why she thought it was so weird, but it might have something to do with the fact that I've struggled with frozen pizza before, so baking bread seemed a little out of my reach. Still, she humored me like a good sport.

Imagine her surprise when I didn't completely forget about it in a couple of days. A week later, resigned, and I like to think a little excited, she took me to WalMart to get all of our ingredients:

Flour (3C)
Water (1 cup, but we didn't actually buy that)
Salt (3/4 tsp - borrowed from someone in the dorm when we turned to each other and said "we're not buying salt")
Yeast (1 pkg) For the love of God, get rapid rise!
Olive Oil (2 tbsp)
(in case you're interested)

The first three ingredients taken care of, we wander the baking isle like lost puppies trying to find the last)

Me: "Where's the yeast?
Roomie: "You really think I'd know?"
Me: "Um... What does yeast even look like?"
Roomie: *you-are-so-full-of-fail-glare*
It was at this point that a lady who was also cruising the baking isle took pity on us. She showed us the yeast and then spent a good long time explaining to us the finer points of bread making.

It was at this point that she shared with her her trump card: "after the first rise, add butter, basil, garlic and Parmesan" Roomie and I look at each other with identical "Oh HELL yes" grins and rushed to the produce section with her to grab the additional supplies.

Apparently uninspired by our perpetual blank looks, the Expert eventually gave us her phone number before leaving, saying "You guys look like you'll need some more help. Call me when you have questions."

Bolstered by her confidence in us, we rush back with our booty to meet our Accomplice, who hadn't actually been informed that she would be making bread with us. Luckily, I'm surrounded by good sports and she perked right up and said "Okay!"

Accomplice and I run downstairs to get started (Roomie's a little slower, so we get no pictures of the first bit) So our directions: Combine water, Olive Oil, Salt and Yeast into lage mixing bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes

*I go to mix it*
Accomplice: Don't mix it!
Me: What? Why not?
Accomplice: It says combine, not mix, we're not supposed to mix it
Me: I think combine means mix.
Accomplice: No... I...


About 2 minutes into the 5 minute time frame, we split the difference by shaking it a little. In all honesty, I doubt it matters one way or the other.

Then we're supposed to slowly stir in "About" 3 cups of flour - use our discretion. Of course, we don't actually have any discretion because we have no idea what we're doing. We start with measuring cups, and somewhere along the way just decide to keep pouring in flour until it seems like a dough. Of course, we thought that it was "dough like" long before it actually was, and tried to start kneading it. At this point we learn the first and most important lesson in bread making. It's messy.

This is where, for the first time, Roomie contributes to the process.

That would be her pouring in the flour.

Look at her go!

Go, Roomie, go!

I'm so proud of her.

So after several rounds of pouring in flour, completely giving up on any form of measurement, just hoping for the best and waiting until it looks like it does in the movies, we finally get it right.

Well we also got tired of pouring, but it really seemed right, honest!

At this point we start actually kneading in earnest. We're beating up the dough, twisting it, in some cases we may or may not hav actually decided to play tug of war with our dough.

And I may or may not have looked demonic.


Eventually Accomplice develops a probably more legit way of kneading the dough by folding and squashing, but I like to think that it needed (ha, kneaded, get it?) to be roughed up a little first.

Of course then there's the "When do we stop?" question. The directions said to keep going until it looks smooth or something like that.
We have no idea what that means, but basically decided to stop when it looked like it does in the movies and felt like we thought movie bread would feel.

That was actually not how it looked; it looked a lot smoother than that, but that's the closes picture. Doesn't it look all small and harlmess? It's not, don't let it fool you.

So then the directions told us to cover it and let it rise until doubled in size. Well hell, we didn't have any saran wrap and nothing down there fit over the bowl.Oh wait. Our WalMart bag fit over the bowl. Well, better than nothing! So we wait. A few minutes later, magically, our dough was twice as big. Seirously. I knew it would happen, yet I was still surprised when it did. So it's time to spread it in the pan and add our mixture of deliciousness.

Looking around, I don't see a stirrer, but I do see a large butcher knife. Figuring that would work just as well as a spoon, I start mixing while Roomie snickers. "But it can double as a spatula to spread it around!" I say.

For some reason they're not impressed.

So, after the team is dissatisfied with my spreading capabilities, they spread the mixture and we roll it up and try to fold the ends down to seal it in. It's show time!

We stick it on our disposable pan, also known as glorified tin foil, and throw it into our unpreheated oven (that's actually part of the directions, its second rise happens while the oven is pre heating) we wait (375 for 30-40 min, or until it makes a hollow sound with you hit the drust with the blunt part of a knife)

Meanwhile we eat.
Hey, we hadn't had dinner! Anyway, some time later it comes out smelling delicious

And it was.
Unfortunately, the cleaning up part was a little daunting. Remember when I said that making bread was messy?

I didn't lie.

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