Gah -- My Heart! My Bread!

Holy crap, I just had THE most unnerving baking experience of my life! Well, except maybe for that very first time I baked chocolate chip cookies when I was ten and I mistakenly read "1 cup" of baking soda (rather than "1 tsp", for you non-bakers), and the inside of my oven turned into a cookie dough reenactment of the eruption of Krakatoa (the roiling, bubbling dough was literally hurling itself over the side of the pan). Oh, and the time I tried making croissants--terrifying.

Hoooo. Big, steadying breath.

Oh god, my bread! Everything was fine. Okay, yes, the dough was very wet yesterday night; it did not feel like a baby's butt--except my bread dough never feels like a baby's butt. But then I've never actually felt a baby's butt, so maybe it does and I just don't know it. On the other hand, I sure as hell hope babies' butts don't feel all clammy and gooey because that would just be plain gross. Who the hell came up with that comparison anyway? How are people without children supposed to KNOW?

Okay, I'm just ranting cause of... waaah, my bread!

Here's what happened. I took out the banneton (reality: colander lined with cotton table mats) with my dough that had been resting in the fridge for about 15 hours.

Confidently tried to lift up a flap of table mat to get my first glimpse of the dough wrapped snugly inside... That's when the first challenge presented itself (this has never happened to me before, so I guess last night's dough was even wetter than my usual): the fringe on the table mats were firmly glued to my dough. Carefully peeled back each piece of fringe, causing little erupted spikes of dough to appear all over on the surface. No worries, I told myself, heart starting to beat a bit faster. This is the underside, anyway, so no one will see. Uh huh.

'Kay, so I could see things were a little softer than I was used to. Also, I used a different flour last night, and found that I had to add two extra cups to produce something a little less like cake batter. I therefore had a much bigger piece of dough to balance on my peel (reality: puny cheese cutting board).

Took a deep breath, turned the dough out onto my open palm. And promptly felt the dough oozing down between my fingers. NOT supposed to happen. Usually the dough sits like a good, cold, dry little lump in my hand. Heart started to thump a little harder.

Quickly eased dough onto the peel. And if the dough reallly had been like a baby, it would have been gurgling happily as it sagged limply over the sides of the board.

Yes, my fault for not having a real peel. But come on, I'm just a home baker, and usually just baking for one. That would just be too sad. And where would I keep it? In the umbrella stand?

Still blissfully unaware of the perilous situation literally unfolding before me, I calmly captured this shot.

Then the first real fright. I took my lame (reality: meat cleaver...

because it's the least-used blade in the house and therefore the sharpest!) and my first slash into the dough revealed... what looked like pancake batter. Oh my god! As the possibility that my dough was going to start flowing all over the counter flashed through my mind, I snatched up the kitchen scissors, snipped five slashes, scooped up the laden peel, turned to the oven, and cursed my typical hastiness. Most people know that I'm short. I actually need a little chair to stand on to comfortably slide things in and out of the oven (The oven IS on top of the fridge! Stop snickering.). But the chair was gone and my dough was trying to slide down my wrist.

So I yanked that oven door oven--by this point, heart pounding--and literally had to scoop and scrape my dough onto the hot baking pan, on tiptoe, with arms raised at an awkward level above my head. This was extremely distressing on so many levels. To handle my dough in such a rough manner. To watch it slop onto the pan in a mangled heap. To think of all those delicate gas bubbles getting squished. Sob.

Let me tell you something for those who have never baked bread. If you throw a cake batter together, AND you've got an electric mixer, it takes mere minutes. Pour the batter into the pan. Done. Bread on the other hand can take hours, days. Then there's the kneading, which actually makes me break into a sweat (I'm not a sweaty person); the turning and folding; the shaping; then more waiting. It's a commitment. And when something like this happens after all that time and work, I swear to god, it makes me start shouting like a crazy woman in the middle of my kitchen. I think the neighbors have heard me and they're scared.

Back to the story, I then hastily grabbed the frying pan of boiling water (had in my panic forgotten to transfer dangerous hot liquid into more manageable mug), went on tiptoe again, and blindly poured water into the pan on the floor of the oven.

[time lapse]

Ah weeell, my bread is out of the oven now, and despite its absurd shape, I still feel a pure burst of pleasure when I look at it. Sort of like a mother glancing down at her butt-ugly baby in adoration--it's homely, but it's hers. I can't imagine what it will look like on the inside. Have to wait two hours. But there was considerable oven spring despite all my rough handling and all that liquid spreadage. I think if I were to bury it near the site of an archeological dig, its discovery would cause quite a stir.

Archeologist #1: My god, would you look at this thing.
Archeologist #2: I thought at first that it was a boulder. Nearly broke my back trying to lift it.

Archeologist #1: The mind boggles trying to judge its date. It's just so obviously primitive. I think I'm getting goosebumps. What the devil have we stumbled upon, George?

And here I leave you with some pictures to judge for yourselves. And once you have seen them, let it never be said that the author of this blog ever chose self-glorification over the ugly, gratuitous truth about exactly what comes out of her oven.

Journalistic integrity and all that.

You know, if I had shown photos of my baking to Martha Stewart and threatened to sell them to the press, told everyone they were records of her "earlier work," I think she would have been scared. I think she would have broken down and admitted to anything.

In addition, an interior shot:

Final verdict: very weird bread. Just can't make it out. As you can see, there is a very tight crumb, with just a smattering of larger holes. The bread is damp, again. When I chew on it, it makes a very wet-sponge squishing noise. A bit bland. I grudgingly confess: not the yummiest. Sigh. Will keep trying.

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[this comment was moved by me (Rachel) cause it was in the wrong post, I think:]

testypea said...
aye, baby butts tend to feel that way - and a bit lumpy too when they have the poopies.

10/07/2004 10:48:00 PM  

Oh my god, are you serious?? Babies' butts are squishy and get "lumpy"? Ew. Big ew.

10/07/2004 10:50:00 PM  

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