Monday, March 12, 2012

Bread Bakin' Blues

Julia’s Basic Country Loaf Take 2. 

You guessed it. The bread is dead. I killed it, unintentionally of course, last weekend. My poor starter didn't even get to live to its fullest potential before my impatience got the best of me and spoiled the process of creating a leaven. This lack of patience has burned me before. And this time it washed a week's worth of flour and water down the drain...literally. 

Allow me to set the stage.

It was 10pm on Friday night. The hubs and I were in for a big weekend with family and friends in town, so we decided to lay low that evening in preparation. With my Tartine Bread book in hand, I curled up in bed and began reading about the next step in making bread: creating the leaven. My starter was rising and falling predictably over the course of three days, so I figured it was time to proceed that weekend. However, the book instructs you to create your leaven the night before you plan to make your dough. “Oh s$%&” I thought. “That’s tonight!”

The night before you're ready to make the dough, you are supposed to take 1 tablespoon of your starter, discarding the rest, and mix cette tablespoon with 200 grams of flour mixture and 200 grams of water at 78 degrees Fahrenheit. I can do this with no problem, right? Should be done in 5 minutes and back in bed. No sweat.

Wrong. Loads of sweat and on the verge of tears, I startled my husband with an echoing “Gosh damn it!” coming from the kitchen.  Apparently what my hand thought was 1-tablespoon alas was a ½ tablespoon. Therefore, it was only half of the amount of starter I needed to create my leaven. So just add another ½ tablespoon of starter, right? Wrong again. Because after measuring what I thought to be 1 tablespoon of dough, I proceeded to wash the rest of the starter down the drain and clean the bowl. And to top it all off, I don’t know how to use my scale because the weight of water and flour mixture was all wrong and proceeded to clump into dry balls of dough. 

If I would have just waited until the next evening, and not acted with such haste, I probably would be enjoying the fruit of my bread baking labor right now. Reminder to self: take your time. Don't rush.

So this weekend I start over. I’m either really committed to making my own bread or really crazy. But I should not forget the first lesson that bread has taught me thus far: never give up. Farewell starter #1. Let’s hope starter #2 has better luck.

I don't think there's another woman's voice who can expresses the soul behind blues quite like the great Etta James. And she sings my bread bakin' blues away with "I'd Rather Go Blind". 

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

I feel your pain; we've all been there.

I hope you didn't throw away the starter, even all clumped up. Yes, get to know your scales better, but get to feel the consistency of your starter too. You can always work in a little more water or flour, even if you haven't weighed things out. Baking with natural leavens is exciting, and it is good to be precise and follow instructions, but as you gain experience and confidence you will come to know that there is little you can do to kill a starter, except not save some for next time! I've done that too.

Keep at it.