James Beard Bread and Story

I originally did not intend to make a story from this, but I ended up with one anyways:

Recipe from: http://www.jamesbeard.org/recipes/home-style-white-bread

Before you even begin, you know that the flour will get everywhere. In the cracks between counter-top portions, across the rim of the bowl, and even on your flipflop-shod toes. It’s pretty inevitable when making bread.

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Even though the recipe is simple, picking one to follow is easier: even Alton Brown hails to James Beard. (Though your own hailing to him may have more to do with that battered, old bread book in your mother’s kitchen than anything else).  The recipe is conveniently online, and you set up your bread-recipe displaying, music playing machine on the kitchen table and get ready to make one important ingredient to grilled-cheese.

The first part is made the toughest by virtue of the fact that although you’ve had four roommates move through your apartment at this point, none of them has brought a thermometer. Therefore you pray that dunking your finger in the water is an accurate enough test to properly proof the yeast, and not kill your only packet of them. You heave a sigh of relief.

After that, most of the process is simple, the flour added by cupful to the rest of the water, salt, and oil. Although you do question the author’s decision call the action “stirring” after the third cup of flour tries to penetrate the sticky mound clinging to the spoon.

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The worst part is kneading. Perhaps you think this because you have no frustrations to project onto the dough you are repeatedly squashing. Or it could just be that the counter is again too high and it makes your arms hurt. Or perhaps the dough’s apparent inability to become elastic and smooth. Or just not sticky.

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It does of course reach that point eventually, and you mold it into a ball and let it get on with the business of doubling in size. You don’t expect that the bowl will be too small. You will be wrong. (And you will be disappointed that you forgot to take a photo of it, as the bowl was glass). A few quick punches return it to a more manageable size only for more of the never ending kneading. Lopsided halves of the dough go into greased pans of the wrong shape and size (because, yet again, none of your four roommates brought a loaf pan), and finally into the oven.

With the exception of an oven that appears to dislike staying at the proper temperature, the loaves come out, and you now have bread.

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