Friday, June 11, 2010

30 Days of Creativity Update: Days 3/4/5

Have I been upstyling my titles? That's something I'm going to need to take a look into. I think I have enough content that it's time to put together a style sheet. Hear that, fellow bloggers? Style sheets. They are things that you need. You can make up your own rules, but rules you must have. A foolish inconsistency is the hobgoblin of little minds (Style sheet entry "Misquotes:" Okay if used to prove a point).

Onto the creating.

I'm calling this my project for days 3-5, although there was very little work involved for most of the time. I made bread and I used a slow-rise recipe. I've never done it before, but the result was supposed to be awesome, like sourdough but without a starter. Fake sourdough. Sourdaux (Style sheet entry "Portmanteaus:" Portmantastic!)

Here's the recap, complete with photos (Style sheet entry "Photos:" Use when you want to shift focus away from the words you wrote; in other words, with reckless abandon. Style sheet entry "Reckless:" Good for you, knowing it's not "wreckless!")

I used Hillbilly Housewife's recipe. It's called "Family Bread," I'm assuming because it makes four loaves. I don't have a family, or even eat a lot of bread, but some people in the comments said it froze well, so I figured I'd give it a go.

Here are the ingredients, all mise en place'd (Style sheet entry "Foreign words:" As long as they're italicized, no one will notice how much you've bastardized them). Bread is remarkably easy to make, by the way. You don't even need this many ingredients really - just flour, water, yeast, and sugar.

The first thing you do is activate the yeast. This is the hardest part of the process, or at least the most nerve-wracking. You sit there watching your yeast, hoping that you didn't kill it, because the water was just barely too hot but then you let it sit and when you poured it into the pan that should have cooled it, right? and why can't I hear it, shouldn't it be more bubbly OH MY GOD DID I KILL IT?? I AM A HORRIBLE MOTHER.

(Style sheet entry "Maternal Issues:" Well, okay, but now it's a feminist blog. Decide if you're ready to deal with that.)

Luckily, the yeast did not die. On to the next step!

Mix everything together. This recipe calls for 12 cups of flour. I did four wheat and the rest white. Mix and mix until you can't mix anymore, then you know it's time to dig in. This is that point.

On to the kneading. From the recipe:
Now start kneading the dough with all of the love you have for your family. Press the dough and send big love vibes into it. Stretch the dough and impress all of your compassion and generosity into it. Remember why you love your kids, and your spouse and your mom or you dad, and just put it all into the dough.
(Style sheet entry "B": Block Quotes: Follow MLA guidelines. Come on, we're not animals here.)

I don't have much of a family to think about and love, so I was finished with that long before the kneading was over. What I did think about, though, was the process of bread making itself. Have you ever made bread before? Bread is something that everyone in Western society eats regularly, almost once a day, but you never think about it. You buy it at the store pre-sliced in a plastic bag with a twist tie. When you want something fancy, you buy the nice stuff from the supermarket bakery.

The first time you make bread, you are astounded by how easy it is. Four or five ingredients, some elbow grease and a few hours are all you need. There's not much you can do to screw it up, because you're really not the one making the bread. It's the yeast; all you're doing is feeding them sugar and creating a matrix out of flour and water to trap their waste products. You're an engineer, employing a process so basic it's been around almost as long as civilization itself.

And so I kneaded my place in history into the dough. I sat on my bedroom floor in my pajamas watching Ryan play Super Mario Wii and moved my hands in the way that countless women have for the past ten thousand years. It was comforting, in a way, in the way that singing old hymns in church or listening to your grandparents tell war stories is comforting. You feel connected to the past. You are a data point on the continuum of human experience. I read somewhere that as we become increasingly specialized laborers, we turn manual labor, like gardening or carpentry, into our pastimes. I don't remember if the author was making the point that this is a good or bad thing, but I like the idea. I'm glad I live in a world where I can go to the store and buy premade bread, but I also like sitting on the floor in my pajamas with a bowl of bread dough in between my legs. You can't appreciate where you are and where you're headed if you don't respect where you came from.

(Style sheet entry "TL; DR:" Perhaps, but no one reads this blog anyway.)

Because I used a low-yeast recipe the rising time was considerably longer than any bread I've ever made. The recipe recommended about 24 hours. I ended up letting it rise about 36. By the time I got to it Saturday afternoon, it was more than doubled in size and the whole room (my craft room, the only cat-free room in the house) smelled delicious. It smelled of yeast and alcohol and all sorts of goodness. I don't know if that means the dough picked up wild yeast, like real sourdough does, or if the existing yeast had time to ferment, but it was good.

After that, all that was left was to bake it. According to the recipe I had enough dough for four loaves, but I ended up only making three. I had to get rid of the top layer because I forgot to oil the dough before leaving it to rise and it got crusty. Oops. But three loaves was enough. I froze two and left the third one out to eat.

They turned out well. Not the best looking things (forgot to do an egg wash on the tops too, oh well) but it tastes so good. Very sour, and the texture is close to perfect. Plus, Ryan loves it. This breadventure had everything - possible mass murder, quiet introspection, probably sex in there somewhere (it was a three-day process, after all) and a happy ending. (Style sheet entry "Serial Comma:" Why not do some of both? Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. [See also: "Misquotes"])

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