Or rather, the lack of bread baked in my kitchen.
It seems simple. At its most base bread is flour, water, and yeast combined and processed through a few steps into that lovely combination of crisp, chewy, etc. However, I have failed miserably on almost all occasions to actually bake bread. I have baked loaves of bread that are akin to a discus—flat, hard, dense, and completely inedible. I have made dough that fails to rise—leaving a nice mess of gelatinous goo to throw away.
So, I went back to basics. What are the most simple bread recipes known to humankind? The new crop of high hydration recipes popularized by the No Knead method from Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery. Or Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois’ Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. There are others. Take your pick. The premise is simple: make bread without all of the tedious kneading, proofing, etc. that prevent home based cooks from producing delectable warm loaves of bread in their kitchens.
Well, there must be something else preventing me from making those warm delectable loaves because I have failed yet again. I am coming to believe that I could fail at making bread using a bread machine and box mix.
First, I tried the No Knead recipe. Two attempts did not even make it into the oven. Somehow on the first I misread my measuring cup and used too much water. The next day I had a modern day version of the blob chilling in a bowl on my counter. Ooops. The second attempt a week later produced a more bread-like dough, but again it was too wet to even begin to shape into a loaf after over eighteen hours of time in the bowl. There has not been a third attempt.
Perhaps it takes more trial and error than this, but two epic fails in a row makes me a believer in my inability to execute a recipe.
Second, I moved on to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Why? I am a sucker for cookbooks. For some reason I think I am better prepared to make something I there are a few pictures along the way. Call me crazy. More on this approach later after I try a few batches.
Bread has been a staple of human diet for thousands of years and baked by all kinds of people the world over. Yet, I cannot seem to master the simplest of loaves. Risotto? Got it nailed. Chicken saltimbocca? Easy. Bread? Please, take my fingernails out with pliers.