Don't be fooled. This loaf is just for "looks".
A few months ago, a dear friend showed up at my door with a beautiful cookbook for my birthday gift: “Tartine Bread”. I have loved flipping through the photos and drooling over the artisan breads, imagining the quiet hours of the morning when so many of these delicious loaves must have been prepared, while sipping coffee and anticipating the day ahead. I, too, wanted to make these breads, expecting that I would feel just as peaceful, artsy, and accomplished by doing so. Well, this was not the case at all, and thus begins what slowly snowballed into a baking fail, but a rather humorous one if you know the course of events that took place.
First of all, a comment about the Tartine Bread cookbook. It is beautifully written IN DETAIL, filled with amazing photos, and delicious recipes. Unfortunately, I am too ADD to actually read each paragraph of a step for the recipe (literally, they are paragraphs that go for pages), so that was probably where the recipe started going downhill.
Second, I had to begin the recipe for sourdough bread by creating a “starter”. Fortunately for me, this is a forgiving process since I often forgot to “feed” my starter, and would do so hastily the next morning as I ran off to school (or not at all that day!). By some miracle, it worked, and I had created a yeast colony from a mixture of wheat flour, white flour, and water.
The "starter", which is still sitting on my shelf...
Next came the bread itself. I had to measure out 1000 grams of flour for every 750 g of water (scales are very useful in the kitchen if you don’t already have one!). Since the “starter” had already been taking up space on my shelf for long enough, I decided it was time to make this bread happen. And when I decide something is going to happen, it’s going to happen. I had already diluted my starter with the lukewarm water when I began measuring out my flour. 600 grams, as in…NOT 1000g. Bags of flour are now empty. Hm….. So what did I do? Go to one of the 3 grocery stores within a mile of my house? Nope. I decide to scour my cabinets for anything that remotely resembled flour, and came up with things like wheat germ and instant oatmeal. Yes, I deliberately sabotaged my recipe out of pure laziness. And a baking recipe nonetheless!! You don’t just MAKE UP stuff when baking. It doesn’t work like that.
These are in black and white as a tribute to the bread that should have been.
There was no turning back, and being the devoted science teacher that I am, I wanted to know exactly where this experiment was headed. So I mixed the dough and let it rise (which it DID!). Next step “sprinkle some flour on a work surface and knead the dough”. Flour? There is no flour to be found in this house, so I guess there won’t be much kneading happening either. Random poking and punching will have to do, and while I’m at it, I’ll just set this bowl in the oven and leave it there overnight. ?!
If you haven’t noticed, at this point, I had completely abandoned the recipe.
I decide that baking the bread is not happening any time soon due to my suddenly crazy weeknights, so I put the dough in the fridge.
For 3 days.
And here we are, Saturday morning, and I think to myself “What is that white bowl doing in the fridge?” Oh yes! It’s my BREAD.
Yep- it has now crusted over and there is no evidence that anything “rose” in the fridge. What have I got to lose if I bake it? I preheat the oven to 500F and place a cast iron pot inside to heat up. I look at the pictures in the cookbook just to make myself feel badly about the fact that my dough looks NOTHING like the soft and fluffy sourdough that he has prepared. “Flour the dough and bake”. There’s that flour problem again. How about I crisco spray the pot?
The cookbook advises me to fold dough “just so” and then use an exacto knife to score the dough.OR, I could just scrape the dough into the pot with no shape whatsoever, and throw it in the oven while I take a shower.
I return a few minutes later, decide it will look more presentable if I score it, so I do, and let it
bake burn for another 20 minutes before removing it.
The finished product: not as bad as I thought. The crust is burned while the inside is still not cooked. It does smell faintly like sourdough, which is encouraging. But you couldn’t pay me to touch that loaf of bread with a ten foot pole based on the way the dough looked before I baked it.
But then again, it does “look” pretty, doesn’t it?
I’m going to go buy sourdough from the store right now for $4 and give it a hug, because I now appreciate how much love and care went into making that loaf.
And I don’t even like sourdough bread.