Last fall, I decided that I would start to do things that scared me. Not Jackass-type or illegal things; things that at first thought really excited me, but when that annoying, loud voice would chime in with, Are you nuts? You can’t do that! I would bail on the idea. When I read that Tuesdays with Dorie, the online baking club, was starting up again and was going to bake through all the recipes in Baking with Julia, I knew it was a sign. I love and respect Baking with Julia as a book, but the thought of actually baking stuff from it terrifies me. There’s bread in that book and pies with real crust, which scares the crap out of me and which I chronicled last week. And, oh, yeah, there’s a flippin’ wedding cake in that book! Horror, horror and more horror. I joined Tuesdays with Dorie immediately.
My first attempt at the starter recipe, White Loaves (pages 81-82), was an epic fail. The dough didn’t rise, the bread was as heavy as a brick, and the kitchen looked as though the gents of the World Wrestling Federation had stopped by for a scrimmage.
The recipe calls for a stand-up mixer, which I don’t have. Instead, I halved the recipe and used my food processor. When the bread was not the equivalent of the bread in the book, I thought, Of course, I need a KitchenAid mixer. I can’t make bread without a KitchenAid mixer. After I took a few minutes to breathe, I realized that my hearty Western European and Finnish ancestors made bread without the help of any electric devices, and if they could do it, heck, so could I.
I used bread flour of the second loaf, which was a vast improvement, but it didn’t look exactly like the bread in the book. True, I had used a larger loaf pan, but I didn’t get exactly the results pictured in the book. The bread, however, was delicious—the golden crusty outside protected the spongy, fragrant inside. Dan and I ate it, buttered, with my favorite lentil soup, and Max happily brought the remainder of the loaf back to his bachelor pad to share with his roomies.
I was feeling a little disappointed in my bread until I saw the January 29 episode of Downton Abbey. When Mrs. Patmore, the cook, brings a loaf of bread into the kitchen during one scene, I quickly paused my DVR. Mrs. Patmore’s loaf of bread looked almost exactly like mine! She cut it into thick slices as she talked to the kitchen assistant, Daisy. I watched that scene about three times, not paying a bit of attention to the dialogue. I just wanted to see Mrs. Patmore slice that beautiful bread.
Next recipe: Chocolate Truffle Tartlets. With real piecrust. Gulp.