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Bad Bread

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So a couple of nights ago I made a beautiful potato and leek soup (about which more later) and I decided that bread was necessary to round out the meal. Bear in mind that it is intolerably hot here, and that no sane person would bake bread if they could pick up a nice loaf from Zingerman’s at the grocery store, but I was fixated on coming up with a couple of loaves of wheat bread just because I could.

Or so I thought. I have been baking bread for 30 years, having started in the 70s when I wanted my family to eat nothing that didn’t come from the pages of “The Moosewood Cook Book” or Laurel’s Kitchen.” I learned to proof, knead and tap loaf bottoms for done-ness, with some help from my mother, and I have always loved the sense of working with live ingredients that respond to my touch and become much more than flour, water, salt and yeast. From my earliest days in Earth Shoes and Seals & Crofts in the background, I have been calmed, empowered and spiritually enlarged by the bread making process.

The other night, though, I was thwarted in The Zen of Bread almost immediately by the fact that the recipe called for powdered milk, and I had none. In the spirit of adventure, I decided to try using malted milk instead. I figured (contrary to any evidence on the label) that it must have some dried dairy component, and that its sweetness would be balanced if I also omitted the brown sugar called for in the recipe. I imagined a slightly sweet loaf with a hint of malt that would, in some transigurative way, be the umame of bread. i made the bread as i always do, and it looked fairly normal during its rising process. It smelled good as it baked, and I broke out the stash of sweet butter from the farmers’ market, ready to dazzle my audience with my ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat through sheer creativity. After a tap test and a brief period on the cooling rack, I sawed off a heel and slathered it with butter. Cook’s treat.

The taste of the alleged “bread” was so vile, and so bizarre that i literally had to spit it out. By virtue of some chemical reaction unfathomable to the simple home cook, the bread was not only slightly sweet and malty, but had a taste so bitter and potentially toxic that there was really only one thing I could do. Well, two. I sent someone to the grocery store for a loaf of Zingerman’s bread, and I put my bread away.

Photo Design: Blushing Guy

Garbage Stylist: Imagineannie


About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

10 responses »

  1. Oh, bother. Sounds like something I would do. I use the recipe from the bag of King Arthur flour. It’s the only thing I use my powdered milk for.

    Am jealous of your Zingerman’s.

  2. Ann,

    I swear I hadnt seen this post and the ‘disposition’ photo before I sent the yeastrolls photo. You were quite diplomatic, considering.

    Not such a solicitous cookie afterall……..

  3. imagineannie

    Diana, I think I will never stop experimenting, but I do think I’d better just start thinking of powdered milk as a staple. Zingerman’s is about an hour away, so there are a couple of local stores that “import” a load of bread every day. I feel blessed, indeed.

    Robert, no harm done – it was a backdated post so I had not actually made the lumps of toxic waste at the time I was dazzled by your tender, yeasty, oyster-filled pillows of joy. You are still my favorite kind of cookie – other than chocolate chip with pecans and dried Michigan cherries.

  4. Don’t feel bad. Every loaf of bread I made up until three months ago turned out like this…without substitutions! I so wanted to do the Laurel’s Kitchen/ Moosewood thing. Just didn’t have the talent.
    But thanks to Rose Levy Berenbaum, my 30 year curse ended.
    I’ve probably jinxed myself by saying that!!!!

  5. Now, see, this is what a real food blog should be about, the failures as well as the successes. I haven’t done a lot of baking, but I really appreciate your sharing your process with your audience–why you make certain decisions, etc. Some work, some don’t. The last experiment with substitutions (your Garam Masala molasses cookies) showed the other side. Too bad the bread didn’t taste good, it sure looked good, though.

  6. Pingback: Good Soup « Forest Street Kitchen

  7. Blushing Guy

    OK, I’m pretty upset here. I did not get proper credit for the photo design–even though *I* was the one who drove to the store for Zingerman’s!! (Alright…I’ll get over it, I guess.)

  8. Hey Blushing Guy, I see you got your photo design credit. I’m just wondering what the future holds for “garbage stylist”? Ya never know where that “niche market” might go….

  9. Eric,

    Already there, ‘Recycle stylist’. Set that shoot up today.
    Huge I tell you……..

  10. Mary, I am glad you have found bread recipes that work for you – it really is a great feeling of mastery when it works. (And a real feeling of wasted time and failure when you make whatever it is I made). I’ve been meaning to check Rose out, and now you’ve reminded me. Thanks!

    Eric, I appreciate your keen attention to my failures and successes. 🙂 It did look good, which is part of what made it all so terribly tragic.As for my future in garbage styling, you clearly do not take my talent in that area seriously; it took a long time to get that picture just right after being given direction by the whiny-but-talented Photo Designer.

    Blushing Guy, its all fixed. You are now freed from the psychic burden of having your extraordinary gifts go unnoticed.

    Robert, don’t encourage them. I expect you to set a good example.


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