Kneading makes bread and bitching doesn’t. So I started kneading.
Something happened to change my mood; kneading was fun. Who knew? Squish squish squish. Sip coffee. Sip whiskey. Repeat. Squish squish squish. It was a smallish loaf so it was pretty easy. I pounded the shit out of the bread and started thinking that it was a kind of meditation. No wonder women like kneading bread. Squish squish squish. Outta’ coffee? Who cares, sip more whiskey. I’m kneading baby! Squish squish squish. I should do this more often. Squish squish squish. You know there’s something absolutely wholesome about kneading. You could be a serial killer that makes puppets out of dead baby seals and you suddenly have a halo when you’re kneading. Squish squish squish. I made a smiley face out of dough. I sipped more whiskey and flattened Mr. Smiley face. Squish squish squish. I was humming a tune. Sure it was “Don’t Fear The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult but that’s just because I forgot the words to “Amazing Grace”. Don’t harsh my halo dammit.
All too soon I was done. I hereby suggest that anyone anywhere should knead bread whenever possible. If only because it’s an excuse to be an adult while playing with the equivalent of Play Dough.
Should I add points to the mix approach because it forced me to spend fifteen minutes out of my busy day in pleasant mediative reverie? Is that antithetical to my “manufacture” attitude? How much whiskey did I drink while kneading? Do I care? I decided to add two points to mix for forcing me against my will to take a short jaunt down the road toward spiritual enlightenment.
Then came a 15 minute “let it rise” period. You need to use a “warm place” for this. I live in the tundra and heat my house to “pipes aren’t froze so shut up”. Carter wouldn’t wear a sweater in my house, he’d burn it to stay warm. I added one point to the machine for self-heating the ingredients while I wandered around the house looking for a place that didn’t feel like a glacier. (The wood stove wasn’t running that day.)
Then I assembled the stuff I’d need to bake bread in a machine “from scratch”. There aren’t many ingredients in bread but it did take longer to find everything, measure it, dump it into the machine, and put it away. I gave one point to the mix for truly demonstrating the concept of stoned monkey.
My ingredients were in the machine and it was doing it’s thing long before the kneaded dough was done with its 15 minutes lag time. I had time for more coffee and whiskey; another point for the machine.
Before I had time to get bored, the bread had risen. I had to knead it some more but this time I only did it for a few minutes. Not enough to feel smug and righteous but enough to make a mess on the table. No points either way.
Then I had to prepare a bread pan and stick the loaf in the pan. Probably I don’t need the pan but have I mentioned that I follow the damn recipe like it’s direct orders from God? Yeah, well I do so if it said “carry to the loaf to Mount Doom and throw it in the volcano” I’d do that too. Fiddling around with bread pans is a hassle. One point for the machine which used the pan as a mixing bowl too.
Then I had to let the bread rise. It was only 40 minutes but I gave another point to the bread machine which had dutifully left me alone since the moment I’d turned it on. The bread rose and I tossed it in a pre-heated oven. I gave the bread machine another point because there’s always shit in the oven and I had to clean that out too.
Less that a half hour later the bread was done. Unfortunately I had to use judgment to decide when the crust was golden brown. This is different from the bread machine which will beep when it’s good and ready. I for one welcome our mechanical overlords which time the bake cycle on our behalf. In keeping with the nature of modern American society I gave the bread machine another point for removing the need for judgment.
I dumped the loaf out of the pan. I had to admit that it looked nicer than machine bread. I can make “pretty bread” that looks practically gourmet but since I gave this bread virtually no serious effort I mentally expected a generic ugly duckling. Not so. It wasn’t the ugly Orwellian loaf produced by a machine. While not gorgeous, the presentation on the cutting board made me appear rather competent. One point to the mix for making a “normal” shaped loaf. Another point for making me look competent.
Within minutes the stamped happened. People came out of the woodwork. Bread was sliced. Bread was consumed. Smiles abounded. I was a hero!
I took the time to survey the audience. I though the bread was a bit mealy for my tastes. Everyone else assured me that I have no taste. I’ll admit that my tastes aren’t for everyone. I sometimes make 100% wheat breads that are like hard tack from the Napoleonic wars and more suited to fueling up before fighting a dragon than delicately nibbling with a little strawberry jam. What can I say, I like bread with horsepower. I decided the mix based bread was far more suited to the average American palate.
Also I thought it was a little too sweet (being “honey wheat” that’s to be expected). Everyone assured me that my disposition is plenty acidic enough for the whole world and sweetness is good.
I bowed to public pressure and awarded the bread two points for crowd pleasing texture and taste.
Then I asked who was going to wash the bread pan. Every living being in the house (except me and my dog) vanished. I gave the machine another point for producing fewer dishes to wash. Had I done that before? No matter… it’s a key finding and worth whatever points I’d allocated. It only took a minute to clean up. (Editor’s note: Gentlemen? If you share the kitchen with the missus do you leave the kitchen in better condition than you found it? Don’t lie! You do? Does she back you up on that? She does! Well done sir. Carry on.)
I didn’t bother to obsess over the bread machine loaf. I’d been ignoring it and until it beeped and wasn’t going to learn anything interesting. I’ve eaten a thousand loaves based on this particular recipe and they’re remarkably uniform. I poured more whiskey and turned on my laptop to make my final assessment of the bread race’s finish.
Stay tuned for the final tally:
The only thing I dislike about bread machines, other than their short service life under hard use, is that the pan is next to impossible to grease on the bottom and when the bread sticks it’s next to impossible to remove intact. But the idea of dumping ingredients into a pan and coming back later for the bread seriously rocks, when it works.
Mr. Curmudgeon! What darest I say? Let’s start with Mr. C for President! Unlike any politician I know in at least two ways–he can learn and he is true to his word. He said he can learn and behold. he did! Palmam qui meruit ferat, which is Latin for “let the one who deserves it bear the palms (of victory)–a very dangerous and politically incorrect attitude nowadays. You will find baking gets easier, less messy, and more organized with practice but no less fun. Squish away! Great looking loaf. Molasses especially a strong thick one, has a bite to it that offsets the sweetness and gives the loaf a pleasant darker color.
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