Remember that time I made bread from scratch and it turned out to be a terrible nightmare loaf of horrors and sadness, and I swore, as God is my witness, I'd never bake bread again?
Well, I decided not to give up just yet, because I saw a commercial for this:
"Just add water!", the box says.
"Anyone can be a baker!", the commercial says.
I'm not just anyone, you know. I can screw up a kit or a mix like you wouldn't believe, no matter how hard I try to follow directions. Just ask the (in)Famous Fudge Kit, ruiner of Christmas for four years running. We'll see if anyone can be a baker, Fleischmann's. Oh, we'll see.
According to the directions I needed a large bowl. If there's one thing that's never in short supply around here, it's a large mixing bowl. I settled on my extra Pyrex Verde 403, because it was the right size and it matched the box:
I don't know that matching the box helps, but I also don't know that it doesn't help. Maybe it increases kitchen harmony.
Side note: I have an extra Verde 403 because I bought it separately at a yard sale. Then, later, I got all four of the Verde round mixing bowls for a really good price, so now I have one 403 in the display and one in the cabinet until I drop it on the floor and murder it or I happen to pick up the other pieces and end up with two sets.
Anyway, back to the bread and away from the Pyrex ramblings. The back of the box suggested some mix ins. I didn't want to go all out, but I figured since it was herb bread anyway, maybe some extra herbs would create some more harmony. I want that kitchen filled with good vibrations, damn it. I settled on a teaspoon of herbes de Provence:
because I know from past experience that they smell so effing good, and I want this to be the effing goodest loaf of bread ever.
With everything ready, and a silent prayer to Flour Jesus, I began to bake.
First, I mixed the yeast and sugar in my bowl:
I immediately added hot, but not boiling, water and stirred:
So far, everything seemed good. I consulted the instructions again, and was told to let the bowl sit for three minutes so that the yeast could activate. I would know it activated when it was "foamy". I set the timer, curated my social media for a few minutes, and returned to the bowl when the bell rang.
This is what I saw:
Not what I would call "foamy", but something definitely happened while I was gone. There were bubbles, and as I watched the bowl I saw movement, little puffs forming in the water. I decided that it was bubbling, and foam is made of bubbles, so maybe everything was ok.
The next step was to add the bread mix and mix ins, and to stir until a ball formed. I was warned by the box that dough may be stiff, which was an understatement:
That wooden spoon is standing straight up. I'm not touching the other end.
I was then instructed to put the dough on a greased baking sheet. Last time I did this I put it on a sheet of parchment paper on the sheet, but this time I decided to do exactly what I was told and to grease a cookie sheet until it God damned glistened in the kitchen light. The box said anyone could make bread, and I want to be anyone.
And yeah, my cookie sheets are stained, but it's because they're old. Stop judging me.
The box suggested using a teaspoon of flour on the top of the loaf to make it easier to shape, so I measured out exactly a teaspoon and tried to make my blob round:
I tried. It's not perfect. I then covered it with a dishtowel and left it to rise for 25 minutes.
It did not rise.
Oh, it got bigger:
but it's like me after college. It keeps getting wider, but not any taller. I didn't think I could do anything to change that, so I threw the pan in the oven, set the timer, and hoped for the best.
This is what happened:
Also, my kitchen and living room smelled wonderful, like a French bakery. I imagine it's how the village smells when Belle sings "Bonjour" in the beginning of "Beauty and the Beast", although it's much more likely that the village smells like farm animals, overripe cheese, and unwashed French peasants.
I went for some butter, and sliced off a piece:
And it's not bad. It's a little tiny bit doughy, and mine isn't nearly as tall as the one on the box. Maybe my apartment isn't warm enough? The box said I should let it rise in a warm, draft free place, but maybe my place wasn't as warm as it should be? Maybe I should have waited for more foam? Maybe my initial water wasn't hot enough? Maybe I should have waited for more foam? Who knows, really?
What's important is that I made bread.
I am anyone.