Monday, March 8, 2010

Kitchen Calamities

I would like to say that I made the worst bread on earth yesterday, but that would be giving it too much credit.  I am sure worse breads have been made at some point in the history of mankind.  The Anasazis probably had sand and pebbles in their breads sometimes and while that would not, in an of itself qualify their bread to be worse than mine, a failed, burned, cornbread full of grit would have been worse than what I made.  Bread that fell off the side of a tandoor and got covered in charcoal would probably be worse though that would depend on how much of the charcoal could be brushed off.   I also remember witnessing the removal of a loaf of bread from a bread machine that had collapsed and was so full of salt that it tasted like brine and made my hands sting a little.  (No one ever figured out how all the salt got in there.)  That might have been worse than the loaf I made yesterday, but what I made yesterday was uniquely bad.

I used the America's Best Recipes American sandwich bread recipe because I have found that it's pretty easy to adapt their recipes to gluten free ingredients.  I was excited to try my rice/oat/potato flour blend that has been working so well.  I added more xanthan gum than usual in an attempt to mimic gluten... perhaps I was also curious about whether one could add too much xanthan gum because I added one Tablespoon per cup of flour.  Normally GF recipes are soft and runny compared to recipes made with all-purpose flour. Not this time.  After adding all of the liquid, the dough was dry and clumpy like play dough that had ben left out too long.  I gathered it into a ball and smashed it all together and decided to see if it would rise.  It wouldn't.  As the yeast produced CO2, the dough just fell apart in clumps.  It was sort of a fast forward version of watching the sedimentary rocks in the desert erode.

I added water to it.  The dough absorbed it all and was still dry and still just fell apart as the yeast grew.  So I added more water.  In total, I probably added an entire cup.  This was on top of the cup and a half of liquid already in the loaf of bread which was still very dry, but staying in a ball (albeit  a very heavy ball with all that water).  How something can be made mostly out of liquid and still be so dry is a mystery to me, but I am convinced that one could lower rising ocean levels or drain a lake with a certain amount of xanthan gum.

The dough was starting to smell a little like yeast, the way rising bread should so I formed a loaf and put it in a pan and waited to see if it would rise.  After adding all that water, the size of the dough had grown and there wasn't much room in the pan for it to rise anyway, but I though I'd just see if it would.  After a half hour, not much had happened.  I took a bath. Still nothing much had happened.  I read a few short stories.  The dough was cracking and looking like it might start to fall apart again, but it had risen slightly.  It was 10:30 and I was wanting to go to bed so I decided to finish up the bread and see how it came out.  At 11:30, I pulled a heavy, heavy pan out of the oven and cut into the loaf which was so firm that I didn't even run the risk of smashing it even a little bit while it was hot.  The slice of bread fell apart in clumps as I feared it might.  I tasted a bit of it and the only possibly redeeming aspect of it was that the flavors of honey and milk and a little salt came through and it tasted sort of like normal bread.  

I am scheduled to go to pottery tonight,  I haven't used my sack of clay in a while and it is sort of dried out an clumpy.  I may have had enough of that last night.  I am tempted to stay home and see if I can make a dough that is more like bread than clay.

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