You know on all those cooking shows and food blogs where they’re like “MAKE SURE YOU READ THE ENTIRE RECIPE BEFORE STARTING”?
That’s because of people like me – people who find a recipe next to a picture of something they like the looks of and immediately run to the kitchen to start throwing things in a bowl, only to realize halfway through that the recipe says some bullshit like “now let this sit overnight”, or “cook on low heat for at least four hours” and it’s already like 8pm.
Or, halfway through throwing things in the bowl they realize, “fuck, this calls for a whole bunch of turmeric. I don’t have any frigging turmeric. What do I have that tastes LIKE turmeric? Nothing, basically, because turmeric tastes like dirt”.
That’s right, TURMERIC TASTES LIKE DIRT. I’m not saying I don’t like it or that you shouldn’t use it. I’m just saying it tastes like dirt and you know I’m right so cool your fucking jets and keep your pants on or whatever. Jeezis.
Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yes, recipes being a challenge.
So, with my brand of ADHD, I can have a recipe right in front of me, I can read through it 14 times, I can fully understand the gist of what I’m making and how to make it, I can look at where it says, “1 teaspoon of dirt-tasting turmeric”…and by the time I reach up into the cupboard for the turmeric, I’ve forgotten what the measurement was. Turmeric in hand, I’ll look again but the recipe will now say “3 teaspoons of dirt-tasting turmeric”, because my eyes are reading half of one line and half of another. I’ll think to myself “that seems like a lot, especially since turmeric basically just tastes like dirt”, look at the recipe again, and it will be back to 1 teaspoon and I’ll wonder if I’m hallucinating a tiny bit (possibly due to high turmeric intake).
I usually manage to side-step my brain’s attention shortcomings while cooking by having a strong culinary instinct to begin with (I come from a long line of good cooks), being creative, and keeping my sense of humor about sometimes-ugly-but-usually-still-tasty food.
That’s not really helpful with baking, though. With baking, measuring is important. Paying attention to how your dough acts is important. Not changing 14 things in the recipe on the fly IS IMPORTANT. You can be the second god damned coming of Picasso and have the best sense of humor on Earth but your cake is still going to come out like chocolate-colored sawdust if you don’t measure your flour properly.
I decided I wanted to start baking bread after watching a cooking documentary about fermentation and the history of fermented foods back in the late winter. I’ve long been a fan of fermented foods and I’m a keen believer that the bacteria living in our guts are probably one of the most crucial (and most overlooked) contributors to our overall health. Fermented bread, aka: sourdough, has a much lower glycemic impact than commercial yeast bread, it has more bio-available minerals and vitamins, the gluten proteins have been chemically altered by the bacteria in such a way that they become less inflammatory to the gut and more easy for the body to break down, plus probably a whole load of other happy horse shit.
Point being, I was sold on sourdough. I wanted to make some and it didn’t seem that hard. All you need, after all, is flour, water, salt and patience. Or, if not patience, at least a will to succeed. At least, that’s what a whole bunch of websites told me.
And they weren’t ENTIRELY wrong…but they left out a motherfucking TRUCKLOAD of details, it turns out. Like, temperature is almost as important as measuring your ingredients…and I’m not talking oven temperature, I’m talking ambient temperature in your kitchen from the time you start mixing your dough until the time you put it into the oven. Also, bread dough acts differently depending on the humidity level in your kitchen. Different types of flour (just wheat flour, mind you…I’m not subbing like, crystalized unicorn tears or anything) absorb different amounts of water depending on not only whether they’re whole grain or not, but also whether they’re winter wheat, spring wheat, red wheat, and apparently what fucking PHASE OF THE MOON THEY GERMINATED IN. I swear to god it’s like the most ridiculously convoluted thing ever. There’s actual note taking involved, people. COME ON. “It’s just flour, water and salt”, my ass.
But somehow, it works (usually). And I love it. And not just because I get to have delicious toast in the mornings or give away pretty loaves of bread to appreciative friends. I’ve found working with bread dough to be so…I don’t know, meditative, I guess. It has its own rhythm and once you start a batch, you’re just sort of along for the ride. Except you can’t just be the co-pilot who sleeps the whole ride because you have to be aware of what the dough is doing, how it’s progressing. You have to be ready to move it from one phase to the next, but not until the dough itself is ready. It’s kind of like a pet that is independent and likes to do its own thing but that is also a little bit derpy and needs you to keep an eye on them so they don’t like, chew on wires and stuff. That got weird, but I think you get my drift.