Mad scientist or bread baker?

April 16, 2020


I remember about 15 years ago when I had two little boys spinning around my feet, someone, who obviously didn’t like me very much, gave me a jar with goopy, puffy, gurgling – “something” inside. “It’s bread starter” she explained. Then this woman, who still needs a lesson in payback – maybe in the form of a puppy, handed me a 14-page document on how to take care of the starter. I wasn’t even sure how to take care of my children much less a living blob in a Mason jar.

Sales of yeast have skyrocketed by 647% over the last few months, due to people wanting to bake their own bread. While we shelter in place to avoid spreading the Coronavirus and grocery stores often run low on bread, it makes sense to start baking at home.

The instructions said things like, “at this stage it will smell like a funky and sour beer.” Tell me again how this is charming? When will I feel like Betty Crocker? I read further . . . the word “bacteria” was tossed around and I discovered I needed a calendar, thermometer, Indiana Jones’ whip, stopwatch and 40 miles of plastic wrap to cover and uncover the blob 15 times a day. I was supposed to poke it, rock it, read and sing to it, while removing exactly 2.2 ounces at precisely 5pm eastern time. If I left town, I had to find someone to take care of the blob for me.

Like a temperamental baby, I was supposed to powder its soft bottom with flour to make it turn into happy bread. The only part of the graduate level science project I liked was at the end of the process, I got to pass another jar of nuclear goop off to someone else. I made a mental list of people I associated with the word, “revenge.”

I love to bake other pastries and have even won a blue ribbon at the county fair for cookies, but my bread has always been a disaster. My new year’s resolution in 2005 was to master my grandmother’s biscuits. I came close, and my family escaped mostly unharmed.

My husband gave up carbs a few years ago, and I don’t think it was for his health as much as it was for his safety. Some of my bread has actually exploded when it came in contact with teeth. Poof! It just disintegrated into a puff of fluff like a party trick. “Make that exploding bread again, Mom!”

The good I see in baking your own bread, besides the great aroma, is the passion within the baker. If you find someone who knows how to bake bread from scratch and ask them about it, you’ll see their face light up as their voice raises a step and their eyes drift off to the side as they tell you about the temperature of their oven. Their hands fly through the air as they pantomime kneading techniques. My passion for passionate people is satisfied and I love hearing all about it. Their tales of crispy crusts and specific flour brands make me smile. It doesn’t make me want to learn to bake bread myself, but by a strange twist of fate, I have mastered making homemade butter from pure cream, so I’m the perfect friend to the bread baker.

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Have you been baking? Tell me how easy it is!

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