Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bread-making crisis narrowly averted

I decided to make a loaf of "middle-class brioche," as designated by Peter Reinhold, in my bread maker today. The little cookbook that came with my machine simply calls this recipe "Egg Bread," which does NOT do justice to the taste, believe me. It is a good, rich recipe for a one-and-a-half pound loaf made with milk, two eggs and butter: I add two extra tablespoons of butter in order to make it extra brioche-y.

Anyway, the bread had just started on its first proofing as I was kind of dragging myself around the kitchen, tidying things up. The breakfast dishes were already loaded into the dishwasher, and I went over to unplug the toaster and put it away, the same toaster that was plugged into the same outlet as the bread maker. The same toaster that has a white electrical cord that is the exact same color as the one that connects the bread machine to the blessed current that prepares nice loaves of bread with so little effort on my part.

You know what happened, right? Even as my brain was yelping "NO! NO! DO NOT UNPLUG!" my impulsive hand reached forth and, without checking to see which appliance I was disengaging, yanked the plug out of the wall. Sure enough, the bread machine's timer gave its running-down "wheeee-e-e-e---e-----e------e" while the toaster squatted there on the counter, smirking at me.

But you know, I haven't been doing all this reading of bread-making techniques and practicing what I've learned and drooling over Kayte's pictures on her blog for nothing, no I have not. I immediately sprang into action with more energy than I've had in the past two weeks.

"Quick! The Bread-Maker's Apprentice!" I said, and sprinted over to the bookcase where my cookbooks sit, yanking Peter's volume off the shelf, noting as I did so that a small cloud of flour poofed out of the pages, some of which were a little gritty. I feverishly thumbed through the pages and found the section about proofing bread, and in less than five minutes, the brioche dough had been whisked out of the bread machine's interior, brushed with a light coating of oil, and slung into a bread pan, which I placed inside my oven with the light on and covered with a clean kitchen towel for its first proofing.

I read that Peter recommends only about fifteen minutes of proofing inside an oven that has a pilot light, which mine does, so at the end of that time I retrieved the pan from the oven and placed it atop the stove to complete its doubling process. At the end of the two hours, the dough looked perfect, so I followed Peter's further directions and put it in the fridge covered with plastic wrap: I can allow it to do its final proofing tomorrow and bake it then.

Now, this might not sound like much to an experienced home baker, but for me, well, this was a major endeavor. There was a time not so very long ago when I would have just assumed that the bread dough was ruined because of my untimely act of unpluggage and I would have just chucked the lump of dough in the wastebasket and started over. But I've learned a lot. Not so much that I'll ever be some kind of bread-making whiz, but enough that I now have a fairly clear idea of the different stages of breadishness and what it's supposed to be doing an each stage and why.

That, I find, is a very nice feeling indeed.

1 comment:

Katie said...

I do stuff like that all the time! Glad you saved the bread!!