I admit to doing the Atkins Diet for at least one year of my life, but I’m putting that experience in the box with things you do in college you wish you hadn’t. How can a person live without a freshly baked baguette or a hunk of a grainy, seedy loaf? I try not to eat bread at every meal, but it’s hard not to. Its versatility is astounding. In Malawi, we can only get white bread. Though it is freshly baked each day and incredibly “squidgy” (the only saving grace), it’s a close cousin to Wonderbread in taste, texture and appearance. Nonetheless, I eat it every morning. Shame on me!
I would love nothing more than to make my own bread on a Saturday morning. I’d toast it with fried eggs. I’d whip up a batch of rolls to accompany a hearty winter stew. Trouble is, I absolutely hate making dough. Any dough. It’s fussy and pernickety. I never quite know if the consistency is correct. It requires patience and time (not my strong suit) and too much elbow grease. The whole exercise is generally hit or miss—sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. So despite my fantasy, a Saturday morning of dough-making would be my kitchen daymare.
I had pretty much written off bread-making altogether. But a few months ago when I was still living in England, I caught an episode of Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s TV show, “River Cottage.” This guy lives on some enormous English country estate, straight out of a Victorian novel. He’s quirky. Sometimes he’s eating squirrel kebabs or making beer made from nettles, but this episode he simply demonstrated how to make bread and, of course, made it look easier than putting a Pop-Tart in the toaster. Again, I thought, not for me.
Before I had time to reach for the remote, he began reading the ingredients list off the side of a few store-bought loaves. He might as well have been a reading shampoo bottle. “But why?” he asked. “Why on earth should these ingredients be in bread?” Who could argue? Given the choice, who wouldn’t choose to eat bread made simply from flour, water, yeast and salt? But it’s hard to get off your duff and make the staff of life. Only posh English chaps with their own TV shows have time to do that….right? I’m not so sure. If we make time for what’s important, how important is it for me to eat bread, (essentially my favorite food) not made from 19 ghastly ingredients?
I resolve this year to conquer this kitchen fear. I may not be opening my own Boulangerie by the end of this experiment, but I am determined to get comfortable with dough and a few simple bread recipes.
What is your kitchen daymare? What do you fear most to cook?