Breads Fall Apart

January 29, 2011 § 3 Comments

When I was living in France, I did my fair share of baking. Mostly cookies and scones. I’d bake them on aluminum foil inside my “Magic Oven.” The difference in flour, butter, and the metric system—-these things never seemed to get in the way of my baking. Any dough that went into the oven emerged golden brown, beautiful, and delicious. I guess you could say I started to expect good results. Even with limited effort. There, I set myself up for the inevitable fall.

The day when something horrible and inedible would appear between those potholders. That day was yesterday. Behold: What is that? How did it happen?

Well, it was supposed to be “Pain de Fromage Pour Bien Boire,” or “Cheese Bread To Give You A Thirst.” Obviously, that’s not what it’s giving you, or anybody. Judging by that photo,  it’ll probably give you a stomach ache instead.

To explain how this atrocity happened: I was taking a leap, using an old cookbook that was first published in French in the 30’s. Inside its binding are recipes from the late 19th century, thus—these ingredients, these directions—-this everything—-is very risky for the hopeful cook. I should’ve looked before leaping, but I had the “Magic Oven Syndrome,” thinking I was invincible in an apron.

The recipe reads as follows:

Mix one hundred twenty-five grams of flour, seventy-five grams of grated cheese—Gruyère or Parmesan—salt and cayenne pepper, half a coffee spoon of Alsatian yeast. When you have kneaded it all together, add seventy-five grams of butter and the yolk of an egg.  Lay out the paste, cut it in strips or rounds, glaze with an egg yolk, put it in a hot oven for about ten minutes.

Voilà. C’est tout. Not the most information to go off of. Still, I told myself that with all that butter and cheese, how could I mess up? Take a look at the photo of the dense cheese-&-butter balls in the above photo, and you see how. So I should have rolled that dough flat, okay. That was my first mistake. But look—the yeast was never proofed before it went into the bread dough. What’s that about? And the only thing really holding these things together was that one measly egg yolk. No wonder things went awry.

Needless to say, I was disappointed. I plopped my chin on my fists and stared at the failed bread. If I knew more about baking, or if the instructions were clearer, or if I had done more research before launching myself into this…

Actually, the Magic Oven Syndrome is applicable to my current situation at home. I, like many others, am treading water in a sloshing pool of job applicants, all looking for full-time work. In the past, it seems as though jobs have found me, and I’ve worked them happily. I’ve never put too much sweat, toil, and preparation into the hunt. Things just kind of…worked out.

There’s a lesson here. Being prepared is better than crossing your fingers and hoping all the hurdles will be cleared. Knowing what to expect and feeling confident is foolproof. And maybe Magic Ovens only exist in France. Who knows! At any rate, I did some homework and tried again, this time leaning on a more modern recipe and adding some rosemary and fresh cracked pepper to the dough. I have to say, the results are much better than the dastardly doughballs that I created yesterday. Uff.

So, I think it’s best to apply this same process to any kind of search. Before diving in, it helps to know what you’re looking for. You’ll recognize it pretty quickly when you find it. 

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§ 3 Responses to Breads Fall Apart

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