Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Great Rye Bread Disaster Of 2006

With less than 24 hours to go before the induction of labor, and feeling better after a weekend of being confined to bed, I decided I would focus my efforts on cleaning up the kitchen, which (after a weekend of being confined to bed while the kids snuck their own snacks and FH cooked dinner) is a holy mess. My greatest fear is that when I return home the house will be upside down and on fire and the kids will look like extras from Les Miserables; but my second greatest fear is that my family will run out of good, nutritious homemade bread.

I've been on a breadmaking kick lately. It's a cheap, easy way to make gifts for your friends that will compel them to stand in awe of your mighty kitchen prowess. Most people have no idea how easy it is to make bread, so when you present them with a fresh hot loaf they think you are a domestic goddess, when in fact bread is just about the only thing you can make because as long as you have a nice mixer and a dough hook, it doesn't require standing up for more than five minutes at a time.

The kids, of course, already stand in awe of my cooking ability (mostly because we can't afford to go out to really nice restaurants, and also because I put extra cheese on my homemade pizza). They have been utterly delighted with the bread I've been producing, even when it's crap. They fight over who gets to lick the dough hook, and they line up eagerly for their first slice of whatever's just come out of the oven. They do all my "quality control" tests.

Anyway, today I decided I'd make some rye bread. It's been a long time since I've made any rye, and it took me about a week to decide which recipe I wanted to make first. It was down to Polish Rye and Russian Black, both of which I'd made before, so on a last-minute whim I decided to make a recipe I'd never tried. I dumped out my old, rancid rye flour and ground some fresh rye flour. Mmmmm.

As I was reading through the ingredient list, it seemed like there was way too much liquid for the amount of flour in the recipe. And sure enough, when I got it all mixed together, the stuff was batter instead of dough. "Well," I thought, "I'll just add a little more flour, and it'll come together."

Four and a half cups of flour later, I had exceeded the capacity of my mixer. There was sticky dough all the way up past the hook and about to get into the mechanism. I had to abandon the mixer, clear a spot on the table, and knead the last of the flour in by hand. This is no small feat while you are 9 months pregnant, because the size of your belly means it has to be done at arm's length and standing quite a distance from the table. And after that, I had to clean off the mixer before the stuff dried, because there were eggs in the dough. Eggs, when they dry, are pretty damn hard.

I think I was able to salvage the dough, although now I will have four loaves instead of two. The challenge will be to eat all that bread before it goes bad. I could give it away, but because everyone knows I'm pregnant and giving birth tomorrow, that would mean allowing them to think I had gone far beyond Domestic Goddess status and was now on my way to enlightenment as well. If you want people to desire to be your friends, you can't very well do stuff that makes you look like you inhabit a higher plane, even if in reality you are just covering up for a kitchen disaster.

I'd offer it to all my blog readers, but most of you probably don't live near enough to eat it.