What I Do When I Can’t Dance
This week I came down with some kind of fever-and-sore throat combo. As such, I spent much of the past few days in bed, asleep, letting my beleaguered and probably overworked immune system do its thing.
Today I finally felt well enough to crawl out of bed for a few hours, so I cleaned the kitchen and made a giant batch of chicken and dumplings for the family next door, which is wrestling with bad news about about the health of the husband (who is also Dad and Grandpa to a growing clan), and a regular-sized batch of bread for us.
As an experiment, for for the the bread, I doubled the amount of yeast I normally use (a choice facilitated by the fact that I buy yeast in 2-pound packages; no need to worry about running out of little envelopes here). I’m surprised at how significant an impact it had — my bread is usually good, but this batch is really, really good. The crumb is light and springy, while the crust is thin but very crisp, and the yeastier yeastier flavor evokes the best pizza crusts I’ve tasted. I’ll have to try the same variation the next time I make pizza (FWIW, my bread recipe is, in fact, actually a pizza dough recipe anyway).
Anyway, it occurred to me to be pleased with myself about a couple of things.
First, I know how to make legit chicken and dumplings from scratch — no packaged stock or anything — and it’s good enough that people request it when potlucks and and so forth roll around. That’s a minor accomplishment on the grand scale of things, of course, but for a raised-by-cats Yankee from a we-don’t-cook WASPy family in the chicken-n-dumplings deprived Northeast, knowing how to make from-scratch chicken and dumplings good enough to be requested even by quasi-Southerners is a pretty cool piece of adulting to master.
Second, I know how to make good bread — that is, bread good enough that even my culinary friends with serious breadigrees (see what I did there? :P) have pronounced it “good.” I feel it’s worth noting that one of these friends is a Swiss-French pastry chef and the other is the person our local high-end bread bakery turns to in a crisis. They both know their way around good bread.
I can’t take too much credit for that, of course.
In fact, good basic bread is roughly the easiest thing in the world to make — mix up like five ingredients, knead for 6 to 8 minutes, cover with a damp cloth and ignore for an hour, shape, cover with a damp cloth and ignore for another 30 minutes or so, and bake at 450 – 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 – 30 minutes depending on what you’re ultimately making. You can even ignore it for roughly 30 minutes less, total, if you’re in a hurry and you use highly -active yeast.
I honestly think the main reason people find basic bread difficult is that it’s hard to believe that something so good can be so easy, so they start tinkering with it.
Anyway, neither of these skills are going to win me the Nobel Prize in Adulting, but you have to take your self-esteem where you can get it.
Preferably with a grain of salt and some good butter or maybe some hummus and a slice of havarti.
So that was my day today. Now I’m going to go read, write, and try not to eat that entire batch of awesome bread 😛