Ah, Hubris…



Annabeth: My fatal flaw. That’s what the Sirens showed me. My fatal flaw is hubris.
Percy: The brown stuff they spread on veggie sandwiches?
Annabeth: No, Seaweed Brain. That’s HUMMUS. Hubris is worse.
Percy: What could be worse than hummus?
Annabeth: Hubris means deadly pride, Percy. Thinking you can do things better than anyone else… Even the gods.
Rick Riordan, The Sea of Monsters

Two loavesYou think you know it all, and so you try to show off your talents. That’s when hubris makes you fall. So today, with company for the weekend, in between chess games, ukulele songs and great conversation, I produced the dough I’d been cold-fermenting in the fridge since Sunday.  Should be just about perfect. Time to show off my new breadmaking skills.

Oops.

Bread requires attention; patience, awareness. Like meditation, like writing.

It’s not something you should do while nattering, while showing one another Youtube videos, while trying to show another person a new song arrangement.

Whole wheatMind half on other things, I shaped the cold dough, put one mix in a ceramic pot, the other in a bread pan to warm up. Let them rise while I carried on. Clearly not quite long enough or warm enough. But I wasn’t really watching. Was the dough high enough? Awake enough? Our house is cool, so dough doesn’t rise very rapidly.

Should have warmed the pot first, but no… and forgot the lame; forgot to score the tops. Bakers shouldn’t be so distracted. Too many things to do, too many rituals to follow.

Then I baked them together at 450 for… ? Yipes. I forgot to record the time. Was it 30 minutes? 35? Best guess… look at the tops. Seem done…

Took the lid off the pot a little late, too. That might have kept the steam inside a little too long the kamut bread.

Took them out of the oven and let them cool on racks. Too soon, too soon.

Kamut and Red Fife

Sigh.

The result: bad bread. Still doughy in parts. Too dense, too.

My instant-read thermometer told me the inside of the larger one was >200F, but not for long enough I suppose. Not enough time to shed the moisture and cook the dough.

So many reasons it might have gone wrong. Time, temperature, maybe even the mix. I don’t know. No matter, either way the breads were basically inedible. Probably would have been perfect had I been alone, had I not boasted and showed off. Would have been more focused, more aware.

Have to start again. Put together a wet dough mix a la Jim Lahey’s initial recipe in My Bread, and left it to sit overnight. That’s my tomorrow bread story, waiting for me to finish and bake, Saturday morning. Another simple mix: just unbleached flour, water, salt and yeast.

Irish Soda bread

This double failure comes on the heels of a modest success this week with my first non-yeast bread: Irish soda bread with  a buttermilk base. It wasn’t quite as fluffy as I had hoped, but not too bad, and rather tasty.

Easy recipe, though. Just mix and bake.

I have to experiment a bit more with soda breads to figure out how to make them rise more (more soda? bake sooner? longer? don’t know…).

But overall, it wasn’t bad. Creamy flavour, texture a bit like cornbread, and an odd crust – crunchy but not chewy. Not my best bread, but certainly not my worst. Would be nice toasted with jam, I bet… but back to the hubris thing.

Today’s failures rattled my confidence. I had planned to start a pumpkin-cranberry loaf and some baguettes next week. Maybe that’s a bit ambitious and I should work on my basic breads before then. Tomorrow I’ll see what Lahey’s recipe produces.