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Joined: Dec 12, 2005


Posted to Thread #13225 at 4:23 am on Dec 27, 2008

[Household of Fools]

I had a blind date on Monday night. As a rule I don't usually go in for that sort of thing, but desperate times call for desperate measures. We agreed to begin at 9:00 PM because--let's be perfectly blunt here--if I played my cards right and got lucky, this date was going to last all night.

Right off the old bakers' peel, I knew things would move S.L.O.W.L.Y. My "older date" was approximately 250 years old, which adds a note of poignancy to the phrase carbon dating.


What I did not know was that--before it was all over--I would be involved in a flour-coated ménage à trois of epic proportions. Only this would be the American version...the kind with all the angst, but none of the S.E.X.

NOTE: The following material is for Mature Audiences only.

I have photo-documented this sordid journey into yeast-fermentation and bread doughs. It is a poignant tale, wrought with surprise ingredients, frantic phone calls and swear words spoken in Dead Languages. The only positive notes? Calories from two loaves of chocolate cherry bread were NOT consumed by moi and the movie rights have been optioned by Sarah Jessica Parker.

The relationship started off slow but with real warmth, the way all true romances do. I fed my date warm water and white flour on a regimented four-hour schedule, dividing and discarding as he expanded to encompass the room and become white starter.

That's Mr. White Starter to you.


And with time and patience, we bonded. I mean, literally--we bonded. The flour and water made a glue and stuck to me in several unseemly places.

Date From Hell: Day 2

Tuesday morning, with freshly-made starter in hand, I opened Nancy Silverton's Breads from La Brea Bakery to Page 133 and girded my loins to make Chocolate Sour Cherry Bread, a recipe that has scared me for years. I had my White Starter in place, I had vacation time, and By God, I was going to finally make this bread.

Already exhausted from spending so much time on my Classic Sour Dough Starter, I was shocked when the third part of this tragedy--Trois--entered the scene.

Trois had one simple line in the recipe, but it was the Freddy Kruger of lines; the "Anthony Perkins hiding in the basement wearing a hairnet" line:

1 cake (0.6 ounce) or 2 teaspoons packed fresh yeast.


You know those life-defining moments when your primal gut-reaction cries out Cut bait and Run! NOW! Well, this was that time. Sound effects people were creating screechy, scary music and the hairs on the back of my neck are not only standing at attention, they were saluting.

Add one cake of FRESH yeast? What? Why??? I had already mail-ordered a "starter" starter from King Arthur just to be ready for this bread because Silverton's recipes use "starters" rather than blandly inefficient commercial yeast (ibid). Now--not only do I need 6 ounces of custom-made starter, I also need 0.6 oz of fresh yeast as well? In Florida no less, where fresh yeast cannot be found to save your soul!

If you hadn't noticed yet, Yeast is a 4-letter word to me.

And do you think I had fresh yeast? OF COURSE I DON'T HAVE FRESH YEAST! What do I look like, some kind of bread baker?? I had containers of fermenting starter all over my kitchen and in my refrigerator, but no fresh yeast. Really! Who has packages of fresh yeast just sitting around? Okay, other than Martha Stewart, Nancy Silverton, and the Pillsbury DoughBoy?

After making several fruitless (yeastless?) phone calls, I realized the quest was useless and began searching the pantry, where I lucked upon a three-pack of fast-rising yeast.

But wait! Do not celebrate so quickly, Foolish Reader. What does our fair Nancy say about that item? Well, I'll tell you since you've stuck with me so far. She says and I quote: "The only thing I don't recommend is fast-rising yeast, which works too quickly for the rising times required for most of the breads in this book." (ibid).

I reflected upon those pearls of wisdom and then said: "Screw that! If this was now a threesome, Game On!" In went the white starter, followed by half the amount of proofed rapid yeast.

[Dough getting roughed up by the Mother Of All KitchenAids.]


Okay. This is the stage where The Dough goes into the frig for its overnight rest. Per Nancy's excruciatingly detailed notes--the likes of which should allow anyone to make good bread--it goes into the refrigerator a small and firm dough and comes out an expanded "spongy and sticky" dough. Here is the small and firm dough going into the frig:


Date From Hell: Day 3

Let me save you a trip to and simply show you the outcome. After 12 hours, the dough came OUT of the refrigerator the Exact Same Way it went INTO the frig: small and firm, with nary a "spongy" in sight.


So what do I do? [after swearing, of course.]

I add MORE YEAST. That's what I do! Because I don't care!! In for a penny; in for the whole damn pound. In addition to all the time I've wasted when I could have been inventing the cure for, oh, I don't know...cellulite?...there's 6 ounces of dark Belgium chocolate and tangy dried cherries in that dough and By God, I'm going to save it yet.

After proofing and adding EVEN MORE yeast, I gave it another roughing up with the KA and then another 4 HOURS of resting time.

In. Which. It. Does. Nuh-Thing.

Do I give up?

No. That would be the sensible and--dare I say--sane thing to do.

Instead, I man-handled the dough into a baguette pan and wait for it to rise.


Does it rise?

Excuse me for sounding blunt, but are you stupid? Have you not seen the yellow police tape criss-crossing the kitchen doorway?

Regardless of all the warning signs and alarms going off, I preheated the oven to 500 degrees and prepared to bake the bread. I spritzed, I made steam, I lowered the temperature, I checked it midway and when the baking time was over, it looked....well, to be honest, using the phrase "charred and blackened" would be kind.

But WAIT! We're still not done because Nancy gives a final burst of hope to our embittered soul as she describes her baked bread: "The outside of this bread becomes very dark, almost black, and has no visible signs of fermentation bubbles." (ibid)

See! I have hope. Just like the fools on the Titanic who kept dancing because the band kept playing.

Maybe almost black is the new "golden brown crust"?

Here is the finished product. I am too chocked up to say more.


We tasted the charred ruins and then put both loaves outside for the animals as a holiday treat. The raccoons left a note, telling us to expect a call from their lawyers. They're suing us for inhumane treatment to small woodland creatures.

Jesus saves. Buddha recycles.

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