So the other day, my German wife and I were watching a four-part Netflix documentary series called Cooked, which explores different cooking traditions from around the world and how the four elements — fire, water, air and earth — transform food and give it a central role in our culture. The series is based on Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, by Michael Pollan. Pollan also wrote The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I once tried to read on the pooper but both my legs fell asleep and I had to crawl out of the bathroom on my hands and knees. Oh my god, the pins and needles were so bad… and the entire time I just kept thinking: Must eat local foods… “Free range” doesn’t mean shit… Corn is the devil…
Cooked was pretty interesting overall. We both liked it, though my wife did a lot of complaining about the “water” episode, because it basically had nothing to do with water at all. (She’s German, you see; she needs things nicely planned and compartmentalized, lest she feel the unholy sting of disorder.) She was right, of course — the water theme was flimsy at best — but who gives a shit? Call the episode “blanched nutsack” for all I care. Just make with the food porn already.
Anyway, it was the “earth” episode which really captured my attention. It was mostly about bread and yeast, and how fermentation is an essential chemical process used to make more foods than most of us realize. I couldn’t believe how simple the recipe for bread was: flour, water and yeast. Boom! Done. You just made food out of basically nothing — like Jesus. (And if there’s one thing I yearn for in this life, it’s the messianic superpower to drown myself in carbohydrates.)
So I went straight to the store and bought the ingredients, then set about making bread for the first time in my entire life. Here’s how I failed, step-by-step:
- Poured half a kilo of dinkel wheat into a big bowl because dinkel wheat is supposed to be healthier than white flour. Also, I had no idea how much half a kilo was.
- Filled a glass with hot water, which was basically just hot enough for me to say, “Yeah, that hurts,” when I stuck my finger in it.
- Dissolved an entire packet of yeast into the water, which I now know was 7 grams — or just dumb luck it happened to be the exact amount I needed.
- Poured the water on top of the wheat, threw some salt at it, plus a handful of random seeds for no real reason.
- Chopped up garlic, tomatoes, chili peppers and onions and fried them on the stove. Then tossed them into the mix and congratulated myself for inventing the greatest bread in the universe.
- Kneaded the dough, imagining the fat blue ribbon my ingenious recipe would win at the local fair.
- Failed to understand why my dough was so incredibly sticky and did not look like it did in Cooked.
- Watched one YouTube video and figured I’d either used too much water, or the vegetables I added had too much moisture. Either way, the answer was more flour.
- Added more flour. Kneaded. Wondered why it was still sticking to my fingers.
- Added more flour. Kneaded. Watched another YouTube video.
- Emptied the entire kilo of flour and opened another one. Kneaded. Began to doubt my latent talents as a baker.
- Finally got the dough into manageable consistency. Ignored the fact that it was now the size of a soccer ball.
- Left the dough in an even bigger bowl, covered it with a towel and let that mother sit for 30 minutes.
- Came back to find the bread had not risen at all. Watched another YouTube video and became confused as to the difference between yeast and baking powder.
- Added a packet of baking powder to the dough and kneaded it some more. (I am not a smart man.)
- Used a pumpkin seed as a high-water mark on the inside of the bowl and left the dough alone for a full hour.
- Came back to find the dough had doubled in size — like a basketball.
- Beat the dough senseless with both fists, then cut “x” marks into the surface. (This would be my professional signature after landing a franchise bakery deal.)
- Oiled a glass casserole dish and crammed the dough inside.
- Set the dish in the oven, spun the dial randomly to 200 degrees Celsius and set the timer for 30 minutes.
- Came back and saw the dough had puffed up so big it almost spilled over the sides of the casserole dish. Almost. (That’s a win.)
- Checked the dough and found it was completely raw inside. Like, 80% raw.
- Gave it another 30 minutes. Still raw.
- Gave it another 30 minutes. Raw, with rapidly darkening edges around the crust.
- The Wife came home and advised me to cover the bread with tin foil to avoid burning it.
- Covered the loaf and gave it another 45 minutes.
- Still pretty soft inside, so I hacked it up into pieces and gave it another 15 minutes.
- Took the bread out of the oven.
- The Wife and I tasted it and discovered — by some miracle — it was not completely disgusting.
- Proclaimed myself King Chef of Germany, AKA: The Great White Masterbaker.
And that’s how I staggered blindly through my first bread making experience. Now we have a shit ton of very weird bread to eat, even though I’m trying to avoid carbs and get my beach body back. I even asked The Wife if she would take it to work with her and let her rabid hippo co-workers go to town on it, but she refused, saying she would rather give it to a friend instead. I didn’t understand this, as I wouldn’t give this shit to my worst enemy, but I guess she wanted to be supportive.
I can only award my Frankenbread with one Merkel Diamond, but the balls-out audacity with which I confronted the challenge earns me an additional one, resulting in a total score of two full Merkel Diamonds:
Do you have any disastrous cooking stories? Let us know in the comments section below! And as always, thank you for reading and have a wonderful day!