Friday, February 29, 2008

One Crazy Day of Bread and Tears

When the Daring Baker's challenge for this month was revealed to be Julia Child's 18 page French Bread recipe, picked by Mary the Breadchick and Sara of I like to cook, I have to admit I was scared. Scared like I was the first time I went on a date with the Brain. Scared in the I want to do this, but it's going to change my life. And what do I do if I put all this work into it and it turns out to be nothing? (call me kooky, but I was really nervous and excited about the first date with the Brain.) This whole Julia Child and french bread thing was the same way.

I had to make sure I had a lot of time set aside for this bread. Julia herself says that the whole making of the bread takes at least 6 1/2 to 7 hours before baking it. And I almost made it while I was at my mom's, but she's got a convection oven and frankly that scares me. So finally I decided on last Sunday. It was going to be the day for bread baking. We were house and dog sitting, so I almost did it in my mother-in-law's oven, because mine is a throwback to the era of non-digital clocks and rough estimates on dials. But in the spirit of Julia, who never seemed to mind making a mistake and fixing it, I decided to bake at home so I could reproduce the bread again if I wanted. (Without waiting for the Brain's parents to go on a trip.)

The problems actually started on Saturday when I asked the Brain if he wouldn't mind sometime when his shoulder felt better, fixing the leaky kitchen faucet. So on Sunday, after I'd started making my bread and it was snug in it's first 4 1/2 hour rise (it's cold here so the rises took longer) we went to Home Depot to get a new faucet. We picked out this gorgeous one that goes straight up and curves back down so that I could fit bigger pots under it. Incidentally it's great for filling up my circulating ice cooler, but I'm jumping ahead of myself here. I also checked with the Home Depot people about those unglazed terra cotta tiles and completely confused them. Well, until one finally figured it out and said I should just get a pampered chef baking stone 'cause that's what he had.

Back home again, we set about to changing the faucet. I was underneath just a screwing and unscrewing away. Of course I learned that it is important to shut off the water to the faucet before unscrewing the pipe, but no problemo, this was kind of fun. But then we realized we didn't have the part that went from the faucet handle parts to the water pipes. So Brain went and got some parts while I did the deflating and prepped the dough for the second 3 hour rise. The Brain came back and the part was about an inch to short, so out he went again.

When he came back he quickly went to work screwing these last two pipes in. I sat there kneeling with my feet on my but watching. (This is important you understand. I was just sitting there on my heels watching him finish.) When he finished we applauded and I stood up careful not to knock over the drip bucket. All of the sudden, HOLY JESUS! There was shooting pain going down from my knee into my calf. White hot pain that had me doing my fake Lamaze breathing (really what would I know about Lamaze breathing besides what I've seen on TV, but that's what I imagine in my head.) So there I was forcibly exhaling and the Brain asking "what the hell did you do?" What did I do? I started to cry. I hopped in our 120 year old house over to the couch (with visions of breaking through the floorboard into the dug out basement. Pleasantly plump girls do not hop in 120 year old houses unless they have to.)

According to the doctor who is an Ohio State fan (will the horribleness never end?) I have an angry medial compartment. Well the compartment matches the rest of me. How ridiculous to hurt myself standing up. I mean really I've exerted myself much more in the past and this is something I've done literally thousands of times before. Sooooo now I get to go through an MRI, if they can't do an open one, he's assured me I will be nicely drugged up. I'm a touch claustrophobic. And then probably surgery. All because I stood up.

But back to the bread. By the time I was back to breathing normally I was wondering what to do with this bread and my inability to walk really. The Brain told me I could throw it out, but I had several hours invested in it and really at that point I needed to bake. Baking is soothing for me. So I scooted the spare computer chair into the kitchen. At this point the Brain went to let the doggies out who were probably crossing their legs and dancing it had been so long. Standing on one leg, I managed to shape them into fairly decent looking boules. I slashed two of them straight down the center and I tried to get fancy on one and cut it in a crescent.

Then I somehow managed to get a pan of water into the oven without spilling any. And in the bread went. I couldn't find my squirt bottle to mist the bread, but to be honest I wasn't really in the mood to tear the house apart looking. I went with the whole basting the bread with water bit. I set the timer and went back to the couch. After a bit, I became aware of a burning smell. It turns out that one side of my oven is hotter than the other and the crescent cut boule was far more toasty shall we say than the others. The Brain tasted the bread the next morning and came up with the oh so explicit critique of "It tastes like bread."

I am a little more verbose than my handsome other half. I thought it was tasty. It was really really really tasty. It had a real nice crust. The crumb was chewy and there were some nice air pockets to it. It was exactly the kind of bread that I wish I could buy here in North Central Ohio, but I haven't found. It's all gone and I want more. I'll definitely be making it again. Whether I need surgery or not.

For the recipe go here. It's a big long one, but Julia made it really easy, I thought. If you're lucky like me and actually have Volume Two of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" it starts on page 57. And for more fabulous breads, go here.

51 comments:

Kitt said...

Bravo! That's persistence. I'm glad it paid off so beautifully.

I hope you don't have to have surgery. I definitely recommend some drugs for the MRI. I'm not claustrophobic but the whole experience is a bit freaky. I hear, though, that there are MRI machines now that can scan just your leg. i.e. you don't have to have your whole body in there.

And I totally empathize on the faucet replacement. I attempted to do the exact same thing myself (right down to the old vs. new types you have!) with the coaching of the Home Depot staff. Well, I broke it thoroughly, and there was no shutoff under the sink. So I was without water for three days until I could get a plumber in to spend several hours under the sink, cutting the pipes and installing shutoffs and the new faucet.

slush said...

Oh my. I am so sorry for the whole experience. How awful! Glad the bread did ok in the end. xo

Andrea said...

Oh, I hope you don't need surgery. I've done a couple MRIs in the last few months, and drugs definitely help whether you are doing an open one or go into the tube. I'm pretty claustrophobic and totally freak out. The drugs will relax you so you won't worry about a thing!

Your bread did turn out nicely in spite of all the pain you had!!

cookworm said...

Congrats on a great job on the challenge and overcoming some major adversity! Don't worry about the MRI. My boyfriend uses them nearly every day and they are nothing to be afraid of, just a little noisy. :)

DawnsRecipes said...

Isn't having a new faucet wonderful? I just got my husband to replace ours recently as well. We also opted for a tall one for filling those pots. Oh, but I'm way off the subject now. Your bread looks just beautiful! Great job!

LizG said...

Great texture, Mary. I hope you're feeling better...

Jaime said...

wow, talk about a challenge! i'm sorry you hurt yourself, but that is certainly a beautiful bread you got there :)

L Vanel said...

I am also hoping you don't need surgery, but happy you were able to get back to the bread baking. Your good old fashioned basting of the bread make some really nice loaves.

Barbara Bakes said...

Your bread looks tasty! I'm a little clastrophic too, but in the MRI you can see out both ends and you could easily crawl out, so that made me feel better. Hope all goes well.

Katia said...

Sounds like you had a rough time, but you made it in the end- and made it quite well. The bread looks lovely.

Janet said...

What a trooper you are!! That's actually quite an inspirational tale.

Deborah said...

Oh, I hope you are better and it's nothing serious!! But I do love your new faucet - it looks just like mine!

Great job on this bread, especially since you were hurt through half of it!

Suzana said...

So sorry for such an awful time - I hope all is fine with you and that you don't need surgery.

Your bread looks delicious. Well done!

Dharm said...

You make me so proud!! Not only do you help with fixing the faucet but you perservered after hurting yourself. I'd have just dithced the dough and lay in bed the rest of the day...! Great Job!

Baking Soda said...

What a story! And such a nice loaf at the end of it. Let's hope you won't need surgery, I did a similar thing over a year ago (pleasantly older girls don't need to play parent-kid soccer games).

Joy said...

I think you deserve a Daring Bakers' badge of honour for making such great looking bread with an injury and whilst doing plumbing. Talk about multi-talented! Get well soon.

Dianne said...

Wow! You most definitely had an adventure while baking! I hope the MRI turns out ok and you don't have to have surgery on your leg, because well that's not fun! Your bread however looks fabulous!

glamah16 said...

What happened? Did your knee pop out? That happened to me in Hip Hop dance class. Excruciating and embaressing.
I have the same faucet and I love it!I had mine installed. That was before Certain Someone.
And most important, your bread turned out great.I would not have had the patience to do this with all of that occuring.Seemed to work better than a pain killer.

jasmine said...

Oh my dear...

What an adventure, I hope you are feeling better (to say the least).

I laughed aloud when I read The Brain's take on your lovely loaf....

j

Lesley said...

Sorry for all the drama and scares...but your bread does look good...hope you will be ok.

CB said...

oh man. What a crazy bread making day. Your bread looks awesome though. So light and fluffy. Hope your back feels better soon.
-Clara
http://iheartfood4thought.wordpress.com

Big Boys Oven said...

lovely bake! I hope you get well soon!

culinography said...

Wow! Now that's showing the perseverance of being a DB'er!

I'm so sorry that things went down the way they did... hope you manage to avoid surgery!

Cynthia said...

I really hope that you don't have to get surgery too and that you get to do the open MRI. I hate freaky accidents like these. Really puts things into perspective.

I like the new faucet and the bread, excellent work!

Nemmie said...

I think you get the "most persistent" award for this month! Great job!!

standing still said...

Oh. My. God. I hope you don't need surgery from assisting your husband (supervising?). And, 25 comments for one post! Wow!!! Good for you!!!

Mary said...

Thanks for so many supportive comments! We are hoping for the best and I'll keep you posted!

Gigi said...

Great job on the bread. I hope your feeling better.

marye said...

wow! what a day! but your bread looks great!

Pixie said...

Yikes, I hope you don't have to go through surgery!

Bread looks great Mary.

marion - il en faut peu pour ... said...

I was frightened too when I read the recipe :)))))
Well done ! congratulations ! perseverance pays :)
I hope you're feeling better

ostwestwind said...

OMG! Glad to read that the bread turned our well.

Ulrike from K├╝chenlatein

Cakespy said...

Sounds like a task--but so much fun to go through this bread, sweat and tears with you :-)

i shot the chef said...

Yikes! I hope your knee is feeling better! Your bread looks wonderful... we would never know you were standing on one leg while shaping it! :) - Candace

Peggy said...

Angry often is used to mean inflamed.

Bellini Valli said...

Oh Mary this month's DB challenge really was a challenge. I am exhausted just hearing about how horrific your day went.Hopefully all will be better soon and we can move on to the next challenge together:D

Maryann said...

I'm hoping everything goes well for you.Sorry to hear about this.

Annemarie said...

Oh dear - oh goodness - you do suffer for your art. You have all my sympathies for your body falling apart on you when doing normal things; mines doing that lately too, and I keep thinking "but I'm only 31!". Sigh. Nice bread, though. :}

Anne said...

This bread was worth it, but not worth an MRI! Oye! Well, I'm so sorry you're owie--that really stinks. I hope the bread helped at least a tiny bit to make you feel better!

AngiePangie said...

I'm sorry about your leg, the MRI, and the possible surgery! What a drag!!

I did want to tell you that I thought your bread turned out well and especially when you consider all the issues that were getting in the way!

Hannah said...

I'm so sorry to hear about all the adversity you faced during this challenge. Looking at that gorgeous bread though, I would have never known it- You did an excellent job!

Elle said...

Had to laugh about needing to go to the hardware store three times to get the faucet finished...been there too many times...but stopped laughing when you stood up. That is such a sad thing...who knew crouching like that could be so bad for you? Absolutely impressed that you finished the bread anyway...and the bread looks GREAT!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Wow! You poor thing!You had no idea the day would end up like that at all! Good for you for even thinking about baking it again!

Peabody said...

That is horrible about your knee. As someone who has had knee surgery I know that it is no fun.
Your bread is lovely though.

breadchick said...

OH NO! An injury during a DB Challenge :-(

I'm so sorry that happened. I'm glad though that the faucet (which is lovely) and the bread (which is doubly so) turned out OK.

Thanks for baking with Sara and I

Joel said...

Yeah, the monkey is my favorite prop I think. I'm hoping for the best with your medical problems. No need to hope for the bread though; looks marvelous!

I do love the crust that using a casserole of water will give you, but I agree; it's a bit tricky to get in there without spilling, isn't it?!

Yenping said...

Wow - the adventures of baking indeed. As Daring Bakers, we all need the intestinal fortitude to endure all kinds of mishaps - and you've definitely got it!

I can TELL from looking at your bread that the crust was good. I'm into good crusts.

Erin said...

Your bread looks great! You did a great job forming the loaves. I hope you're feeling better!

Sara said...

Very nice!

The Frosted Bake Shop said...

your bread looks great. i hope everything works out and that you dont need surgery.

Lynnylu said...

Your crust looks great!