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Tears of pain, tears of glory

All the tears have made for soggy bread around here.

I neither apologise nor suggest reason for my emotional bonds to cooking. Because one would be grovelly, the other would be pointless and waffly. Cooking offers comfort, joy, and a sense of purpose when I’m feeling low. Makes the house smell good, too. But the flipside: cooking sometimes hurts my feelings.

M has been fine-tuning his already pretty damn fine sandwich bread skillz and I elected to try his new recipe. Mix; knead; rise; so far so good. Punchdown like a pro, second rise; definitely on my A-game. Then came shaping time. I’m beginning to think shaping is everything. You can make bread out of pinwheels and pocket fluff and if you get the shaping right you’ll still end up with a mighty sexy loaf (which will taste cruddy, but that’s what you get for making bread out of weird shit like that).

On the other hand, if you have a plump, innocent bread dough that has been rising obediently all morning, and then you decide to do the final, critical loaf shaping immediately prior to lunch — when the brain is twitchy, the stomach shouty — you may find that your half-arsed plopping and slapping about results in…

Oh...oh God...

The poor thing never stood a chance, but that didn’t stop me taking it personally. It rose unevenly in the oven, resulting in a loaf that looked like it ought to be inserted somewhere; I gave up, declared it a dud and sliced it open, and revealed a squelchy underbaked middle — although I suspect that has more to do with me giving up than anything else.

Go on, look closer. Euw.

So I did the obvious thing and burst into tears.

The next day — it’s best to wait twenty-four hours after such incidents, to let feelings simmer down — under M’s tutelage, I nurtured a Forgiveness Bread into fruition. Mix; knead; rise; punchdown: all fine. Then came the shaping. M explained a few basic principles to me and demonstrated the general wrist action: I watched, imitated…


I am not saying I wept a few mature tears as the angels infused my kitchen with the warm bread scent of triumph, but I’m not not saying it either.

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