You’re finally ready to make some bread! Make some coffee first. Why? Because it’s coffee. You can’t have beer until the coffee phase is over. I’ll explain later.
Kick everyone out of the kitchen and bask in the glory of what you have accomplished; a clean kitchen, a clean workspace, all your measuring cups and stuff ready, all your ingredients at hand… you may never see this level of organization again. Sip your coffee. Smile.
Now a word about dry ingredients like flour. They’re essentially a powder. They’re easy to handle when they’re dry but become a hassle to clean up when wet and a stone cold misery they get wet and are allowed to dry. Use physics to help things stay clean. Keep your powder dry!
This is why you can drink hot coffee but not cold beer. No condensate during dry materials mode!
Measure 5 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour into the bucket. (You know the recipe because you bought the book right?) Measure each cup carefully. Scoop up a heap with your measuring cup, use a butter knife to carefully push all the excess off the cup, and dump it into the bucket. Do it carefully. You may be a creative genius. Possibly you like to cook. Possibly you like to apply your creativity to the measurement of flour. Possibly you’re an idiot. Shut up and stick with the recipe.
Inevitably you’ll be interrupted while counting cups. If you’re looking at the bucket wondering if you’ve added four or five cups don’t leave it to chance. Shoo whomever interrupted you out of the kitchen (especially if it’s the damn cat). Then dump the flour and do it again. The goal here is to not bake a brick.
Now comes the white (or “evil”) flour. Measure 2 cups into the same bucket. (If you didn’t buy the book I’m gonna’ feel guilty.)
Add 1 tablespoon salt. (As instructed by the book.)
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast. (Lawyers are evil. The book is good.)
Be extra special uptight about the measurements. Have you been measuring as if you were handling a mix of uranium and smokeless powder? Good. Have you been measuring like an incompetent slob? If so you suck and you deserve the disaster you’re about to bake.
Incidentally, you can measure as if you were defusing a bomb and still get the job done in less than ten minutes.
(Throughout the entire bread manufacturing process the most time consuming part is cleaning the kitchen. Regardless of the mess you start with you should end with a clean workspace.)
Sip more coffee. Did you add whiskey? It’s entirely acceptable to bake bread while drunk. I encourage it. Don’t spill the coffee…you’re still in ultra dry powder mode.
Now grab the whisk or a big ass spoon and mix the living shit out of the dry ingredients in your bucket. Don’t slouch. Right now everything is a powder so you can easily create a homogeneous mix. Once you add water the die is cast.
Mix like you damn well mean it. You can play Metallica while doing this. (Heavy metal seems to keep skilled cooks from showing up and messing with your manufacturing process. It also keeps the cat away.)
You do not need power tools to do the mixing. Put that idea right out of your head.
Now it’s time to switch from “dry powder mode” to “wet goo mode”. Before you pull the trigger on “goo mode”, clean up everything that’s powder dry. Wipe down the table where you spilled the flour. (Of course you spilled some flour. Don’t deny it. I know.) Then rinse (wash!) all your measuring cups and stuff. Since it’s just dry powder you should be able to wash it sparkling clean in seconds. Go ahead and feel smug about it. (Studies show that people who don’t immediately wash the cups and stuff are 86% more likely to live in their mother’s house.)
You may now switch from coffee to beer. No need to thank me; I’m here to help.
I needlessly fret about the temperature of bread water. I try for the temperature to which you’d heat a baby’s bottle. Learning the proper temperature of a baby’s bottle is an incredibly expensive proposition so you can wing it if you don’t know. I’m not sure if this recipe is temperature sensitive but some are.
Measure four cups water carefully. Hold it to the horizon, adjust for parallax, and endeavor for accuracy. At this point I think it might not be too important but do it anyway.
Pour it all in the bucket. Don’t try anything fancy like adding it a little at a time. If the bucket you choose was too small you deserve what happens next.
The flour/water mix will assume a consistency I call “zombie brain”. Grab a big ass spoon and start mixing. It’s your job to mix every molecule of the dry stuff into the wet stuff and make an utterly homogeneous mix. Any dry stuff that doesn’t get mixed in will become a clod of flour in the loaf. It’s not rocket science. You should be able to do this in five minutes or less. Don’t knead, just stir.
Most of the glob will stick to itself and form a strange texture I call “Yak flem”. Once you’ve attained “Yak flem”there are no stray pockets of unmixed flour. You’ll know when you’re done.
Quit for the day. Drink more beer. Wash the one spoon that’s still dirty, wipe down the table again, and put away the water measuring cup. You should have about four pounds of “Yak flem” in a food grade bucket sitting on a spotless table.
Trust me on this, if you were efficient you did this all in 15 minutes or so and still had plenty of time to drink beer. Most people spend more time looking for their measuring cups and cleaning the kitchen than they’ll ever spend actually “cooking”.
Loosely cover the bucket (not tight…there’s fermentation going on). Loudly announce to everyone in the household that “phase one of the bread project is proceeding according to plan and that you’re winning the war against bread hegemony”. (This means nothing but it’s fun to say.) Then go split some wood.
Two hours later the bread mix will have risen into a material that appears to be the love child of a marshmallow and a Nerf football. The timing isn’t important. At least two hours is probably close enough. All you needed to do was let it rise a while at room temperature before sticking it in the fridge. Ideally the beer you’ve drank will have freed just the right amount of space in the fridge.
Don’t mess with it, knead it, or discuss politics with it. Just shove it in the fridge and ignore it until tomorrow. After several hours in the fridge the concoction will have reduces in volume.
In the meantime the formerly empty kitchen table is already collecting stuff…how does that happen?
Tomorrow is D-day. Good luck.
P.S. I sincerely think this article is OK under fair use but I’m going to cower under my table until everyone buys the book.