Internet recipes are not my friend. I’m sure the people who write and post them are nice, well-meaning people. I’m sorry, I lied. Actually, I’m sure most of the recipes I find online are written by evil, vindictive want-a-be cookbook authors. The exception to this rule is the blogger of the blog No Crumbs Left. Teri is a cooking goddess who genuinely wants your dishes to be a success—unlike the blogger on a ranch in Oklahoma who once sent me down the trail of making 100 awful dinner rolls or the bloggers who posted and repost the recipe for ice-cream bread (which we can all give a collective yuck too) or the bloggers who assume you know what their idea of a “smidgen” is or, most recently, the blogger on the blog ManMade who posted a sourdough bread recipe. Buckle up—we’re going to Ohio.*
First, I should have read the ManMade blog’s troubleshooting tips before I ever started this project. The first one reads, “Ask someone else—I’m not an expert baker.” For sure, truer words were never written.
I love making bread, and believe it or not, this blogger who does not cook is good at it. Yeast likes me. I give credit to my 20-year-old’s early childhood teacher. She made bread once a week with the children and shared the recipe with us parents along with her vote of confidence that we could do it. I could do it! And have enjoyed making bread ever since. Suffice to say, I usually keep it simple. However, when Cole (my 20-year-old) showed me what looked like an easy recipe for sourdough bread, I was intrigued. I’ve kind of sort of wanted to try making sourdough bread over the years and saw this as my chance to rise to the occasion.
First, the sourdough starter. Just curious, did you ever have a friend who hated you so much that she gave you a container of friendship dough, which you had to nurture and then share with a friend you really hated? Well, if you have experienced this life phase, you will understand the sourdough starter process better. First, you buy a small packet of sourdough starter mix, and then you follow the instructions, which include feeding it, keeping it warm, stirring it, applauding its bubbles and growth spurts, and discarding portions of it (which feels really mean and cruel) every day for seven days—or forever if you plan to continue the sourdough process. I woke up at 2:00 a.m. during the seven-day process, frantic because I had forgotten to feed my sourdough starter, I cringed every time I had to discard a cup of the precious mixture, and I was constantly worried that it was cold. Maintaining sourdough starter will not be my new hobby.
After about 7 days, my sourdough starter was ready to meet its friends—flour, water, and salt—and become a loaf of bread. The bread baking directions listed in the recipe seemed odd to me from the start, but I followed them and ended up with a sticky mess. And I do mean sticky. So, I did what monk breadsmiths have done for centuries: I added more flour. Eleven ounces of flour turned into at least four cups of flour (I lost count), and then I let it rise again. I gotta give my sourdough starter credit for endurance; it never quit rising. Then, the recipe called for me to lovingly turn the bread into a boule. That was impossible. The dough was still sticky, so I lovingly tossed it in my KitchenAid mixer, added more flour, kneaded the heck out of it, and then . . . I let it rise again.
While the bread was rising, I covered my Dutch oven pot and put it in the oven to prepare a hot and steamy baking surface for the bread. Forty-five minutes later, I added the bread that I had formed into a boule (if you used your imagination) and set the timer for 30 minutes.
The bread came out of the oven looking great. The Dutch oven, which I have an unhealthy attachment to, was a mess. Can it be salvaged? Well, I’m not a pot whisperer, but I’ll try all the tricks. ManMade blogger, you may have ruined my beautiful blue pot. I love that blue pot. If I was the type of person who would stuff a live chicken in a pot and mail it across the country, well, you’d be sorry!
Taste? How did the bread taste? Well. Cole slathered lots of butter on it and told me it was wonderful (the kid is smart). I wanted to hate it, but I had to admit—it wasn’t bad. Nevertheless, this whole experience left a sour taste in my mouth.
I’m getting a tattoo on my arm, it will read
“Betty Crocker is Best.”
Odd Loves Company,
My Poor Dutch Oven.
Note: The blogger on ManMade did respond to my comment in distress on his post and try to help. I appreciated his effort. But I am still of the mindset that posting recipes is tricky. It is one thing to be able to cook something and a whole other ball of dough when it comes to teaching other people how to do it online. Of-course, I fell for it AGAIN but I did get a story…
* If you frequent Odd, you know that whenever one of my blog posts goes on endlessly and leaves you wondering if I will ever get to the point or if there even is a point, I reference Ohio. Why? Because the people I know and love from Ohio (and I know many) tend to tell long stories that frequently digress. It’s an inside Odd joke, but if you know someone from Ohio, you’ll get it immediately