Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Best Made Plans of Mice

You know what they say about the best made plans?  

Yesterday, it took two hours after getting out of bed to finally manage to sit down and have a cup of tea. As you recall I was planning a marathon of soup making and freezer filling. It turned out that the kitchen was a disaster area in need of a thorough cleaning, there was more snow in the driveway, and my father-in-law surprised us all by announcing he was off to a bowling tournament. So much for the idea of getting ahead… 

This is how a cooking life really goes: interruptions, surprises, and other people to accommodate. In fact, I began writing this journal yesterday morning and never managed to get back to finishing it. Instead of sitting down in a frustrated huff, declaring the day ruined and refusing to do anything, which was extremely tempting, I got on with things.  

Bread was a priority, and I made four loaves. Two of enriched white/ish bread suitable for sandwiches, and two cinnamon raisin for breakfasts and late night snacks. Between mixing, and fermenting, and shaping, and proofing, and baking, this took up the remainder of the day. To be fair, there were still large holes of time in which I could make, eat, and clean up lunch, and also prepare dinner ahead so that it would be ready to go when my in-laws eventually returned.  

Pictures and the recipe for the white bread are coming soon. The cinnamon raisin bread…needs a little work. It lost it’s spunk during the bench proof stage, which took more than two hours, and I tried to bake it in a loaf pan that was clearly too large for the dough. It is tasty, the interior texture is very pleasing, but the loaves themselves are about 3 inches tall in the center and 5 inches wide: not exactly picturesque. They’ll make excellent French Toast, bread pudding, or be delicious toasted with cold butter, but they’re nothing I want to show off.  

This is another aspect of a cooking life that people rarely discuss. Everything cannot come out perfectly, every single time. The more often you cook, especially if you are trying to learn new things, the more you’ll learn to think of these mistakes as minor bumps instead of major disasters. It truly takes most of the stress out of trying new things, if you cook every day. You’ll actually learn to shrug and tell yourself “oh well, there’s another meal to cook tomorrow.” Sometimes this will be followed by, “Hello, I’d like to order a large pizza.” And, the best news is, the more you cook, the less these kinds of mishaps will occur, but they will occur.  I think too often beginning and novice cooks try to make a recipe and when it doesn’t turn out, they throw their hands in the air and declare that either they can’t make XYZ because it’s too hard, or worst of all, they are just bad cooks. No one plays a musical instrument on the first day, or wins a hockey match the first time the put on skates. You have to try, fall down, and get back up.

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