A friend loaned us her old bread machine and it sat in the kitchen for a few months looking intimidating. You see, I've tried baking breads before and it's always been disaster. I've made pizza dough that turned into sticky goop when baked. I've tried making bread dumplings that ended up solid on the inside. I made bread that had the texture of high density Styrofoam.
It had been a long time since I tried baking bread, but decided to give the bread machine a try anyway. Encouraged by the simple 3 step instructions, I tried the recipe that came in the manual, pressed a button and waited. It smelled just like I expected, heavenly! By the time it was done we were salivating, but to my horror, in the bread pan came out like a brick. I followed the instructions!!! What had gone wrong?!
Enter frantic internet searching. Maybe it was the recipe? Maybe it was the flour? I threw out 3 more failed loaves of bread. Things refused to rise or come together, but I was on a holy quest for a perfect loaf of bread. How hard could it be to use bread machine with one button ?!
The fifth loaf seemed like a miracle when it came out fluffy and edible, but it wasn't a matter of random chance. By then I'd learned about proofing yeast, how to speed up its growth, ideal water temperatures and such. It took time to fine tune the process.
I could have stopped there. Encouraged, I decided to venture into sourdough (yes this takes an entirely different skill set - I might be a bit nuts that way). A friend gave me some sourdough starter with instructions, and I fed it as instructed, and nothing happened. It's supposed to grow and bubble. Enter more furious internet searching.
Two weeks later I had used up almost a bag of flour, and tossed out a similar amount of failed starter. Things were looking grim. I was sure I'd done the nearly impossible and killed off my starter. E told me to give up because we were wasting flour, but that just made me more determined. I was convinced I was close to figuring it out. Several days and experiments later (I set up two jars, and compared conditions side by side), we finally had lift off. My sourdough bubbled happily. Bread was baked and consumed.
Was it worth it? Maybe? It is time consuming but tasty. I've made several loaves since then. They've been getting better tasting, and don't take as long to make now that I know the process. I still have a lot to learn, but I think I've made it past stage 1 boss.
You know, this was another lesson in persistence (been running into a lot of those lately) that applies to writing too. Don't let anyone tell you you can't do something. If you're determined enough, and want it badly enough you can learn. You might need to go through a few failed loaves before you figure out how it works, but you will as long as you don't give up.
PS Two more weeks and then I'm free to get back to the writing! I might take another week or so as a mini-brain holiday. The past few months have been physically and mentally exhausting. I'm all kinds of aching and sore right now. I'm counting down the days.