It seemed like a simple enough task. I wanted to bake some bread. I had already met with some success using a couple of variations on a no-knead bread recipe, but this time I wanted to make real bread. So I found a (slightly dodgy in hindsight) recipe online and broke out the mixer.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note at this point that I have operated the mixer upwards of 4-5 times in the past 20 years. Tuck this factoid away. It will become relevant shortly.
I began assembling my ingredients. I set out the butter to soften up. I measured my milk. I proofed my yeast, just to be sure that it was active. In other words, I covered all of my bases. I then poured all of the wet ingredients into the mixer and scooped in the initial two cups of flour. I attached the scraper blade to the mixer and plugged it in.
I forgot to check the switch as I plugged the mixer in. Instead of being set to zero, it was wide open, on ten. Flour flew EVERYWHERE. Truly, the picture doesn’t properly convey the mess. The dry flour covered most of the counter and floor, while wet, gooey, gluey bits of flour/water/yeast/etc. flew as far as ten feet across the room. The chairs in the background of the picture have spots of “glue” on them. So do the floor mats. And so did I. I looked like a contestant from a Nickelodeon show who had just been slimed.
I took a moment to assess the situation and watch the flour cloud settle, during which I loudly requested that a deity bring damnation down upon the KitchenAid corporation and the makers of all ingredients previously in the bowl. Then I realized that my jeans were covered in flour glue that wasn’t going to wipe off, so I headed upstairs, changed my clothes, and started a load of laundry.
At this point I knew I needed to clean things up, but I was uncertain if I should still try to make bread. On the bright side, I definitely saw the humor in the situation, even if it wasn’t funny to me quite yet. I posted a picture to Facebook which is still getting plenty of responses. Let’s call that a moment of personal growth.
As I started to wipe up the counters I decided to go for it again. After all, it hadn’t taken long to assemble everything, and I had a much clearer understanding of the controls of the mixer now. But first, I needed to mop the floor. As I cleared the flour and goo from the floor and the mats, I noticed that there were floury footprints across the kitchen. Oh yeah… I was barefoot and walking through all of this. One quick trip to the bathroom to clean my feet, and I stopped working against myself as I mopped.
Once the kitchen was back in reasonable shape (I’m still finding flour remnants here and there three days later…) I began assembling my ingredients again. I tossed some butter in the microwave to melt, then mixed up the yeast and other wet ingredients. Just before turning on the mixer, I realized that I now didn’t have enough flour to complete the recipe. This is, of course, AFTER I had one cup of flour in the bowl. Luckily, the grocery store is just up the road, so I quickly headed over and bought not one, but TWO bags of flour. I tossed the second cup of flour into the mixer and turned it on low and…. it stirred! No clouds! It was awesome. I slowly added some more flour and eventually switched to the dough hook. After everything was mixed, I pulled the ball out of the mixer and began kneading.
As an aside, if you’re wondering why I didn’t just use the dough hook for kneading, there are two reasons. 1) I didn’t realize that I could use the hook for kneading. I was following the recipe and only later read about using the hook for the kneading phase, and 2) The idea of punching something for ten minutes sounded like fun about then.
After ten minutes of punching and rolling the dough ball, I put it in a large bowl to rise. I started the oven preheating and felt pretty proud of myself. The kitchen was mostly clean and I was making bread despite a prior disaster.
And then I walked by the microwave.
Remember that butter I melted before running to the store to get more flour? It was still in the microwave. It was not in the dough.
I once again uttered a curse that would make Professor Snape proud and considered my options. Maybe I could integrate the butter into the dough before the rise. I grabbed the dough ball and started coating it with the butter and kneading it when I realized exactly how silly I looked. I stopped. I laughed a bit (more personal growth!) and grabbed a plastic bag. I took the dough ball and tossed it in the trash.
By now, I figured I was pretty good at pulling this recipe together. I had all of my ingredient. I knew how to operate the mixer. I was an experienced kneader. I would remember to include the butter this time.
That’s right – I decided to make a THIRD batch of dough. I was not going to be defeated by bread.
I assembled my ingredients in the mixer and executed all of the steps properly this time. I made it through my ten minutes of kneading and punching, channeling my inner Sugar Ray Leonard, and I produced a ball of dough to put in the bowl. It was divine, and, to be honest, pretty easy by now as I was quite well-practiced at the routine.
After an hour-long rise, I pulled out the ball and punched it down again, then rolled it and placed it in the loaf pan. After another hour, I saw that the dough hadn’t risen as much as I would like, but that’s been a consistent problem for me thus far, which I’m blaming on my yeast. I decided to go for it and tossed the pan in the oven.
The end result was a nice loaf of white bread. It was a little too dense (again – I blame the yeast) and small, and I will likely tweak the recipe to include more flavors in the future as it was a bit bland; but I was following the recipe to see how things would turn out. It was certainly edible, and I learned a lot. I just hadn’t planned to learn quite so much about cleaning.