Baking a bread every week can teach you many things.
This week, making cornbread for the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge reminded me of yet another thing that’s applicable to life in general: Get enough sleep.
This moment, I had known it would come.
The one where I’m sitting on the floor of my smoke-filled apartment, staring at three rock-hard, blackened loaves and thinking, “I am a failure.”
Having never baked bread before, I’d known it was a little insane to sign up for the weekly Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge, where a group of more than 200 amateur bakers around the world bake a bread every week from a recipe in Peter Reinhart’s bread-making bible.
I started to get cocky — I even promised chef Simpson that I would bring my first stab at ciabatta to his July 4 party. There would be two Italians there — who better to judge the quality of my first Italian bread?
Of course, this was all before the alarming amounts of smoke, the smell of burnt cornmeal seeping into every cranny of my apartment and, eventually, the surfacing of three dark lumps of what could pass for coal but were actually my “ciabatta.”
I was never any good at girlish things as a child.
Not jump rope nor dressing up Barbie. (Or myself, for that matter.) And certainly not the braiding of any hair.
So it would be accurate to say that the notion that someday I'd attempt to make challah, the braided bread traditionally eaten on the Sabbath and other Jewish holidays — no, that never once crossed my mind.
Me? Braiding? Gummy ropes of dough? I was set to say "No thank you" to failure and disappointment and skip ahead to ciabatta, the next bread on the list. But no, my friends wouldn't allow it. "It's easier than ciabatta," said Heather. "Think of the French toast that you can make after," Geri said.
Since "French toast" is high on the list of magic words in my husband's vocabulary, out came the mixing bowls and the challah-making commenced.