Among the lessons I've learned while baking bread, this, I suppose, could have been the most predictable: Baking bread is not like riding a bicycle. If you haven't done it in a long time, well, don't count on being able to do it again.
I won't go into it, but there exists a recent valiant attempt at making multigrain bread extraordinaire, which many bakers in the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge had pronounced a breeze. In my Brooklyn kitchen, however, this turned out to be anything but. And the end result was a flat dense brick that was as saggy in the center as it was dry and mealy.
"You're out of practice," the husband noted. (Which earned him extra dishwashing duties but — I had to admit — was not untrue.)
How to solve the problem? An old Julie Andrews song instantly came to mind.
Perhaps, I thought, it might help to go back and start at the very beginning …