Hi, I’m Ali. Babies love me. There is no child under the age of 18 months that does not find me irresistible. Put me in front of the grumpiest supermarket baby and, armed with only with my best squinty-eyed smile, I will have that kid back to a state of drooly delight and wonder in no time at all.
There is a point to this, I promise.
My theory is that babies like me because I look kind of like a baby myself. Going on twenty-seven, I’m chubby with plump cheeks and shiny eyes and puffy knuckles. I’m really, really unintimidating. Like a giant, well-spoken baby with excellent (okay, decent) motor function.
I am also bread-like. I’m squishy and warm and relatively golden colored from top to bottom and I smell good (most of the time).
The difference, for me, between bread and babies: I have never been afraid of babies. I have a feeling that if I wanted to get the right ingredients together and make a baby, nine months later, BAM, I would have a superbly awesome baby. Making bread? Confidence GONE. Now, I have always loved to bake – cakes, tarts, cookies, pies, what have you. But bread (not in the banana, corn, or otherwise ‘quick’ category): Super intimidating. Why, you ask? In my tiny little understanding of bread baking, it required a ton of time, effort (read: kneading. When I thought of kneading, I pictured a sweaty, grimacing, flour-caked and aproned woman hurling her bulk over and over again onto a shapeless mound of dough forever and ever), potentially expensive fancy equipment I didn’t have, and delicate kitchen chemistry featuring yeast, which I knew from my college Bio 101 class was a greedy, temperamental microscopic creature that could, um…make one itchy.
Here is an example of how I imagined a bread recipe:
YOU DO NOT HAVE,
DISPLAYED IN METRIC
MEASUREMENTS, NATURALLY,WHICH MEANS
TO DO MATH
Mix ingredients for an hour by hand in a special bread bucket that you can purchase from Crate and Barrel for half your paycheck. Cover with sleeping bag and let rise for 6 days, ensuring bread bucket is kept warm in natural sunlight for each of the required 144 hours. Fling flour over every surface in your kitchen. Remove blob from bucket and knead for as long as it takes to watch 5 episodes of Downton Abbey. Let rest a fortnight. Preheat oven to 362.4 degrees, knead again until your arms don’t work, and bake for 7 hours, intermittently praying in Latin to Julia Child. Remove from oven, let cool, and then throw away because you screwed up somewhere and your loaf resembles, in appearance, taste and texture, a large rock wrapped haphazardly in a dirty burlap sack. Merde Appetit!
Then, a few weeks ago while browsing through the thousands of food-blog posts in my Google Reader, I clicked on a link for a bread recipe just for the hell of it: http://www.abakershouse.com/2013/01/whole-wheat-pita-bread-for-twelve-loaves.html
Sure, it was for pita bread and not loaf bread, but there were 6 ingredients, all of which I had, displayed in measurements I wouldn’t have to convert. The most technical piece of equipment was a rolling pin. The rising time was 90 minutes. And, because I own an electric mixer with hook attachments, I wouldn’t even have to knead anything.
So, on my next day off, I rolled up my sleeves and I tried it. I tried in the hopes that, as babies like me because I am baby-like, bread would like and cooperate with me because I am bread-like. And, that night, as I bit into my first homemade piece of bread, fresh from the oven, I didn’t even notice the steam burning my upper lip. It was hot and fluffy and tender. Yes, MY PITA WAS GLORIOUS. I spread butter on the remainder, then tried another with olive oil and garlic salt. My boyfriend got in on the action. We moaned in glutinous (and glutenous) pleasure.
I was so proud of my first flour baby. By the next evening, all 8 pitas were gone. And I wanted more. I wanted to make more, and make different, and make even better, bread. So that’s what I’m going to do.
Welcome! Welcome to Ali & Bread. I hope we both enjoy the rise.