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Another interesting accident.... [Jun. 14th, 2011|09:21 pm]
So, one day, while standing at the counter, cursing my sciatic and whatever it is that's left my hips unbalanced, I got sick and tired of the kneading I was doing. "Okay, bread dough. You won't get all nice and stretchy for me? Fine!" I figured if I was going to be angry and frustrated that I couldn't quite get the whole kneading process, I'd throw a good and proper tantrum, and tried to mangle the bread dough with all of my might. Still in a kneading motion, mind you - a proper tantrum has to show what you're angry about.

Of course, it showed me I was being far too gentle with my kneading, and not stretching the dough properly. The key to kneading was squishing it enough to force it to stretch. Or, rather, *my* key to kneading was that... if you try to learn breadmaking, your key might be entirely different.

And that lead to my first, or maybe my second, free form sourdough loaf. (I honestly can't remember which.) The second and third, however, ended up quite workable and quite tasty. That's a good thing, because I was taking them to a party, and I wanted them to be good.

I've started to understand this stuff. The dough should always have some stretchiness, but then, it'll also have other qualities. It should be wetter/softer for a certain type of bread, and dryer/stiffer for another (like free form breads). But the stretchiness is going to be there, at least for wheat-based breads. I can feel that stretchiness; I'm not perfect at it, but I know what I'm searching for, and I have some idea of how to get it.

I finally understand what I'm trying to do - I finally feel ready to try to make more interesting breads.

I finally did what I set out to do, and now, if I want to, I can finally (finally, finally - *FINALLY*) stop if I choose to. If I stop, I won't be quitting before I figured it out, and developed the skills I could. I didn't quit just because it was painful and frustrating as all hell.

I can't even express how much of a relief this is, nor how much of a relief it will be to be able to decide whether or not I want to bake more bread. (I will, probably - but I won't have to force myself so I don't let it fall by the wayside, and get forgotten about.)

[User Picture]From: pagawne
2011-06-15 01:58 pm (UTC)
John, I have always said bread making is an excellent form of therapy. You can beat it and mangle it and it just gets better, rather than bruised. I sometimes think it has saved many marriages, and much spouse/child abuse.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2011-06-16 09:52 pm (UTC)
Yes - but I'd seen a few too many people saying that one didn't need to be rough, to the point that I thought that if you did mangle, it would do something undesirable. It didn't occur to me that it was possible to be not-mean-enough.
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From: kightp
2011-06-16 12:05 am (UTC)
*smile* Somehow I suspect this - or something very much like it - is how the world's great bread bakers got started. Especially the part about throwing a tantrum at - and with - the dough.
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[User Picture]From: essaying
2011-06-16 07:26 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's exactly right. Soft, fine loaves will need less kneading, and will be a bit wet and sticky and will need to be confined in a pan. Firm, structured loaves will need their gluten developed a lot to make that firm structure, so you'll have to knead a lot (or buy a KitchenAid).

If kneading is hard on your hip, try using a different height surface. Most kitchen counters are too tall, even for a tallish person - you have to be able to get your shoulders over the bread so you have some leverage. Back when I hand-kneaded, I usually did so on a table or chopping block.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2011-06-17 01:47 am (UTC)
It's not the height, it's just the sciatic problems in general. The good news is, I think I've gotten past the worst of it, and that it's now a matter of learning to do things a bit differently than I'd gotten used to.
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