Well, this is the moment. You may not have been waiting for it, but it’s here for you anyway. I have made bread for the first time in my life.
After countless hours of watching the “Great British Bake Off” (the greatest British show ever made more like it) and Paul Hollywood tearing down the souls of poor individuals that thought they could bake until Paul told them they were trash, I thought why not try it. Can’t be too difficult, right?
I picked a Paul Hollywood recipe and ate my words real quick… and then I ate bread that was already made. I’ve had a lot of bread today.
Ultimately it wasn’t that bad, but for this post I decided to take it moment by moment so you can really get the whole picture.
Our story starts four days before this post. I know my week for the “Corona Diaries” series is this week and I think of a few subjects I could talk about that are relevant to the time.
Saturday, April 18: A few glasses of wine have been consumed. My mother and I have finished the new episode of “Cold Justice” and I’m scrolling through Instagram. I see a post from Candace, one of the winners of the “Great British Bake Off,” on Instagram. My face lights up and I think: “BREAD! I should make bread. It’s what everyone’s doing during quarantine.”
Monday, April 20: While chatting with my coworker I start to share the ideas I’ve been pondering for the week. She had just made focaccia bread and it looked delicious. I decide I am also going to make focaccia bread. Who doesn’t like focaccia, right?
Monday, April 20, 6 p.m.: I look up a focaccia recipe and who do I find but a recipe from Mr. Bread himself, Paul Hollywood. I tell my coworker that’s what I’m going to make and I’m ecstatic. I shall watch Bake Off while making my bread and even Paul Hollywood can’t deny my awesomeness.
Monday, April 20, 6:05 p.m.: Shit. I realize the recipe is not in cooking measurements I know. Duh, Kelly, this man is British.
Monday, April 20, 6:10 p.m.: I decide to go with it, I already have asked my coworker for yeast that I didn’t have, I have the recipe, I have already said the prayers to the bread god. It’s go time!
Cut to: It’s the morning of the not-so great Metairie bake off. There is no Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry. My dog expresses judgement. My mother tries to ignore that this is happening.
Here are a selection of the thoughts I had while making my focaccia:
- I have to do math.
- Who am I kidding? I’m going to Google how to convert everything.
- Why is this so wet?
- I don’t think I’m doing this right
- Why did I think there were eggs in bread? Wait does some bread have eggs in it – need to research later
- I’m not sure Paul Hollywood would like my technique. No confidence.
- It’s so sticky.
- Did I knead for five minutes? I think I did. Okay one more minute just in case.
- Shit. How am I supposed to get this off of this board?!
- Back in a bowl. Maybe I should text *my friend* to see if this is right.
- *texts friend* if you could describe how the dough should look and feel you’d say…
- there is a god. This is essentially right. Bless up
- This baby needs to double. Should I take a picture to make sure it’s double? How will I know?
- *takes a Whitney Houston “how will I know” dance break*
- I’m going to walk away.
- Is it too early for wine?
- Should I tweet Paul Hollywood?
- Let me read ahead in the directions.
- Where did I put the directions?
- “Step 4: …cover with large plastic bag.” What if I just doubled up on a few grocery bags? Maybe that’s what I should tweet Paul Hollywood.
- You’re not strong enough for Paul Hollywood’s disapproval. Resist the urge to tweet.
- My baby has risen. It is the Jesus of focaccia bread.
- I think my baking tray is too big.
- Must find large plastic bag… who just has a large enough plastic bag for this?
- Doesn’t hit the ends of the tray exactly, but we’re rolling with it.
- Is the dough technically sleeping now?
- Should I sing it nursery rhymes?
- One time I sang a screaming baby to sleep with “Edelweiss” from “The Sound of Music.” I wonder if my Adele-like vocals will help the little buddy prove.
- Googles what actually is “proving.”
- Dang it! *Googles Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion*
- I regret not taking math and science more seriously while in school.
- They should really replace geometry with classes on how to convert measurements and do your taxes or get a loan.
- Set oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and give it to God.
- Not sure another hour helped prove this bread at all.
- I should have sung to it. That would’ve helped.
- I was supposed to make divots. What exactly is a divot though?
- Whelp, it would not allow me to make divots.
- I messed up this dough. I just know it.
- I’ll just throw garlic on it. That’ll fix it.
- I find I talk to this dough way more than I probably should. I wonder what that says about me as a person.
- She’s in the oven for 20 minutes. Let us pray.
- One-minute sound went off on the timer. I panicked and paced in front of the oven.
- Do I know how to tell is bread is done?
- I don’t know how to tell. Can I stick a fork in it like a cake?
- I think that all sounds right.
- Well, it smells good. But there is garlic involved, so I’m not surprised.
- I don’t think it’s very big in size.
- I have zero idea what I’m doing.
- Oh shit!
- Oh! I think I did it.
- It looks okay! And I think it’s cooked through.
- OUCH that’s hot.
- Reminds self not to touch it too quickly next time.
- I ALWAYS KNEW I COULD DO IT. I had full faith in myself the entire time.
I would like to say I learned a lot about myself in this experience, but I think making bread for the first time just solidified all the things I knew about myself. I have zero faith in my ability to do anything I haven’t done before, which brings out my impatience and self-deprecating humor. And, like most times, everything turns out okay in the end, no one is hurt, everything is fine and this time I had delicious bread.
A bonus, besides bread that was surprisingly good, was that I didn’t realize how much the smells and steps of baking something would remind me of my grandma. Since she passed away in October 2019, I’ve had little motivation to accomplish anything because I wouldn’t be able to tell her about it. But, like the weirdo I am, the smell of the dough reminded me of her, and I continued to talk to her like she was in the room with me. I think she’s definitely the only reason I didn’t mess anything up; she is very much about keeping up appearances. I could never embarrass her and then write about it.
The Corona Diaries is a joint project of the Renaissance Publishing Staff. Each week during the series, a different member of our staff will share their day-to-day experiences with working from home, social distancing and the other ups and downs of living through the pandemic.