Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Dangers of Beer and Baking

"When the Bread Gods Demand a Sacrifice, They Only Accept Payment in Flesh"
Miracle Worker Triple (from the Yellowhammer Brewery in Huntsville, Ala.) Sourdough Bread
Since my current list of hobbies reads like the program guide for the Food Network, my Friday nights are often spent doing things around the kitchen…making a birthday cake, brining a turkey, or maybe I’m practicing my knife work on an unfortunate cucumber.  The point that you should really take away from this, is that I don’t have a life. 

And like most young men in my generation, I enjoy a good glass of craft beer, especially when I don’t have to be at work at the ass crack of dawn the next day.  So this past Friday, I came home, ate my celebratory payday order of sushi, and began to celebrate a private homage to the great Brewfests of the Rhineland.  

Sometime after 8 pm, I decided that I should probably get started on the sourdough bread I had promised to bake for my coworkers at the Nook Tavern the next day.  I have been experimenting with new starter made from the Miracle Worker Triple from Alabama’s savant of Belgian Beer, Keith Yager at Yellowhammer Brewing, and everyone was anxious to try it. 

Unfortunately, my starter took substantially longer to rise than usual.  I’m still not entirely sure why, but for whatever reason it was glacially slow.  By the time my starter was ready to be incorporated into the dough it was nearly 11 pm and I had a few more beers. 

I finally managed to get the dough into the oven so that it could rise (again a glacially slow process), when I was suddenly overtaken by one of those alcohol induced desires to do something stupid, in this case I had the compelling urge to the watch the B-rated, sci-fi thriller Starship Troopers.  Ok so not the best movie on planet Klendathu, but is does have its moments.  Needless to say I was so enticed by the well nuanced plot of this flick that I fell asleep before the opening credits were finished. 

After a few hours of drooling on the sofa like a homeless inebriate I was startled by the sound of my blackberry telling me that the wonderful editorial staff of the NY Times had decided to send me a message at 2 am on what was now a Saturday.  Normally, I would have been very upset… today I was overtaken by a Julie Powell-esque sense of panic. 

“Ahh crap the bread!” 

It turns out that the bread was fine, and was just about ready to hit the oven.  So I pulled it out, preheated the oven, thought “what the hell”, and grabbed another beer.

Now there are two secrets to making a crusty loaf of bread.  The first one is that your oven has to be hotter than the surface of the sun (or at least as hot as you can make it), and the second trick is to put a pan of slightly simmering water into the bottom of the oven.  The steam generated from this pan slows down the activity of the yeast in the exterior crust of the bread, allowing the bacteria present to develop a wonderfully crunchy crust. 

The first two loaves of bread came out of the oven looking a little flatter than I would have liked, but with a glossy light-mahogany colored crust that would have sent Mario Battali into a diabetic coma. 

So I pulled the steam pan out of the oven, and started preheating it for round two.
With my left hand I reached for the egg wash to start prepping the second batch of loaves.  With my right had I instinctively reached for the steam pan to put it back into the oven. 

It was at that moment that I began shouting a string of cuss words and profanity that would have made my younger brother in the U.S. Coast Guard cringe.  I had forgotten to use an oven mitt to grab the pan that been in the 450 degree oven for almost an hour. 

So needless to say, I spent most of the night with my hand in an ice water bath after suffering severe second degrees burns and looking like the Nazi from Indiana Jones who burned his hand on the Staff of Ra or whatever…except mine looked like the handle from a 2 quart sauce pot. 

The bread tasted delicious.  It was the perfect blend of sweet and sour, with a wonderfully colored and crunchy crust.  But unfortunately, the Bread Gods demanded a sacrifice for my insolence.

So remember kids, don’t drink and bake!

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy.

About five minutes after the incident...still pretty red, but the blisters eventually became pretty gruesome

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