Have you ever done something that appears to be correct, yet your spirit is knawing at you that something might be amiss? Raise your hand if you said, “Yes.”
Well, that happened the other day to me when I motored to Capital City to take care of my precious grandchildren, Little Missy, age 5, and Little Sir, age 2-1/2.
It all started when I discovered a yeast bread recipe that only required flour, water, and yeast. After mixing, it could be stored in the refrigerator and used a little at a time within seven days. I could shape just the exact amount needed to make fresh bread for multiple meals. That appealed to me. Now, doesn’t that sound like a nifty idea to you?
Knowing the two little people I love always jump for joy when it’s time to bake gave me great confidence that this bread dough was going to be a fun teaching tool for shaping and playing with yeast bread dough. It would be a “piece of cake,” so to speak.
I quickly mixed the dough on Tuesday and stored it in the refrigerator for my Saturday excursion. So far, so good.
After arriving at my destination and receiving hugs and kisses, the little ones sat on the bar stools at their kitchen counter. We were all ready to dig in and have a wing-ding time playing with bread dough. I couldn’t wait for their little hands to “smoosh” into the raised dough!
First of all, though, I let them smell the dough because each of our senses plays a major role in the baking process. Of course, the dough did have a yeasty aroma on first whiffing. However, with scrunched up nose, Little Missy backed away from the bowl of moist dough with a look of “I’ve smelled more pleasant things in my life!” I was hopeful the next steps in this experience would be more positive!
I did think the dough was quite “wet” but then considered that this would even give the little ones more fun to explore the tactile feel of flour. By spreading some flour on to the counter, they could then gather a small amount of dough and roll it around on that flour to help the dough become more manageable for shaping.
As I wasn’t familiar with the location of the baking ingredients in First-Born Dear Daughter (FBDD) and Happy Husband’s home, I asked Little Missy where the flour might be located. I’ve mentioned in previous columns, for five years old, Little Missy really does know her way around the kitchen! I had complete faith that she would take me to the flour container.
So, quick-as-a wink, this little gymnast shinnied up on to the counter and opened the upper cupboard door. Located on the top shelf were clear plastic containers of dry baking ingredients. FBDD is highly organized, and the inside of her cupboard showed it! The largest container which had a peach lid was the one Little Missy deemed to contain the flour. I stretched as far as my five-feet-plus height could muster and retrieved the container. Little Missy jumped down and ran over to join her brother at the bar counter. With eager looks in their eyes, we were ready to start!
I might add at the time of flour exploration, the feminine little eager beaver eyed two cookie cutters, a chicken and a pumpkin. She said, “Grandma, let’s use these to cut out shapes!” How fun, I thought! Great idea, kiddo!
One would think that rolling bread dough in flour before shaping it would not be that trying. I’ve done it for years! But we were to encounter a more challenging task than I had anticipated.
When I removed the peach lid from the container, inside was what appeared to be flour. But when my eyes first spied the contents, my brain said, “Are you sure this is flour?” It was of a very fine texture and appeared to be quite bright white in color. I thought, “Well, perhaps this is pastry flour which can be of a finer texture and brighter color than all-purpose flour. But why would FBDD have pastry flour in her arsenal of baking ingredients?”
No particular aroma touched my senses. That’s when I should have stopped and put a wee bit on my finger so that I could have tasted it, but, alas, I didn’t! (Okay, all of you Sherlock Holmes’ investigators, what was this mystery ingredient?)
We proceeded to sprinkle some of the ingredient on to the counter and plopped the bread dough on to it. Little Missy and Little Sir started playing with the dough, but Mr. Sticky Hands took over. I said, “Here guys, let’s just douse your hands with more flour and send Mr. Sticky Hands back home!”
They made minor progress with the task and even made some pumpkin and chicken cutouts, but in my mind, the pieces of the puzzle were just not fitting together as to why the dough was so unmanageable. My brain’s light bulb was evidently not switched to “on.” (I’m being very transparent with you here. Surely, something of this nature, Dear Readers has happened to you, too, hasn’t it?)
We finally finished with the fun, allowed the bread to rise, and baked it. We three “professional” bakers were so anxious to try the bread after it had slightly cooled. The lopsided pumpkins and the leaning chickens with crooked combs and beaks (due to the dough not having enough structure before baking) were selected by the little ones for the first taste test.
Upon tasting their masterpieces, I asked the little darlin’s, “What does it taste like?”
“It tastes a little like cinnamon and sugar, Grandma,” exclaimed Little Missy. (Remember there was no cinnamon or sugar in this dough.)
“Really?” I curiously replied. “That’s interesting.”
Being a little man of few words at this time, Little Sir just kept taste testing his “chicken” without replying.
After that description, I had to try it. Little Missy was right. There was a very comforting mild flavor of sugar, and, believe it or not, cinnamon. Maybe our brains were just playing games with us. But whatever it was, that bread was good! It had a coarse, open texture like focaccia bread, and that fresh yeast flavor with a hint of sugar and cinnamon begged us to gobble up the chickens and pumpkins and more!
Needless to say, our tummies were quite content. No lunch required!
Later on, I told FBDD about our baking adventure and said, “By the way, what ingredient do you have inside that clear plastic container with the peach lid?”
She started to howl with laughter. (Readers, maybe you had this figured out.) “That’s powdered sugar!”
The light meter inside my brain was moving faster than a kilowatt! “Ah yes, that explains everything,” I sheepishly uttered!
We have an expression in our family that goes like this…”When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”
That day we bread bakers extraordinaire made quite a batch of “lemonade” during my little teaching time! A wonderful learning experience gave a piggy-back-ride to loads of fun!
I can’t account for the cinnamon flavor, but I do believe the moral of this baking story is: When in doubt, taste.
You know, grandmas don’t always need to know everything. We just need to gracefully maneuver our way out of a “sticky” situation.
NOTE TO READERS: Want to chat about baking? Contact me at email@example.com. Your suggestions of homemakers for possible inclusion into Miss NiNi’s Royal Baking Court were outstanding! Look forward to a new baking crown awarded each month in upcoming blog posts. That crown just might be for you!