I’m an extraordinary baker. Using only flour, salt, sugar, and water — I have contrived a substance harder than a diamond and uglier than a statue in hell. As I was trying to extract the wretched missile from the pan, it fell out and almost killed the cat. Our brand new kitchen floor was irretrievably scarred in the process. Failing to perceive the humor, my wife advised me that it would be safer for me to spend the night on the couch than chance being choked to death in bed.
Then on the fifth loaf, a miracle occurred. I was staggered when I looked in the window and saw the bread up to the rim of the pan (which is five and a half inches up from the bottom). I called everyone I knew to come see it. To save my life I didn’t have a clue what I had done to achieve this miracle. I advised my admirers, that disciplined as I was, I would wait a requisite interval before tearing into the bread. I got the beer, the butter, and cheddar ready in anticipation of the unbridled euphoria that was shortly to be mine.
When I fell to slicing that beautiful loaf, I was astonished to find the top was no more than a sixteenth of an inch thick and an inch above the real bread. . No matter, we ate it gusto, but my confidence was shaken. My sixth loaf was a reprise of its predecessor. While I had achieved the height I craved, the bread was tough as nails in and out. The holes in the crumb were smallish and evenly spaced, but the bread simply felt like a starched shirt collar even though I had thrown in 3 tablespoons of olive oil this time to soften the interior.
Look, all I want out of my recipe (3 cups flour, 1-1/8 cups water, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1-1/2 teaspoons yeast) is a slice of bread soft enough to fold over itself from a loaf 5-1/2 inches high. Please don’t tell me to use only the best ingredients — as though I keep rat infested flour, sugar off the floor, water from a cesspool, salt from human sweat, and eighty-four year old yeast in my larder. That’s not advice, even my four year old grandkid knows that. Please tell me how to manipulate simple ingredients into an edible product that looks like a real loaf of bread.