Saturday night I tried to occupy myself as the evening progressed, still maintaining the delusion that Comcast would have my internet back up and running at the projected and oddly precise 23:32, which turned out to be a lie, as had every prior “about 3 hours from now at an oddly precise time” assurance I’d gotten from their automated tech support line (complete with the fake sound of a keyboard as the automaton “looks up your account information.” Not gonna lie, nice touch. The keyboard sound in fact reminded me of the old 3270 terminals and their gigantic IBM keyboards from back in the Walter Karl days.)
But I digress.
I don’t MIND not having internet. I can get along with it just fine. Yeah I’ll twitch for a couple hours as I try and figure out what to do. But if I know it’s going to be out for a couple days I can just get on with something else.
What I DO mind is being lied to about how long it’s going to be down.
But none of that has anything to do with my countdown.
THAT was about a decision I’d made on December 31, to take 3 months and go without wheat, soda, and give myself a minimal amazon allowance. Saturday night was the end of the three months.
I was heating up the cast iron skillet and getting out a few slices of bread and some cheese to make myself a pair of grilled cheese sandwiches as the midnight hour struck. I made them as usual, too much butter for a human, cooked slowly and for several minutes on a side. One was just american cheese (an easy win) and one was shredded cheddar (an experiment.)
Finishing them up I grabbed a bottle of Virgil’s root beer from the fridge (I’d been planning this), took a pic, and headed over to chow down.
I did everything right. The sandwiches had that golden crispness of having been cooked in enough (too much) butter. The cheese in both was JUST starting to squeeze out the side.
I ended up completely nonplussed.
I mean, yeah, they were good (though the cheddar one was really strangely bland; made stranger still by the fact that I was using extra sharp (if store brand) cheddar) really good. But I expected an epiphany of some kind. Nope.
Now, the Virgil’s root beer was as sublime as ever and I savored every delicious clovey drop.
I got up on Sunday the first…not feeling quite right (suddenly willing to attribute everything to wheat consumption.) But went ahead with my plan anyway.
I made a small batch of teeny bagels I’d prepped in my not-quite-boredom on Saturday evening. They were okay. Nothing earth shattering. But worth pursuing. I ate a few (they were only a few inches in diameter) and tossed the rest.
The final recipe I used was a bastardized version of a couple/few different ones I’d found around, with some modifications of my own. The only real problem with them was that…ya know what, nevermind.
An aside about recipes and such: Despite my reputation in the offices where I work, and the parties and gatherings I attend, I actually bake neither a wide variety of things nor very frequently. But the things I DO bake I’ve worked really hard on. I start with a recipe then tweak it to my liking, changing one variable at a time over years, keeping detailed notes, until I’ve got it where I want it. Then I make a tweak every other attempt to see if I can improve on it. But I generally stick with the baseline once I’ve found one. It takes years of work to get some of these things right. There are little tricks of process and ingredient that I don’t even put in my own recipe notes. So, before you ask.
No. I’m not giving you my bagel recipe. To paraphrase the immortal Jules Winfield: I’ve been through too much over this shit to just hand it over to your dumb ass.
I’ll trade techniques. But I’m not giving away shit.
Doing some math based on my sourdough’s hydration level (not to mention that I only had a kilo of active starter going) and the net weight of dough I wanted to end up with, I ended up making about 3 pounds of dough. This should probably be enough for at least 2 dozen bagels. I let it rise, then punched it down and started forming them when I quickly realized I don’t have the fridge space to keep that many bagels chilling overnight and I certainly don’t have the oven space to bake them all in less than a few shifts.
Seeing as how I was going to need to get up at what looked like 5 am to bake these puppies as it was I ended up making them…HUGE. NOT the best idea in the universe. But I was running out of day and was getting real tired. I ended up fitting 18 bagels on 3 trays (huge.)
I found myself waking up every hour because I was worried about hearing my alarm, finally getting up and absolutely WRECKING my kitchen (the dishwasher toils away even now) and getting them baked.
I burned a tray, undercooked a try (mildly) and one came out right. They’re a little goofy looking, but I don’t really mind.
Of course they were a grand slam at the office. Homemade sourdough egg bagels. I probably ate one and a half or so, over the course of the day (srsly. Huge.)
By 11:30 I was ready to pass out. I was full of caffeine. But it just wasn’t helping. It was like someone’d replaced my blood with mercury. I made it to lunch and went, after some consternation, to Five Guys for a burger that was NOT put in a little tin for a change (I’d been getting bunless burgers there a couple times a month) with a small order of fries (so….34 pounds of them.)
It just wasn’t that satisfying. I just wanted a damn steak. My mind drifted back to the NY Strip I’d had on Saturday.
The afternoon dragged on in similar fashion when I realized it wasn’t the lack of sleep, but the damn carbohydrate crash. I just felt positively awful and had since Sunday morning. There wasn’t any real “oh my god I can’t believe I went without this. Life is finally worth living again” moment I’d expected (reasonably I think. It happened with pizza back in September after all.)
While trying to debug a particularly gnarly query I just kept thinking: This isn’t worth feeling like this. I’ve just felt like complete crap for two days. I was going to make myself a chicken cheesesteak burrito for dinner. But now I think I’m just going to eat it out of a bowl with some guac salsa and be damn glad I did.
So I took some of the remaining starter, fed it really dry, and sealed it in a plastic container before putting it in the freezer. I’m just not going to do this anymore. It’s not worth it. Ironic that my thesis really is an awfully close parallel to “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels” goals of weight loss notwithstanding. The pleasure just isn’t worth that persistent feeling.
Yeah, I’ll have pizza here and there, and a burrito or sandwich on occasion. But baking bread? I love DOING it so maybe I’ll do it for holidays, parties and such, and keep the other confection and baking pursuits going.
Baking bread without eating it is sorta like….well… like brewing mead you don’t drink.
But that’s a different post.