My mom left this morning to head back to Nashville after a lovely 5-day visit. We had such a fun time taking walks, going shopping, visiting some of her favorite childhood spots and just enjoying catching up. I loved having her here. One of the things I had planned for her visit was a little baking challenge. I thought it would be fun to cook my grandmother’s famous bread together. That didn’t really work out, but I should back up my story a bit…
A few months ago I almost blogged about how I was creating a sourdough bread started from scratch. I was so proud of this. I had mixed my flour and water and set it out, watching it bubble and grown, kept feeding it and watched it grow more. My husband called it “the little shop of horrors,” but I was oh so proud of my lil science experience. It felt so little house on the prairie to be making a bread starter from scratch.
Until the day the starter died.
I guess it wasn’t a sudden death, but I refused to see the signs. First it started to smell awful. Seriously awful. Like gag and hold your breath kinda awful. But I followed the advice of the starter guru and kept feeding it. “If you feed it, it will grow” was my motto. Until it stopped growing. Dang. So, 7 days and countless cups of flour later, I tossed the science experiment and gave up.
A few weeks later I decided to suck it up and order a starter online. You still have to feed it and watch it grow, but it was wayyy less finicky and actually smelled good. Thank you King Arthur’s Flour.
I had the starter all prepped and ready for my mom’s visit. I looked over my grandma’s sourdough bread recipe once more and even commented that it wasn’t very clear, but then I shrugged and decided to give it a go. I imagined eating a warm piece of her delicious bread and feeling a sense of pride at carrying on her baking legacy. I was even hoping to send a loaf back for my dad to enjoy. But the recipe was more vague than I wanted to admit — it just was a list of ingredients and a baking time.
Now, I realize that some of you think that everything I cook turns to gold, but that just isn’t true. I have plenty of fails in the kitchen, especially when it comes to baking. I just post the recipes that actually do turn out well AND tasted good. Which is why this recipe won’t show up at the end of this post. This was a true fail.
I poured all the ingredients into my pretty pistachio green kitchenaide mixer and turned it on. At one point the mixer was straining to stir the ingredients, but since her recipe said that it would make a stiff dough, I once again shrugged it off and figured it was fine. Well… it wasn’t. The dough looked weird looked ok and smelled kinda fine but not great. It wasn’t smooth, for one thing. The dough never really rose much but after a while I put it in the bread pan anyways and popped it in the oven. It was pretty late at night so when the timer went off, I covered the pan with foil (never do that with hot bread, by the way) and stumbled off to bed without really even looking at it.
The next morning I headed to the kitchen to make breakfast and decided to cut a piece of bread to try it out. I remembered my grandmother’s soft, warm bread, topped with butter. Yum. I couldn’t wait. Only… my knife wasn’t moving. It was STUCK in the bread which was….rock. hard.
I didn’t try the bread, but I can tell you, it was not the bread my grandmother used to make. Nor did my mom head back to Nashville today with a fresh loaf for my dad. I haven’t given up completely on this recipe. After my ego heals a little and I re-stock my flour supplies (I used a whole bag between my failed starter and my failed bread attempt), I’ll try again, maybe comparing her recipe to others to find out all the details she left out. And maybe some glorious day, I’ll end up with a warm loaf of her delicious bread. Until then, it’s off to Trader Joe’s I go to get us some bread. Oh well.