Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bread, bagels, Battlestar Galactica

For my first cooking challenge, I attempted bagels. I mean, how hard could bagels be? You take dough, make it into a circle, boil it and then bake it. Even I should be able to handle that.

Or so I thought.

I've never made bread dough before. I can remember buying yeast only one other time in my life, and I don't recall what, if anything, I made with it. In fact, yeast terrifies me. But I was willing to work through my phobia.

So I take my little recipe and make my bagel dough. I knead it and squish it and get it all over my counter. I shape it into little circles and let it rest for 30 minutes so the dough can rise. After the time is up, I go uncover my little experiment, and ... nothing.

They look exactly the same as they did 30 minutes ago!

Well, clearly, I screwed up somewhere, so I toss that batch in the trash. I begin again. Mix my dough, make little circles, cover them up, wait 30 minutes and ... NOTHING.

No cute-looking fluffy bagels, just sad, flat dough staring back at me. By now I'm yelling at my good-for-nothing bagel dough, which I'm sure only helps. I take a moment to compose myself. "Maybe they don't rise till you bake them?" I ask myself hopefully. So I decide to continue on with the recipe.

I stick the sad little circles into boiling water, where they come out all slimy and gross. Then into the oven they go. After 15 minutes, I open the oven door only to find pathetic lumps of dough that do not in any way resemble a bagel. I am sad. But maybe they taste OK? Hope springs eternal.

No. They do not taste OK. In fact, imagine eating a really doughy, thick strand of spaghetti. That's what my bagels tasted like. No amount of cream cheese was going to cover up this failure.

Now my trash can contains two batches of doughy disasters. Maybe, as a good friend told me, I need to start with basic bread and work my way up to bagels. Or maybe I should never cook with yeast again. It's just a thought.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What's wrong with popcorn?

I hate cooking. Despise it. I have been known to survive entire weekends on microwave popcorn just because the thought of cooking a meal was too daunting and exhausting. If a recipe has more than three ingredients or includes instructions more complicated then "Mix together and serve," it gets tossed aside. Sadly, I'm not exaggerating. There have been times I've forgone Hamburger Helper because there were too many steps.

But it's time to expand my horizons. I figure at some point in my life, I should be able to make something more advanced then a sandwich. So starting today, I'm going to try new recipes and see what I come up with. With any luck, I'll improve my cooking skills and create some new meals. But just in case, my pantry is always stocked with popcorn.