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06 December 2006

sometimes, i fail.

bad bread, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

Most days, I artfully compose my photographs of food so that I catch the light with a perfect gleam. See the reflection of the sky through the skylights on that egg yolk? Ah, there's a perfect accident. Golden light, just before dusk -- these days about 3:30 -- falls softly on the little table by the window, and I run toward it with my latest baked-goods creation. If some morsel of food we ate the night before tasted fantastic, I save at least a slice of it to drive it to the restaurant and take pictures by the window. And then I eat the rest for lunch.

Food bloggers? We're a weird bunch. We take photographs of our food, and we write about the tastes, and then we leave comments on each other's sites to say how much we enjoyed their version of the process. Truly — odd. (Wonderful, of course. But I say that because I'm swimming in this water all the time, and I don't know how to come to shore.)

However, most of the time, we tell you about the successes. I certainly do here. The gluten-free cookie that tastes like its predecessor, but better. The lamb stew that made us both sing. That one bite of black cod that changed my mind forever about black rice flour. You would think, from reading this blog, that it's just one food orgasm after another over here.

Well, as far as the kitchen goes, that can't possibly be true. At least, not most of the time.

Last month, the entire food blog world went seemingly insane for this no-knead bread recipe, published in the New York Times. Oh, the raptures! Luisa made me want to try it, when she wrote, "Yes! A fantastic recipe! Something to rave about! Finally. What a relief." Looking at her bread, I knew I had to follow her lead. Deb at Smitten Kitchen crafted a gorgeous loaf of bread with one hand, since the other arm was in a sling at the time. Lindy at Toast raved about how light and feathery and perfectly easy this was bread was to make. And for goodness' sake, look at all these photographs on flickr of people who made this bread successfully. Certainly, with all my skill and determination, I should be able to concoct a successful version of this easy-peasy bread recipe. Right?

In one word: no.

Let me say that a little more clearly: no, no, no. Big nada. Nope. Out of the realm of possibility. Kerplunk. Forget about it. Don't waste your time. Uh-uh.

Obviously, that recipe relies upon the long strands of gluten that stretch and sway in the dough as it rises. Without gluten, what do you have?

Friends sometimes tease me that I keep my Louisville slugger in the living room. They think I leave it in the corner in case there are burglars. They don't quite understand that I just love my baseball bat and all the triples I have hit with it. However, maybe I should make another batch of this gluten-free no-knead bread and keep it around in case there are burglars. One swing of this blam-so-hard-you-could-break-a-tooth-with-it simulacrum of bread, and that burglar would be out cold.

I used to love chewing on gum when I was a kid. I'd keep a pink wad in my mouth at all times, just to blow bubbles. If I chewed on a slice of this stuff all day I still wouldn't be done with it. Bubbles? No. Gummy substance that tastes like no food in nature. Yes.

The Chef wouldn't even use the two loaves I tried to bake breadcrumbs. He said they might break the blade of the food processor.

Damn it. I wanted that bread.

Not being able to convert this into a gluten-free recipe makes me feel like I'm in the seventh grade again, and everyone is raving over his or her flashy new Nike shoes, and my family just cannot afford a pair.

Damn you, gluten!

Oh well. The only silver lining in this little grey cloud? At least I can save you the trouble of attempting it. Seriously, don't bother.

p.s. Several of you have written to me, in the last few days, worrying that I am starting to grow frustrated or giving up on making great, gluten-free bread. Not at all, my friends. Not at all. In fact, I wrote this essay in a snarky voice, because it was so damned frustrating to thwack that bread against the side of the counter and not have it move. But failing? That won't stop me. In fact, I welcome it.

Thanks to Sasha for these quotes:

‘Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.’— Albert Einstein

‘To develop working ideas efficiently, I try to fail as fast as I can.’— Richard P. Feynman

‘Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.’— Mahatma Gandhi


At 6:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seriously, don't bother?

Seriously, thank you!

At 7:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Shauna, what a sad, sad photo!

I don't have a baseball bat, so I probably could use a loaf around the house for protection.

At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one! I've seen that bread in my kitchen;)!

At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once made a loaf of bread that my older sons refers to as the brick. He said if I made a few more we could go in the backyard and build a fort. I was sad:(

At 9:04 PM, Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Awww! But wasn't it just a *little* bit fun to gnaw on? Ugly as sin, but a heartfelt endeavor with a beautiful crust (and a suspicious crumb).
We root for ya, darling.

At 5:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That looks like many of my bread machine loaves where after I slice them, someone asks me when I'm going to cook the inside!

At 5:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unrelated to this most recent entry... I found a link in Clan Thompsons site for celiac awareness jewerly. A percentage goes to various celiac awareness programs that you have listed on your site.
By the way, I was diagnosed with CD 8 years ago, and stumbled on your blog about a month ago. I love it!

At 6:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently committed to spending at least as much time showcasing my UTTER FAILURES as my glorious successes, if only in the name of proper accounting.

also, you are upset about this project, right? not this project getting you glum about your diet. because the latter would be pure folly! I would have to call the Chef at the restaurant and then tell him I needed to talk to you, no, not to hurt yr feelings or anything, but to totally subject you to a three-part harmony of "this little light of mine," for at least five minutes and my children have been unruly and my voice is already hoarse and plus that would take time out of my holiday knitting, gosh.

I don't think I have ever met in real life anyone who lets their little light shine like yours! xox, Elodie.

At 7:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dang! I was so excited about the potential of that bread. Oh, well. Thanks for trying.

At 7:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've given up to soon. It can be done! There are a group of us working on that very same project on the delphi site. Some have have been quite successful.

At 7:57 AM, Blogger Kaecey said...

Hi--I'm new to being gluten-free and this is the result I had with my first attempt! Somehow I feel better knowing it wasn't just me!! Thanks for you blog--it's a wonderful inspiration for a newbie!

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Mood Indigo said...

Heck - it took Clotilde at C&Z three tries even with the regular recipe :)

At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a within-the-last year-diagnosed celiac (and former bread baker) who was coveting that recipe as well! Sometimes it's just not meant to be.

At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Shauna, that photo made me giggle. It also feel sad for that poor loaf of bread. I laughed with recognition. Thanks for your honesty - I, too, cook things I do not end up blogging about! (Or photographing).

I was really jealous of all the bloggers making that no-knead bread, too. But I know that you can't just substitute GF flour for regular flour in bread recipes, GF bread is its own science. I hope one day to find a recipe that makes a truly crusty, chewy bread that is worthy of eating - Something that would taste good without loads of toppings. By itself or just dipped in olive oil, or with a little tapenade. Until then, my bread standards have become hopelessly low and I make do with the usual substandard commercial GF breads.

I plan to buy a bread machine this winter so I can start messing around with GF bread recipes more often, though - I hold out hope I'll figure out something brilliant!

At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have found that our local wildlife will always help with the disposal of any recipes we make that don't quite work out. I've had whitetail deer pick up an entire cake off of our compost pile, and of course the raccoon just love our mistakes. :)

As for a bread that is truly worthy of eating, we've had quite a few persons really like my wife's "Artisan Style" bread that is full of flavor from a few GF grains (flax, quinoa, sorghum, rice) and some caraway seeds. And, it is not just gluten-free persons that have really enjoyed it. It is a soda-based one, so the rising is a bit more predictable. It's freely available in our gluten-free recipes library to anyone that wants to try it. GF bread seems to be an "art" and require a lot of practice. Knowing you Shauna (and the fact the Chef is there to help), all sorts of awesome breads are in your future!

At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that photo looks so familiar...! i think we've all been there. they can't all be winners...

by the way, i want to thank you again for all the links you posted last spring after your trip to new york. i'm heading there next week and can't wait to try the places you mentioned.

At 10:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh. I was going to try that to. Damn.

But maybe there is hope. I saw this on 'I am gluten free':

But haven't tried that yet either.

At 6:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you rescue the bread and turn it into something else? Breadcrumbs? Bread pudding? Line a pan with it and make some sort of casserole? Bread soup? :D

At 9:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Issy posted above, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. I would post a photo, but don't see any way of doing so. The crust is gorgeous, the crumb a tad sticky, but the closest GF thing to an artisan bread I've ever tasted. If you want more info, let me know.

At 4:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I want to encourage you---it CAN be done! I have just this week mastered the poofy, soft, stay-soft-for-a-week, gluten free loaf of bread---and hamburger buns!---and hoagie rolls!

I'm a little timid to share my recipe just yet. I'm in the process of deciding whether to write a book or market the bread itself.

For now, please just be encouraged that it CAN be done. And eventually, my recipe or bread will be available!

At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

me? I think only the people who's bread is a success post pictures. For the rest of you (um...I mean us), we're brave enough to show our flaws to the world.

I'm onto batch #4! Wish me luck...

At 6:21 PM, Blogger Liz said...

Failure in the kitchen is okay, as long as we can laugh about it. Clearly you can, and that's great!

One thing though- this blog and that book you are working on prove that you have no limitations.

Which is why I know you're going to figure out how to kick this recipe's butt and churn out a really fantastic loaf of bread!

Good luck and be well! :)


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