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