December 6, 2008
It’s a twisting, sordid tale, too long to be called short, and yet too short to truly be called long.
It all started with a couple of blog posts from a friend and former co-worker about her recent trials and tribulations with a no-knead bread recipe. I clicked through on her link and read the article she’d referenced from The New York Times. That sounded interesting. 95% of my yeasted bread-making is either in the bread machine or it’s the KitchenAid French bread recipe. The no-knead recipe sounded intriguing, doubly so because a Dutch oven is one of the options for cooking it, which made me think it’s got potential in the future of being cooked over live coals. I tracked down the recipe referenced in the Times piece and decided I’d give it a go this evening/tomorrow (the key trick is that it rises for 12-18 hours, so it’s got an overnight component).
Conundrum: For the 12-18 hours it needs to rise, the recipe says to let it do so at “a warm room temperature of around 70 degrees.” Starting yesterday, we’ve hit a multi-day cold snap where the weather is down in the teens overnight. Our house will NOT be 70 degrees overnight.
I asked Julie for her thoughts, and we bandied about options. She hit on the idea of using one of our space heaters, ending with, “…the space heater in Benton’s room and run it all night, since he and Josh will sleep in the basement, and the dogs don’t go upstairs.”
She said this just as Benton and Josh came up the stairs from the basement for dinner. A quick word on Josh: he’s one of the first really good friends Benton made when we moved here and, in a lot of ways, they are two peas in a pod.
Benton, as he is prone to do, immediately asked, “What are you talking about?”
Let the “messing with” commence!
I told Benton it wasn’t important. To which he responded, “No, seriously, what were you talking about?” Which started us down a fairly familiar path, whereby I would come up with different ways to tell him I wasn’t going to tell him, and he would respond, “No, seriously,” each time. As I tried to conclude with, “It’ll just be one of those mysteries that you may never figure out,” he threw me a curveball: “What’s the shortcut from the golf course?” Whoa! Next digression:
About FIVE MONTHS ago, Benton and I wandered down to the neighborhood pitch-and-putt (except the greens aren’t groomed for putting, so it’s more of a pitch-and-pitch) at the end of our street. There are several routes to walk back, and Benton usually likes to take whatever path I’m not taking on the return walk. For 2-3 minutes we’re on separate routes, and we meet back up at the corner a block from our house. On this occasion, Benton made some comment about seeing which way was shorter. As soon as he was out of view, of course, I took off running as fast as I could. I’d pretty much caught my breath by the time he made it to the rendezvous point. He wanted to know how I got there so quickly, and I told him I took a shortcut. Given the geography of the situation…this really wasn’t physically possible. But, I insisted that’s what I had done, while also insisting I wasn’t going to tell him what the shortcut was. This, too, resulted in a round of “No, seriously,” badgering from Benton.
Back to this evening. I had to throw him a bone, and the golf course shortcut was a good one. “Benton, I ran.”
He almost managed to hide his disappointment about how mundane the solution to that mystery was.
He quickly recovered and went back to grilling me about his bedroom and the space heater and the dogs — the snippet of conversation he caught as he arrived for dinner this evening. He was standing 3 feet from the bowl of dough, which was covered in plastic wrap and sitting on top of the recipe I’d printed out. By this point, Josh was intrigued as well. I told them, “Put on your Encyclopedia Brown hats. If you look around the kitchen, without opening any cabinets or drawers, you can figure it out.”
Benton had something of a chip-off-the-old-block-with-a-slight-misfire inspiration, in that he promptly walked to the nearest counter — which was where the bowl of dough was — dropped his nose down on the counter — bumping the bowl of dough with his ear in the process — and said, “I’ve looked all around and still don’t know. What is it?”
At that point, Julie decided she need to get the boys refocussed on dinner, so she sent Benton down to the basement to grab drinks. Josh went with him, but also returned first. I quickly gave Josh the scoop The Big Secret.
Benton returned and quickly realized what had happened. He immediately decided that Josh was weaker-willed than I and began pestering him for an explanation. Josh wasn’t budging.
I decided to see what other wrinkles I could add to the game. ‘nuther brief aside required:
Benton is something of a little baker in his own right. He can make biscuits from scratch, pancakes from scratch, and he and I have made both yeast rolls and French bread on occasion.
Back to the tale:
I nonchalantly introduced an apparent non sequitur: “So, Benton, you know how, when you make bread, you have to knead it — fold it over on itself — for 10 minutes or so to get the yeast activated?” He indicated that he did. “Well, it turns out, there are recipes for bread that don’t require any kneading. What you do is just let the bread rise for 12 to 18 hours rather than just for one or two. I’m giving that a try.” I pointed to the bowl with the dough.
Believe me when I say this: Benton was nowhere close to making the connection. My loosely-formed plan was to make sure we’d stayed on that topic for a while and then, a bit later, to tell him that we’d already covered exactly what his mother and I were talking about when he came up from the basement.
Alas! ’twas not to be!
Julie, who is used to this sort of banter, had pretty much tuned us out, but she tuned back in to hear me mention the bread.
She promptly walked over and blurted out: “Yeah. Let it rise in your bedroom!”
“Oh. You weren’t telling him?”
Mystery solved. Story over. As abrupt. As. That.