Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Why Can't I Get a Rise Out of You?

Bread dough can be a fickle friend.

You might have fresh yeast, fresh flour, water or milk at just the right temperature, just the right amounts of everything... and for some reason, the dough just won't hold together the way it's supposed to or rise as much as it should.

Maybe the house is too cold or too warm, too damp or too dry. Maybe the meteorological conditions outside are too unpredictable. Perhaps the planets are improperly aligned. Perhaps you are improperly aligned. Maybe the butter was churned by a disgruntled milkmaid. Maybe the yeast has a secret plot to overthrow the government.

(You think I'm kidding? Greater revolutions than this have been triggered by a scarcity of good bread. Hello, Russia? Bonjour, France???)

Whatever the reason, my dough for the Georgian cheese bread I made last night simply would not double its bulk. And to top that off, despite following the recipe, the dough turned out dry and stubbornly resisted pulling together. I kneaded and kneaded, but still it fought me, so I decided just to let it go. Fortunately, it did kick up a wee bit, but it wasn't much.

Thanks to that, instead of the three loaves that the recipe promised, I decided to make only two as I could sense that I would have difficulty rolling out the dough. Thank heaven for upper body strength, because I gave that dough every ounce of energy I had to roll it out into a shape and size that would fit the pans.

Happily, after all this effort and a really good cheese filling, the bread did turn out well, if a bit dry in the dough and rustic (read: homely) in appearance. In fact, it smelled so fabulous that after hemming and hawing about what I really wanted for dessert, I decided that the Dinner Club wouldn't eat two loaves and so I really could go ahead and cut into one. I carefully wrapped one loaf and put it in the fridge, then stood over the other, wielding a knife and grinning maniacally as I sliced off a large chunk.

Oh man. If the recipe is correct in saying that this cheese bread is the ubiquitous fast food in the Republic of Georgia, I may have to go and pay Mitch Heat a visit there. The salty cheesy filling (made with feta and cottage cheeses) nestled inside warm bread is so incredibly satisfying and comforting that it was all I could do to eat just the one piece... and not sneak downstairs to finish the rest of the loaf for a midnight snack!

But don't worry, folks... I saved some for you.

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