It started innocently enough, with a packet of mix labeled "Tuscan Beer Bread." All I had to do was mix in a bottle of beer, pour it into a loaf pan, and bake for an hour. It turned out great.
So I thought, "I bet I can do this without a $5.00 package of bread mix," looked up some beer bread recipes on the Internet, and had a go at making my own.
It had the shape and consistency of a book. Now, I love books, but they're not so good for something you want to break apart and slather with butter. So, back to the Internet, looking for an explanation of why my bread wouldn't rise.
Somewhere, somebody mentioned the advisability of using fresh baking powder, and I turned over my baking powder tin and looked at the expiration date. Hmm. "Best if used by 2006." Okay... I really haven't baked in a long time, have I? Got out of the habit when the Spawn were at an age where one or both of them needed to be ferried somewhere every 45 minutes. However, with one of them living in Round Rock and the other in New York, that's not much of an excuse any more, is it? And Steve really, really likes fresh-baked bread, and he'd love to have something with texture and flavor instead of the bland, puffy loaves that come out of the bread machine; we both would.
So, back to the grocery store, and I tried again with some young and active baking soda. This time it worked a treat; here's a snap of what's left of the loaf.
Now I've remembered how gratifying it used to be to make actual risen bread from scratch, kneading and letting it rise and kneading again... and there's a jar of yeast in the fridge, a jar of sourdough starter fermenting on the counter, and five-pound canisters of white and whole-wheat flour under the counter. And Steve is very, very happy.
So, memo for next time: Read the label. Or, as we used to say in computerland: if all else fails, RTFM.