I don't know what has come over me.
Sometime Septemberish I was talking to a friend and I mentioned thinking about how fun it would be to make bread EVERY WEEK with the kids! See, I'm like that. Think of an awesome idea, jump right in with both feet. Thank goodness for good friends. She said, "Well maaaaybe you could try it once a month, and then if you like it, you could try it every other week, and then if that works out, you could go for every week." Ah HA! Even better!
We tried it one day and had fun. Bonus, the bread even turned out really good! (Beginner's luck?) Tried it again a month or so later, um, not so good. We ended up having scones instead of bread because it wasn't rising. There you have it - instant discouragement. Why put all this time, effort, and ingredients into something that doesn't work out??? Nothing after that for months.
Maybe I just needed inspiration. New Year's Day we were taking a drive and stopped at the outlets in Park City for a little bit. To keep kids happy Jamie suggested stopping by the Mrs. Field's store, which upon getting inside, we realized also had a Pretzelmaker inside. Sammy and I got a pretzel to share, everyone else got a cookie.
I couldn't stop thinking about that pretzel. A couple days later I was looking up pretzel recipes. That was soooo good I really wanted more. Found this recipe on allrecipes.com that had some good reviews so I went with it. They weren't as pretty and not as good as Pretzelmaker, but everyone was happy with them. About a week later I made bread again (another different recipe). Again not amazing, but people ate it without complaining. Here I am today, trying another pretzel recipe.
This just might turn out to be known as the year I really learned to make bread! Not just any old bread, but bread that could be taken to new neighbors when they move in! Or old neighbors for that matter! Right now I think my biggest issue is the kneading stage. I just put several bread books on hold at the library because I know I have issues getting the dough to do whatever it's supposed to do then, and in the youtube videos I found everything just works out perfectly, so no troubleshooting advice. Mine always seems to be on the tough from beginning to end, even if I use a lot less flour, and when pulled very much just breaks apart. Never seems to get to that 'smooth and elastic' point.
It's turning out there is a certain "cool mom" factor that I think will help encourage my efforts along. Sammy bopped into the kitchen with his friend and asked what I'm making. When I told him pretzels, he got way excited and grabbed the book I was using for the pretzel recipe this time, had to show his friend the picture in the book and everything. Adam yelled from another room, "What are you making?" Sammy answered excitedly for me, then Adam started talking up the pretzels I made last time to his friend. I heard Adam's friend whispering to Adam, and Adam's reply, "I don't know, you'll have to ask my mom." "What does he need?" I ask. "He wants to know if he can have one." :) Though I do try to suppress it, I have a very competitive side of me that is always looking for ways to keep my coolest-mom-in-the-neighborhood status.
P.S. The Ultimate Bread book (link above) has the most delicious pictures in it of tons of different kinds of bread. Jamie was with me when I checked it out a few months ago (I keep renewing and renewing), and we both ooooohed and ahhhhhhed over everything we wanted to make. As it stands, this is the first recipe I've made out of it.