Rustic Italian Ass
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and NOXIOUS SMOKE
August 4, 2005

You know, when I wrote about the little pesto problem, I didn't think I'd be writing so soon about yet another kitchen katastrophe, but here it is. Last week, I was all "Oooh, my pizza's pretty good," and "Oooh, my ice cream's better!" Well, you wanna know what? My bread sucks.

Never cook angry.

This summer, I've been trying to catch up on three seasons of Alias. With a little help from my friends, I blew through seasons one and two, and with the help of Netflix, I was close to finishing season three. The Evil Dr. Mathra's attending an evil math conference in New Mexico for a few days, so I thought it was a good time to delve back into my new obsession minus the "Wait, who's that?" or "Where'd he come from?" or "I thought Ron Rifkin was bad!" I spaced the DVDs out so I was watching a DVD each night he was away, and I had disk five on tap for tonight. I also had Rustic Italian Loaf bread baking scheduled for tonight. Now before you chastise me for trying to watch television AND cook at the same time, I will give you a preemptive pshaw! This is old hat to me. If it's not Alias on the TV, it's Jeeves and Wooster on my iBook and it all works out fine, so don't get hung up on that little lecture, okay? Okay.

Anyway, I spent yesterday making my biga, the biga spent twenty-four hours in the fridge doing its slow rise thing, and I spent today with the proofing, the punching, the folding, and the more rising. Fine, fine. It's all fine at this point. The oven's even all hetted up to 500, and I happily pop the DVD into the player. It doesn't play. And it doesn't plan. And IT DOESN'T PLAY! I slap the DVD out of the player and examine it. Big ol' crack on the back that is NOT my doing. Pisser. I sadly slide the DVD back in its sleeve and get online to report the problem to Netflix so they can send me a replacement. But are they going to send me a replacement tonight to watch while I'm baking my Rustic Italian Loaf? Nooooooooo! I gotta return the defective one before they get a replacement out to me. And that means I have to wait FOREVER to watch episodes 17-20 and those are the ones where Vaughn discovers that Snoren of the Overbite People is evil and Sydney discovers she's got a sister and all this other good stuff with SpyDaddy and turtlenecks and I can't watch it tonight!

Sigh. But I shake myself and realize that Alias or no, I still have yeasted dough and it needs to be baked because if I try to throw it out, it's going to continue to rise and rise until I have a Paddington Bear problem on my hands.

I get to the point where I dump the dough onto my floured work surface and shape it into a nice, fat oblong length. A slash with my chef's knife and a spritz of water later, and we're ready for the oven and for the tempting, homey smell of baking bread to drench the apartment as I pretend that I live in a bakery.

I'm supposed to place the dough on some parchment paper and slide it all onto the baking stone in the oven. The idea is that you can easily rotate the dough 90 using just the corners of the paper. I shouldn't have listened. I have no problems using the pizza peel, or, honestly, my fingertips. Yeah, the oven's hot and the dough's hot, but I'm getting all asbestosy in my fingertips. Don't get excited, it's not my whole fingertip, it's just, like, in one tiny space on each digit. You gotta know where to look.

I plop the bread onto a appropriate-sized piece of wax paper and shift my soft, flour-dusted baby into the oven. The door closes and, turning to what I always do when I'm in the last stage of cooking something, I start to clean up the kitchen. At this point, I remember to look back at the oven clock to gauge how much time I have before the oven turn. And that's when I see the smoke. It's coming up thick and fast though one of the burners. I'm confused. The oven doesn't look smokey and the burners aren't on so...? Then I think that maybe the wax paper is drooped too far over the edge and is causing some slight problems. I open the oven door to adjust the wax paper and that's when the NOXIOUS SMOKE STARTS TO POUR OUT OF THE OVEN! Panicked, I grab the pizza peel and pull out the raw loaf. The NOXIOUS SMOKE continues to pour but there's no fire. Just nasty smells. The smoke detectors, which are just as sensitive in San Diego as they are in San Francisco, start to argue with the idea of me being a baker and the cats retreat to the bedroom. I shut them in, slide open the balcony door, and start to towel fan the NOXIOUS SMOKE out into the La Jolla Crossroads courtyard. Somewhere in the shutting up of the cats and the pouring NOXIOUS SMOKE does it hit me that wax paper? Is NOT PARCHMENT PAPER! Hi, yeah, I have a drawer FULL of PARCHMENT PAPER and yet? For some INSANE reason? I grabbed the WAX-COATED paper that could have STARTED A FIRE IN MY OVEN?!

So now, instead of the tempting, homey smell of baking bread filling the apartment, I've got the gaggeriffic, revolting stench of scorched wax paper stinking up the joint. Rustic Italian Loaf? Yeah, more like Rustic Italian Ass.

The bread's back in the oven, sans poisonous paper of wax, but my heart just isn't in it any more.

I'm not a baker.

Never cook angry.

I blame Netflix.

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