For my Caregiver Gap Year, I’ve committed to trying new things. I get energized doing things that take me out of my comfort zone or knowledge base. So, while this isn’t a remarkable adventure, I was thrilled to be gifted a rather expensive, fancy breadmaker by a friend who’s moving and had never used the thing. “Okay. I can try this. Shouldn’t be too hard” I thought. BIG Mistake. Never assume.

I went through the book (I’m a follow the instructions kind of gal) and found a recipe for a simple french bread. My mouth was salivating with the thought of a hot crusty bread on my plate by dinner. My mind filled with images of the cheeses I was going to lay out with olives and the super flavorful dipping oil I’ve finally mastered and the beautiful full-bodied red wine… Oh… what a pleasure this was going to be. Maybe even served on the back deck with a tablecloth and napkins. Fancy me! I would pretend I was in France and listen to some French blues or jazz music.

The machine made all kinds of noises after I dutifully poured the liquids on the bottom, measured the solid ingredients in the provided cup and placed on top of liquids, made a well in the flour and added the yeast without the yeast touching any liquids. I was disappointed that I did not get that bakery scent of cooking bread. Four hours later I had given birth to something that looked more like a disease than a delightful bread! Despite it being ugly on the outside, was it pretty on the inside? Did it taste like french bread? Pffffttttt – NO! It was horrible! Oh the tears… the anguish… what had I done? My evening ruined, I shuffled off to bed completely deflated and watched TV until i fell asleep. I vowed to call my friend and tell her to take her machine back.

I woke the next morning with new energy for a new day and decided to try it again. I would make something that didn’t require yeast. I found a recipe for a Dutch Apple Bread and happened to have an apple that would soon go bad sitting on my counter. No rising required. I followed all the ingredients in the order the manual said. I pushed the buttons over and over again but could not find the arrow to choose the CAKE function! I unplugged and plugged back in. I pressed the restart button over and over. AAHHHHRRRRGGGGHHHHH! I almost threw the machine off the back deck. I was so frustrated. I decided to call the customer service people and yell at them.

A lovely youngish sounding woman answered my call and patiently listened to my stories of the pockmarked bread that looked more like popcorn shrimp and the machine that was sitting with ingredients that wouldn’t bake. She was so kind and tolerant. She calmed me right down. She told me to go look at the machine and there, in the bottom of the little window screen, if you were tall and looked down at the thing at the correct angle, you could barely see a thin line (could have been a hair!) that indicated the CAKE function would work. I hit start and the thing cooked a cake! The house smelled delicious as the allspice and cinnamon filled the air once the pan was heated.

Dutch Apple Cake

Dutch Apple Cake

What about my disaster? She said that they recommend BREAD flour. Ah ha. And they recommend cutting the butter. Uh Huh. And you can’t mix flours. Uh Oh. No she didn’t need to see the picture I offered to send. To her it sounded like there wasn’t enough moisture – probably based on the fact that amount the recipe called for water was based on using bread flour and I used a mixture of pastry flour and all-purpose flour. So there. User error. My bad. “I’m sorry for yelling”, I offered. She didn’t sound offended. I guess this happens every day for her.

I know that not everything in my attempt to be bold and different going forward in my life is going to succeed right away. That Dutch Apple Bread came out perfect and I am still eating and sharing it. I will keep trying to improve my skills with this delightful tool that takes up half of a counter.

What did I learn? Patience. Ask for help. Don’t cook when you’re hungry because you can get hangry if things don’t work out. Follow the instructions. So there… my Gap Year lessons for this week.

When i finish eating the apple cake, i will be attempting that french bread again and will let you know how it goes. I still have the cheese, wine and olives. Please share your successes and fails in the comments below. I know I am not alone.

#lessonsfrommistakes, #caregivergapyear, #bakingfail, #hangrybaking