The Bread Wars

By Sara Spock

I recently waged war on excessive gluten in my diet, but it wasn’t without provocation. Let’s be clear, gluten launched the first attack. I know how to cook, bake, sauté, soufflé, flambé, grill, and fry, but I never learned how to make bread. After asking around, I landed on a tried and true recipe for a plain old loaf of country bread. I stocked up on flour, yeast, and 5 pound wrist weights for kneading muscle conditioning.  

The first step was to bloom the yeast. How hard could it be? I’ve got thumbs that are greener than Kermit The Frog and can bloom just about anything. My water was the appropriate temperature and soon, little bubbles started to appear. I was in the bread baking business!  After mixing up the perfect ratios for a delicious dough, those massive muscles came in handy. A cookbook informed me that kneading was the most crucial step for perfect bread. Being nothing less than a kitchen perfectionist, I attacked that dough the way Magnus, the Swedish Masseuse, attacks the knots in your spine. Gluten was developing, I felt it in my gnarled fingers. Press. Push. Fold. Repeat.

The dough was shiny, smooth, and ready to rise. I found a draft-free spot, covered my bread and walked away, dreaming of fluffy mounds of warm, fresh baked bread. After 60 minutes of data analysis, I was ready to punch that dough right in the face. Perhaps as a self-preservation tactic, the dough refused to rise. I went back to my tedious Excel sheet in the hopes that the dough would grow up and take the hit.  It didn’t. Hours into this process and I was no closer to my dream of fresh bread. I pressed the dough into a rectangle, topped it with some olives, and made foccachia. It tasted like a brick. An olive-covered brick.

I bought new yeast. I changed my flour. I used bottled water. I tried three more times. Three. More. Times. My dough refused to rise. I took it personally. I tried a bread mix. It flopped.  I bought pre-made dough. It burned. I gave up. I know my limitations and baking bread does not fall within the spectrum of what I can do. Perhaps one day, years from now, when the dough forgets how hard I wanted to punch it, I may get a rise out of it. I refuse to eat another slice of bread until I see the white flag of defeat rising from that well-oiled bowl. Gluten and I are at war until that day. Or until I smell the bakery’s fresh baguettes. Whichever comes first.

~Sara Spock is a Mom, Wife, Penn State Graduate, Substitute Teacher, Freelance Writer and Chocolate Addict.  When she’s not looking for punchable dough, Sara can be found over at The Hero Complex where she tries to save the world, one. recipe. at. a. time.


  1. What a bummer! Your thought to make it foccachia was a good one. MMM. I guess you can't be perfect at everything. ;)

  2. Bread is a tricky, tricky thing. The only thing I can figure is that the room's temperature wasn't warm enough or maybe there was something wonky with the sugar. I usually set my bowl on top of the stove for the rising part to keep it warm. Sugar is the yeast's food. Was there anything unusual about the sugar you used? I just don't know, and I hate admitting defeat! LOL! :-)

  3. I know, I hate it, too! Someone told me that it could be me, as in my own body chemistry. I stop watches (fer serious) so maybe I kill yeast? Nothing weird with any of my ingredients, I tried and tried (and actually I've tried many times over the years.) Bread dough hates me!

  4. Alrighty. Here's one way to know for sure. Buy a bag of frozen bread dough. I have used it oodles of times, and it always turns out perfect. If you put a log of frozen dough in a loaf pan and it doesn't rise, I would say that the bread gods are against you. :D

  5. Two words. Bread. Machine.

    No, it is not cheating! I bake three times a week. My last loaf didn't rise perfectly, but it did rise. It was a dense squat little troll, but it still oozed cheddary goodness. Many (many) years ago, I made bread by hand and branded the word "Pyrex" on the inside of my forearm in an unpleasant potholder failure. That was enough.


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