There’s a great story about the humorist James Thurber in his early twenties, long before he began writing for the New Yorker, when he and his wife were struggling to get by, and his very spotty writing-related income was the couple’s sole source of support. His worried wife repeatedly nagged him to just get into his study and keep writing. Thurber developed the habit, as a result, of retreating to the room, placing a typewriter on the floor right next to the couch, and lying down on that couch to read a book, while occasionally pecking at the typewriter keyboard with one forefinger, thereby creating enough typewriter clacking to fool his wife into thinking that he was, indeed, hard at the “work” of writing.
Thurber was good at maximizing ‘Couch Time.’ I’m going to lay out a way for you knuckleheads out there to generate, like Thurber, a similar appearance – but also reality- of productivity, by baking a dynamite loaf of bread within one Sunday afternoon of football. Start at noon, and the bread’s out of your oven looking beautiful and smelling wonderful at 5 p.m. I’m not kidding. And it looks and tastes like you bought it at some boulangerie hipster exposed-brick bakery where the girls behind the counter smile alot and wear calico blouses.
And your Total-Time-Off-Couch, during that five hours of “baking”, is just five minutes. Only five minutes off the couch.
Here’s how you do it:
LIST OF INGREDIENTS:
3 cups Flour
1 ½ teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Baking Yeast (same as one of those 3”-square packages)
1 ½ cups Water
A little Cornmeal
That’s all. [Also Optional, but great: butter to put on the hot bread when it’s done. Maybe raspberry jam.]
EQUIPMENT: One good-sized bowl; Measuring teaspoon, Measuring cup; Fork; One sheet of plastic-wrap covering; A tiny bit of vegetable oil; One entirely metal pot, and an oven at 450 degrees.
QUICK SUM: Mix….. Set on countertop 4 hours….. Remove from bowl, fold over once….Set another 1/4 hour…. Bake 50-60 minutes.
WHAT YOU DO ONCE YOU GET YOURSELF OFF THE COUCH AFTER NFL PRE-GAME SHOWS:
1. Mix the dry ingredients in the bowl.
2. Add the water. [Should get “goo-ey.” But not runny. If you need to get make it less runny, add a little flour. If you need it more runny, add a little water. Don’t worry, it doesn’t really matter that much. If you leave it too runny, it just means your bread will come out a little flatter.]
3. Cover bowl with plastic-wrap. [If you don’t have any, put the whole thing in a plastic shopping bag.]
4. Set the bowl on the counter for 4 hours. That’s all.
5. Go back to the couch. After Four Straight Uninterrupted HOURS of football, then:
6. Get up off couch.
7. Turn oven to 450 degrees
8. Pour a silver dollar of vegetable oil onto the counter, smear it around some.
9. Scoop all the dough out of the bowl, put the whole thing on the your lightly greased countertop.
10. Fold the dough over on itself once.
11. Leave the dough to re-rise.
12. Go back to the couch.
13. After 15 minutes of Football On the Couch, get up from the couch
14. Sprinkle the bottom of the iron pot (or any metal pot) with a layer of cornmeal. [Very important – This keeps bread from sticking. Also very important to use a pot that has a metal – NOT PLASTIC – handle.]
15. Put the dough in the pot. Put the pot in the 450 degree oven.
16. Go back to the couch for 50 to 60 minutes Of Uninterrupted Football.
17. Maybe, if you want, get up when it’s been baking for 30 minutes, put a cookie sheet or something on top of pot, which is supposed to keep your crust from getting too hard and dark. But I usually forget to do it, and it doesn’t really matter.
18. After total of 50 or 60 minutes of baking, get off the couch, take the bread out.
19. Stab a tableknife in the top-middle of your loaf, so you can pull it out, then put out to cool (on a cooling rack, or just atop your toaster, if that’s all you have.)
Enjoy. And tell your wife or girlfriend you spent five long and hard hours baking that afternoon.